Why #IStandWithPP Today

September 29, 2015

After months of vicious attacks involving videotaped conversations portraying Planned Parenthood employees selling “baby parts” on the black market for profit, our country’s budget is nearly stalled out as right-wing Republicans call for “investigations” and threaten to shut down the government.  This is not the first time women’s rights have been under attack, nor will it be the last, because we live in a misogynistic culture.  Even though I live in a mostly upper middle class white neighborhood, I see signs of it each and every day among affluent women – grown women who choose to dress, speak and live according to “norms” and standards that a male-dominated culture has established for them – and they don’t even seem to notice or mind.  Well I do.

"Pipe Women" by Fox Photos on Getty Images
“Pipe Women” by Fox Photos on Getty Images

To be clear, I think abortion is a tragically sad thing and I assure you, nobody that has one is thrilled about it.  I have seen many women experience gut-wrenching self-examination and heartache as they consider their alternatives when they find themselves pregnant before they are ready to raise a family.

For them, abortion should be a legal, accessible, safe procedure.

Cutting federal funding to Planned Parenthood clinics only restricts access to many important and life-saving services that women, mostly poor, desperately need:  cancer screenings, sexually transmitted disease screenings and treatment, and birth control, to begin with.

Engaging in campaigns to change women’s minds once they have decided to have an abortion is both ineffective (even though the Pro-Life movement can always drudge up examples of a select few unborn they have “saved” outside an abortion clinic) and harassing.     It is also deeply egregious to assume that a woman who chooses to terminate a pregnancy has neither the will nor the capability to consider all her alternatives.

Women-Quotes-in-English-Quotes-of-Madeleine-Albright-There-is-a-special-place-in-hell-for-women-who-dont-help-other-women-Famous-Women-Quotes.

This quote by Madeleine Albright really pertains to the workplace.  I don’t even know if she is pro-choice.  Nonetheless, I feel moved to share it in this context because it is shameful that any woman would presume to bully a sister rather than support her in her time of deepest need and possibly shame.  To those women (and men) I say this:   It does not matter whether you believe life begins at conception or not:  are you going to raise the unwanted child?  

“I do not believe that just because you’re opposed to abortion, that that makes you pro-life. In fact, I think in many cases, your morality is deeply lacking if all you want is a child born but not a child fed, not a child educated, not a child housed. And why would I think that you don’t? Because you don’t want any tax money to go there. That’s not pro-life. That’s pro-birth. We need a much broader conversation on what the morality of pro-life is.”. — Sister Joan Chittister, Catholic Nun

Even though adoption exists, even adoption experts report that there are barriers to a pregnant woman choosing this option that go beyond just the accessibility of the choice:  shame, fear, lack of financial and social support, psychological inability to cope with carrying a baby to term and then losing it.  It takes a very strong person to carry a pregnancy to term knowing that at the end there will only be heartache and loss.  Those women that choose this option/path are to be praised.  But we cannot all emulate them. That’s the fact.

So, today, I join millions of men and women across the country in simply asserting that Planned Parenthood is an important organization – especially for women – that provides many critical services to the poorest among us and that, dismantling it by restricting access through funding or any other means is just wrong.  Abortions will continue regardless of whether they are legal and safe.  Shouldn’t women live in a culture that supports choice and promotes safe, affordable, legal access to reproductive services?  I think so.

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for the failing mom days

My world is full of those if then statements. If only I did this then I’d be better at this. And so often motherhood is linked in that if then equation and most of the time it’s with me sitting on the falling short side of the scale. So then when others tell me words about me being a good mom, well, I just don’t even know how to deal with them. In fact, oftentimes if someone tells me that I’m a good mom tears will pool in those very exhausted eyes of mine.

Source: for the failing mom days

Their World Was Better

When the last of my parents’ generation is gone, there will be a huge void in the world.  The last known Americans raised by parents that endured The Great Depression and World War II.  People who put manners before self-gratification.  People who taught their children that respect and character are worthwhile and noble values.

Their word was their anchor to a life dedicated to honesty and commitment to whatever their choices and fate set before them.

Dad out on the town with St. Louis University buddies, 1950
Dad out on the town with St. Louis University buddies, 1950

My parents and grandparents were not perfect.  Just genuine.  And a lot less needy and dissatisfied than the generations that followed.  They were better at accepting what is than the rest of us.

I know these reflections make me sound like a sentimental old person.  I just hope that, somehow, there is a glimmer of the beauty and truth of my parents and their generation’s approach to life that passes through me to my children….so that Dick (my Dad) and Rhetta (my Mom)  will never be gone forever.

Mom serving tea with her best friend at Maryville College, St. Louis, MO.  1950
Mom serving tea with her best friend at Maryville College, St. Louis, MO. 1950

Published On This Day in 1819

John Keats (1795-1821)
TO AUTUMN.

1.

SEASON of mists and mellow fruitfulness,
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eves run;
To bend with apples the moss’d cottage-trees,
And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;
To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells
With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,
And still more, later flowers for the bees,
Until they think warm days will never cease,
For Summer has o’er-brimm’d their clammy cells.

2.

Who hath not seen thee oft amid thy store?
Sometimes whoever seeks abroad may find
Thee sitting careless on a granary floor,
Thy hair soft-lifted by the winnowing wind;
Or on a half-reap’d furrow sound asleep,
Drows’d with the fume of poppies, while thy hook
Spares the next swath and all its twined flowers:
And sometimes like a gleaner thou dost keep
Steady thy laden head across a brook;
Or by a cyder-press, with patient look,
Thou watchest the last oozings hours by hours.

3.

Where are the songs of Spring? Ay, where are they?
Think not of them, thou hast thy music too,—
While barred clouds bloom the soft-dying day,
And touch the stubble plains with rosy hue;
Then in a wailful choir the small gnats mourn
Among the river sallows, borne aloft
Or sinking as the light wind lives or dies;
And full-grown lambs loud bleat from hilly bourn;
Hedge-crickets sing; and now with treble soft
The red-breast whistles from a garden-croft;
And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.

Harmon lists To Autumn as the most anthologized poem in the English language. It was written on September 19, 1819, and published the following year. To Autumn can be found in:
Keats, John. Lamia, Isabella, The Eve of St. Agnes, and Other Poems. London: Talor and Hessey, 1820. (as found in the Noel Douglas replica edition printed by London: Percy Lund, Humphries & Co. Ltd., 1927.)
Harmon, William, ed. The Classic Hundred Poems (Second Edition). New York: Columbia University Press, 1998.

A Small Reminder About Sobriety as a Spiritual Gift

A dear friend sent me this article yesterday – At the time Robin Williams ended his life, I was deeply involved in my own addiction and missed the connection between his alcoholism and overwhelming fear and anxiety.  Great, thoughtful read.  Today I will carry with me Louisa P.’s reminder that sobriety is, indeed, a spiritual gift:AA

https://aspiritualevolution.wordpress.com/2014/08/13/robin-williams-alcoholic/

Moving Beyond Your Own Parental Dream

There have been so many days I have wanted to blog about our recent experience with our adolescent son and his struggle with anxiety, depression, isolation and, we suspect, peer bullying.  Every time I would be thinking about it, I felt like I would be violating our family’s privacy – but we have so much to share that could help others.  In fact, one day late last Spring, at exactly the same time our family was dealing with the exact same issue, I was standing in the front office of my daughter’s High School when a tearful Mom approached the front desk.  She softly requested, “I need to have my son’s transcripts.  He is flunking every single class and has missed over 4 weeks of school.  I don’t know what else to do.”  Instead of rushing over to her and reassuring this Mom in her desperation, I quietly stood alone, stunned, dismayed, angry, and frightened – for her, for her son, and for our future.

Something is going on with adolescent boys that neither my husband nor I expected.  This is not the case for every boy, of course, but it certainly was for ours – and countless others we have discovered, since we began talking openly about it.

The peer pressure and social isolation that girls feel in middle school can be doubly hard for boys – especially boys with a reputation for being “tough.”

When our 190-pound middle linebacker son started coming home from 8th grade last Winter and crying himself to sleep because he was “fat,” we became very concerned.  It developed into an obsession and led to daily, irrational regimens of “clean” eating (absolutely no fat, sugar or carbs) followed by running 6 miles at a time on the treadmill- sometimes twice a day.  He started losing weight quickly but that did not seem to make him happy.  He became sullen and withdrawn and started avoiding going to school.  Within weeks, he refused to go to school altogether – he would wake up crying and tell us, “You have no idea what I go through.”  No, we didn’t.  But he would not tell us.

A mad search for psychological help began, including seriously considering hospitalization at several points.  Meanwhile, school work was stacking up and his friends were noticing his absences.  But our son could not muster the will to care.  We felt desperate and alone, just like the woman I witnessed asking for her son’s transcript.  While our friends were focused on preparing their sons for high school sports and planning their Freshman academic year, we were either driving our son to different specialists seeking help and answers or huddled with him on his bed in his dark room – his “safe place” – and reassuring him that he would feel better soon.  “It has been so long since I have felt well,” he would reply.

Skipping ahead a few months, once we found the right medication and had given it time to reach a therapeutic level, our son started to emerge from his fog.  50 pounds lighter, this was clearly a different kid.  He began riding his bicycle with a good buddy – a “non-tough guy” friend.  By the end of summer, it was not unusual for our son to spend many hours on his bike, sometimes alone, but clearly a much happier person.  When he did start Freshman year, (fingers crossed), we did not have to push him to go to school.  He seems to like it.  And, instead of football, he announced he was joining Art Club.   He brought this home to me the other night:

My beautiful handmade heart from my son
My beautiful handmade heart from my son

As frightening as it is to go through a deep, dark depression with one of your children, something beautiful emerges on the other side:  a new person with a different perspective on who they are and where they want to go in life.  We, as parents, definitely had dreams that our hard-core football player would continue to love the game (and give us something to do with our free time on Friday nights and beyond!).  But it is okay – no, it is a MIRACLE – that this child we watched literally transform before our eyes is happy again and firm-footed in his own journey.  We all learned that goodness can follow a sense of hopelessness. We are closer as a family now – I have my heart to prove it!

What A Shame (90 Days of Using It For Good)

On June 6, 2015, the unthinkable happened:  my children witnessed me out of control drunk and they were apologizing to my sister and her husband for my behavior.  The next day, I did not remember it.  All I knew was I had been having a good time dancing to great music when my sister suddenly refused to serve me more red wine.  I passed out in the dress I had worn that day, and the next morning I had a mother of a hangover.

Today, 90 days into my sobriety with the help of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), I thank God for my ability to still feel shame, otherwise I may have never stopped drinking.

It was pure shame that led me to my first AA meeting 3 days after the incident.  Because, in my mind, nobody had ever noticed I was drunk (nearly nightly) sitting quietly on my couch at home, I had never until that point had to confront the brutal truths about my drinking.

The AA “Big Book”  refers to alcohol as “cunning and baffling.”  Indeed it is.  Cunning because I wanted it in spite of all the reasons why it was a bad idea.  Baffling because it never once made my life better – yet I continuously sought it’s soothing comfort (with strings attached).  I can see now, after 90 days in recovery, how my disease was progressing rapidly.  I changed my definition for needing a drink from feeling “stressed” to the mere fact that it was 5 o’ clock in the afternoon (a cliche because it is true!).

Copyright Douglas Ferrin
Copyright Douglas Ferrin

After about 2 weeks of attending AA meetings, my shame began to fade and, in its place, I felt something I had not experienced in years:  optimism.  I started thinking about all the things I wanted to do instead of have!  That little inkling of hope called possibility started growing in my consciousness.  I was starting to think that a better future might be possible because of the tools I was learning from AA.

Trying to fix something without a tool is magical thinking.  One by one, I was getting new tools to add to my toolbox.
Trying to fix something without a tool is magical thinking. One by one, I was getting new tools to add to my toolbox.

Before getting some sobriety under my belt, I would give up before I even started because I just knew I would fail.  One of the phrases I kept hearing repeatedly at AA meetings was, “You don’t HAVE to live your life like this.  You CAN HAVE a better life.”  Okay, that’s a big promise – show me HOW.  And AA delivers.  By talking to people with many years of sobriety, I am learning how to recognize my triggers for self-destructive behavior before they overtake me.  Check out the cupcake photo from my first birthday – I really dig excess!  My new friends with more sobriety than me are teaching me that I don’t have to be a slave to the self-esteem killing, excess-loving beast inside of me.  I can conquer the beast, if even minute by minute some days, by being honest with myself and living a life that sustains serenity.  For some people, this involves daily rituals like starting each day on your knees and thanking God for waking up sober.  I am not ashamed to say that I need to practice healthy rituals to stay sober – I am grateful that I now know other people who share this need!

My children as babies, innocent and playful and loving each other.
My children as babies, innocent and playful and loving each other.

Tomorrow, when I wake up and officially have 90 Days of Sobriety, I will begin my day in somber gratitude to my Higher Power who is showing me that to be good to others, I must first be good to myself.

I can’t believe that in just 90 days I, the “Queen of Dread,” am looking forward to the rest of the journey with anticipation and excitement.  At my lowest point, I told my incredulous husband, “I cannot imagine enjoying anything right now.”  That was the beast talking.  I don’t serve this creature anymore.  But it takes conscious effort, every single moment of every day, to keep the beast quiet.  And I will never forget that it might have been shame that led me to this journey……but it is gratitude that propels me forward.