Stop Calling This A War

The global pandemic we currently find ourselves in is, without a doubt, not a war. It is not. Analogizing it to one is both incorrect, and irresponsible.

Let’s walk through this.

Credit: Classic Art Memes @Facebook

Donald Trump Is Not A War Time President

Early on, after finally admitting that the virus causing COVID-19 infections and deaths around the world was actually a problem (and not just a hoax brought on by the fake news and Democratic party), Donald Trump switched gears and decided this was “the unseen enemy.” He was to be our honorable Commander in Battle.

While it is tempting to label this virus an enemy, as we do with a lot of medical maladies, really it’s just a talking point. A talking point for the victims who fall ill with it to feel empowered; a talking point for those who swoop in with remedies to claim victory.

But Donald Trump is not a war time president, and this is not a war. It’s is a global pandemic of a highly communicable virus, that in rare instances causes mortality. Unfortunately, at the present, enough instances are proving to occur on the whole that the mortality rate is quite high for us, in a healthcare system that was taxed going in.

Allowing Donald Trump to overshadow the egregious and flagrant wrong-doings in the prior days, weeks, months, and years of his Presidency – including, but certainly not limited to, the fact that only months ago he, a sitting President, was Impeached on counts of Abuse of Power and Obstruction of Congress – to overshadow all of that, and come out of this spinning the inevitable success of modern medical science into his position as a war hero (conveniently in time for the 2020 Presidential election) would make every person that ever likened this to a war complicit in the necessary election win that would come with that honor.

Donald Trump is not a war time President. This is not a war.

Credit: Chris Murphy CT @Twitter

Frontline Workers Are Not Soldiers In Battle

This is probably my point that will flare the most feathers, but before jumping to conclusions, hear me out.

The sacrifices and risks associated with working in any quote-unquote essential line of work right now are, unmistakably, great. In particular, those that work in medicine, pharmacy, even janitors in the hospital setting; and especially in light of the on-again off-again relationship they have with adequate and complete personal protective equipment – well, those people are by and large in hot water from now until the time a vaccine is readily available.

So are the grocery workers, who have every cough, sniffle, and sneeze effectively sprayed all over them several times a day. So are a lot of people that continue to work to allow the rest of us to afford such luxuries as food, water, and electricity.

But they ain’t soldiers. We will not be erecting a monument to them that looks like doctors, nurses, and janitors Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima. They may receive additional compensation and pay for risk assessment and to incentivize them to work, but it is not hazard pay.

This isn’t a measure to disrespect or discredit the work they are doing, and the sacrifices they are making. Do not mistake me: they are heroes.

Infectious diseases happen, and while COVID-19 is new and a lot about it is unknown, it is a part of the job. It is a part of the call to duty that came well before that person in the wet market in China even thought about eating the undercooked bat. Every time you step foot in a medical facility, there is always the element of the unknown. Sure, this time it is higher of a probability that you could catch it. But even I wonder to myself whenever I’ve had to take my kids to the emergency room for a sports injury or high fever: you know, I wonder if the person in the room next to us has bacterial meningitis and here I am exposed to it. Because it is a very real possibility, and that possibility is always there.

And there are two things most dangerous about likening the “frontliners” as we now like to call them with warriors in the trenches of something like WWI, or possibly worse: it sets a dangerous precedent for their own personal actions that could, in effect, result in even more death.

For one, in continues on this dangerous “take one for the team” mantra we Americans like to espouse. Arguably, this mantra is one of the things that got us here in the first place. We don’t feel well. We have chills, body aches, maybe a cough. But your [insert workplace] needs you. You are so essential that if you call in sick, the ship will go down. So you go to work, and infect several more people, putting more stress on the system than what would have come of you just staying home for a few days until you got the all clear from your immune system.

A more dangerous one:

Early on in the worst of Italy’s days, a nurse committed suicide because she started feeling a little punky, and decided to swab herself. She tested positive for COVID-19, and rather than just recover as 98% of other people do, she committed suicide to prevent spreading the disease to anyone else. Dangerous does not even begin to describe the precedent that we set when we then venerate this poor, clearly unwell, woman as something like a kamikaze doing the right thing by her country.

Tangential to this as well is the fact that the vast majority of people working in these essential jobs deserve a recognition of their own. Like the firefighters and many police after 9/11, or actual soldiers that have fought and won wars for centuries, their position in this is unique and should be treated accordingly. (Perhaps a monument would be appropriate, somewhere and at some point… but to replicate Iwo Jima would be a discredit to both today’s and yesterday’s heroes.)

Credit: Classic Art Memes @Facebook

The Messaging Is Blinding Us With Fear

In World War II, the messaging and propaganda was so profound, particularly in European countries in opposition to the allies (mainly, Germany) that people were so blinded by fear of the war, that they largely did not see what was going on right in front of their faces. The same went for Americans: blinded by the fear of another costly and deadly battle, Americans resisted involving themselves in the war – in spite of the humanitarian crisis that had unfolded in the Jewish and “undesirable” communities in Europe.

This is what happens in a war: diplomatic and political messaging is so critical for the community to get on board with whatever the agenda of the leadership of the time happens to be. Everyone does it. Now, in treating this like a war, our community leaders and politicians are doing it again.

Every week seems to have some sort of a theme to it. The first was all about the exponential growth charts, and statistical analyses, and the Johns Hopkins interactive website. The second were 45 paragraph letters from Emergency Room physicians who are really so busy they aren’t sleeping much, but also have the time to write lengthy explanations of exactly why we should be concerned about COVID-19. The third week was the rash of viral posts from Italy. Warnings to Americans. Rising death tolls. And that horrible video of the woman leafing through the obituary pages that went on and on and on, as if we weren’t sad enough about this already. The fourth week started the stay at home campaign, which continues today; coupled with a lot of mixed messaging coming from all sides of the political spectrum. Take the hydrochloroquine, but don’t. It works, but Trump touted it so probably skip it. Listen to your doctor, question him. Bill Gates is a hero, I don’t trust what he says. Open the economy, no don’t. Go for a walk to get exercise, just kidding that’s a bad idea. Dip your groceries in bleach, wait just kidding soap and water is fine bleach will kill you.

It is exhausting just listening to all of this: the analysis and the arguing and the incessant viral postings about what this politician did wrong and what that politician said, and who is complicit in this and who is a hero, and PPE and bats and … and … and …

This is the point of propaganda, and while I’m not likening what Trump, his “task force,” and more local governments are doing right now to what the Germans did in WWII, there is definite messaging going on here. If there weren’t, we wouldn’t have new buzz phrases, like “in these unprecedented times,” and “we are navigating through unchartered waters,” and – my newest favorite, “we are here to meet this moment.” You also wouldn’t have gotten probably 600 emails from every place you have ever shopped or spent money at, in an effort to let you know what increased measures they were doing to keep things safe and clean – all the same copy and pasted letter full of buzz words and messaging that was meant to calm your nerves, but only – instead – piqued your fears.

What happens when we are afraid in times of war and stress is we act irrationally. We fight with our community members, we shutter our hearts to those in need. A nursing home in my community got flack a week ago for telling a patient he could not return because he had suffered from COVID-19, even though he had recovered and tested negative two subsequent times before being released from the hospital. A homeless man a town over was unable to get a propane bottle for his camping stove, that allows him to cook his food and keep himself warm, because it is now considered a “non-essential good.” One woman in a Mom’s Facebook group I am in locally sparred it out with me about this, when I commented on a post about it asking how we could help him. The defining moment of our argument was when she said that because we live in California – “no one is going to freeze to death!”

Credit: Cracked @Facebook

The Social Contract In Times Of War

Few people realize that what is going on right now in our own communities from a public policy perspective is a matter of the social contract that we all live in as American citizens. The basic premise of our structure in society and government is that in exchange for the protection of our overarching body of government and government leaders (and all the services that come with it, including public hospitals, police, and fire), we are willing to in effect sacrifice certain freedoms and liberties in exchange for that protection. The idea comes from the great political philosopher Thomas Hobbes, whose writings inspired our revolutionary forefathers when he said:

“Whatsoever therefore is consequent to a time of war, where every man is enemy to every man, the same consequent to the time wherein men live without other security than what their own strength and their own invention shall furnish them withal. In such condition there is no place for industry… no knowledge of the face of the earth; no account of time; no arts; no letters; no society; and which is worst of all, continual fear, and danger of violent death; and the life of man, solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.” (see: The Leviathan, by Thomas Hobbes)

It’s a bit wordy, so I’ll break it down for you: if left to our own devices at certain times in society, life would be unnecessarily awful and painful; and would end quickly, whether we liked it or not. Sometimes, let us help you. You just have to give up a little for us to be able to do that – in times of war, mainly. But pandemics are also times that it could be argued we have to retain less to be able to live more.

As soon as Trump started declaring National Emergencies, Major Natural Disasters, and referring to himself as a wartime president, the road was paved for every Tom, Dick, and Harry politician, from big time national leadership, all the way down to Mo, your local City Councilman who shows up for the council meeting drunk and in his swim trunks every week, the diplomatic and political power to chip away at those freedoms and liberties we hold so dear to us, in the name of the social contract and protection in times of turmoil.

Do I think that there are a lot of measures that do – absolutely – need to be taken to curb the spread of the novel virus that causes COVID-19? Absolutely. Shutting down bars, movie theaters, churches… that all makes sense. Social distancing and increased hygiene and safety measures – absolutely.

But locally, at least where I am, we have gone far afield from just shuttering non-essential businesses and asking people to stay home as much as possible. Now, here in California, cities are requiring by law that people wear face coverings, even when just driving down the street to get their mail. Alone. They’ve shut down sections of stores that disconnected and privileged city officials think can wait a while, like the clearance clothing racks at a local Wal Mart – in a community that houses thousands of migrant workers who are low income and do not have access to computers to simply order online.

Overreach doesn’t really describe what is going on here. And while I get it: we need to stay in, we need to physically distance, we also have to live our lives.

In recent days, I have talked to several seniors that are either family, or friends of family. They all sounded the same, exact resounding chord: they appreciate the community trying to protect them, the most vulnerable; but at this point, quality of life is an issue, and this is not a life worth living. One where you cannot go for a walk in the warm sun, or have the smallest of gatherings with less than 10 people seems cruel.

Perhaps the most striking thing told to me, which I then heard a physician – a medical doctor – echo on television about his own 87 year old mother’s sentiment: what if I die in isolation here, and I have never had the opportunity to hug my grandchildren one more time?

Certainly, the social contract is a necessary part of what keeps us alive. But only in war should it be evoked to such the degree that it is being evoked in communities through out America right now. And this is not a war.

It is tempting to liken this global pandemic to a battle. It requires strength, perseverance, and fight within all of us to get through whatever effects we feel from it – be they physical illness, economic hardship, or mental health belaboring as a result of the physical and social restrictions placed on us. But it is not a war. And we are not warriors.

Credit: Heather Christena Schmidt @HeatherChristenaSchmidt.com

No One Understands What It Means To Have Toddlers (Or Just Kids In General) Anymore

I’m not sure what the reason is for it, but it’s as if no one remembers or understands what it means to have toddlers (or just kids in general) anymore.

Or maybe it isn’t that they don’t understand. They just don’t care.

I have three kids, at various ages. One is a teenager, turning 16 next week. The second is a tween, having turned 12 last December.

And then, I have my toddler. My 3 year old. The baby of the family who keeps all of us on our toes.

Well… he keeps me on my toes…

There’s something I’ve noticed with this, my youngest child, that I never noticed before: people, generally speaking, don’t seem to get it anymore.

They don’t understand that several hour-long phone calls to insurance companies or to fix the cable, or to just gossip about what aunt so-and-so is up to over coffee, is rarely – if ever – an option.

They don’t understand that if I do actually do something other than entertaining the toddler (and/or making sure the toddler doesn’t roam out into the street of busy traffic), I can’t just – like – drop everything to show them how to change the ink in their print cartridge, or send them a detailed email about how to start a blog. Or even sometimes engage in a twenty minute conversation about [insert just about anything here]. That if I work or go to school, the time I have carved out in my schedule is literally the only time I have.

Or – shocking as it may seem – usually when I have free time away from my toddler, I am taking care of my other kids.

They don’t seem to be able to wrap their heads around the fact that there are three of them and one of me, and I can’t actually split myself into three pieces to be at three places at once. Sometimes, appointments have to be scheduled around the other kids’ things. Sometimes, I can’t get them to an extra curricular activity that day. Occasionally, other things in the house have to wait so that the children can be cared for first.

Sometimes, if I’m sitting at one of my older kids’ tennis matches, I’m not a “bad mom” for having my laptop open and my school books out (as many parents so eloquently “joke” to me). It’s that it’s literally the only time I have that I am not talking about Toca Boca or Paw Patrol with a 3 year old to get that other stuff done.

When you have a toddler, that’s how life is. It’s a delicate balance between having enough time to fit everything in, and making sure your toddler is cared for.

This is honestly the way it is when you have multiple kids.

It is a lot of time cleaning. Cooking. Picking up food they threw at the wall.

Having a toddler is not showering sometimes. It’s going days without realizing that all you have eaten in 48 hours is Goldfish crackers and Jell-o.

Add two other kids at completely different stages of life to this, and forget it.

My time is spent driving my teenager to her college- and life-preparatory things, helping my middle schooler with her school work and making sure she gets to all of her extra-curricular activities on time, and taking care of my toddler. That includes developmental things, play things, reading times, and interacting with other kids and the world. When I’m not doing one of those things, I’m cooking dinner for all of them, making lunches, serving breakfasts, and cleaning up the messes.

It’s balancing screen time and play time. It’s taking a kid to an appointment and letting the other kid have more screen time so you can hear the doctor speak, then it’s managing the tantrum because that kid had too much screen time, all while answering the phone when people call you back about the one kid’s appointment and helping the third kid with her SAT prep book.

What I’m saying is, I have my hands full. A lot of people are in this position now. A lot of people have been in it at some point in their lives.

A lot of people have forgotten.

I’m referring to the people that ask me over and over again at tennis matches for my older kids where my little guy is, but then complain when he even breaths too loudly when I do bring him.

I’m referring to the people that don’t do their jobs, too. Like a doctor’s office, that owes me a refund and says they’ll refund me automatically, only for me to find out a month later they never did, resulting in an hour of sitting on hold to get it straightened out. Or a local water company that charges us six times for the same, one, bill, requiring me to both call and sit on hold, as well as go in to dispute the extra charges.

Maybe I’m just complaining, because I’m feeling a little overwhelmed right now. I’m not complaining about the fact that I am taking care of my three kids and have these jobs to do with caring for them.

I’m complaining about all the interference the world outside of me and my kids is interjecting into the mix of it all.

Sometimes I feel like I’ve been asked to do all of these things, and then some, and then a little more, but – and this is a big but – I have to do it with my hands tied behind my back.

Or when I read articles about Stay At Home Moms or Working Moms, I sometimes feel like I’m going to explode. Not because of anything the article says (usually), but rather the comments from the working moms “oh, imagine having to do all of that and work a full time job.”

Except you don’t. When you are at work, someone else is doing all of this (vaguely gestures at school/cleaning/working/feeding/watching/caring for/etc) and the difference between a Stay At Home Mom and those people that provide those services so that you can do your job at work is one thing, and one thing only:

Those people get paid.

I’m not suggesting that I should be paid to care for my children (although it would be nice if somewhere in the budget were things for me like toiletries, healthcare, makeup, hair appointments, clothing, or – oh I don’t know – anything)?

And I’m not suggesting that Working Moms do not have other challenges or concerns or sacrifices that are distinctly unique from mine.

I’m just saying that at the very least, I could be paid in support.

I could be paid in understanding.

I could be paid in an occasional “hey, did you do something different with your hair today? It looks nice.” Even if my hair looks like a crow’s nest on top of my head.

I could be paid in the conscious decision to let things go and not harass me about stupid and mundane things, or demands that I drop everything to deal with X, Y, Z thing that – in the grand scheme of things – can wait. Or… dare I suggest… could just not happen. I could be paid in competence by insurance companies, so I don’t have to spend my time on the phone with them. Or a cable service that is good and doesn’t require regular and routine cable man work done by Mom (keep dreaming on that one, I know). I feel like everyone is constantly breathing down my neck for things they want – be it my husband, my dad (who lives with us), outside family members, or the lady at the allergist’s office, who has called me five times in the last 24 hours to fill out patient paperwork. Like I’ll get to it when I can, Linda. I’ll get to it when I fucking can.

Perhaps I am just complaining right now because I find my situation to be particularly Cinderella-esque at the moment. I don’t even get “Happy Birthday”s or “Happy Anniversaries” or thanks for meals anymore. The other adults in the house don’t talk to me about anything but what they want and things they need, and my text messages are largely ignored.

But maybe my situation isn’t that unique, and it’s what a lot of Stay At Home Moms experience. We – as a society – tend to think that if a person doesn’t contribute financially to a household, they aren’t contributing anything. Of course the stupidity of this is self-evident, and yet large groups of people believe this way.

Or maybe it’s something more.

Maybe it’s that people just don’t remember what it’s like having a toddler or having kids. Or maybe they always had other people taking care of things for them, and they were never aware of how acutely precious a mother’s time really can be.

Maybe no one ever said anything about it, because they knew their words were just falling on deaf ears.

Well I’m here to say it today. I’m a mother. A Stay At Home Mother, at that. My kids are my job. And just as I wouldn’t march into someone else’s place of work and criticize them, tell them what to do, interrupt them multiple times for mundane things, or actually have the balls to expect them to stop working so I could get or say what I need to… I’m going to have to start expecting the same courtesy.

“Please be quiet during the meeting” is a sign now permanently hung on my door. At least for the next decade or so.

The Case For Getting Rid Of Public Libraries

This is going to be an incredibly unpopular post if you read just the title. But hear me out. I think it’s time to get rid of public libraries, on the whole. Just chuck ’em in the trash. Close them all.

And – here’s the critical part: start over.

My local library was sold by the county years ago (I’m talking over a decade, now) to a private company that manages public libraries. Tax dollars still go in to the library, steadily. But it is also operated by this company, who works closely with the city to also do programs, allow the city to use rooms for special events and meetings, and – as it turns out – sell the place for use as a wedding venue.

This was a great solution to a growing economic and management problem for the city. And, to be fair, it has ensured that rebuilding and remodeling of the library, and a steady stream of employment opportunities, continued to be available.

But the quality of the library since then has steadily gone down hill.

Years ago, I started complaining about this here on my blog, and on Twitter. The library is no longer a quiet respite, where anyone that utters a sound above a whisper is quickly hushed by an elderly woman with Coke bottle glasses, standing behind the reference desk. No, the library is a loud, chaotic place, with children screaming in every corner, rolling around on the floor and running like it’s a race track. The only thing louder than the screaming children is – ironically – the employees, who frequently while assisting people in finding books will yell at the top of their voices from aisles away “it’s over here!”

I read a few years ago in an article written in the Wall Street Journal that libraries are no longer what they were in the past. This environment of quiet and serene and calm, combined with every book you could ever want – the ultimate, introverted bibliophile’s dream – was dead. Now, libraries are considered “information technology centers.” It is expected that they will be loud. The computers and technology have taken center stage, as has designated spaces for teens to hang out and thrive. No sooner after reading that article, in fact, had my local library made the decision to demolish half of its reading, study, and meeting areas in favor of a Teen Center, which actually has a sign posted in the front of it: “this is a space for teens, only.”

Libraries are different now, there’s no doubt about that. And while I can definitely – DEFINITELY – acknowledge the positives that come of some of these changes, it’s essentially turned libraries into spaces for certain people only.

There are a few incidences at my local library over the years that has led me to believe that.

The Fight at the Balloon Show

I blogged about this years ago, but I’ll refresh all of your memories, just in case.

Several years ago, before I had my toddler, my dad and I took my older kids (who were little kids at the time) to the weekly summer shows that the library held. It was always fun stuff then, like puppet shows, magic acts, and a balloon show – where the people running it did tricks inside human-sized balloons, followed by making balloon animals for all of the kids.

Of course today, these acts have been largely replaced by African drum circles and “The Zany Xylophone Show,” but then…it was a great, free activity for kids.

While standing in the line to go in to the balloon show that day, a small child ran in to my senior citizen dad. He had not had his hip surgery yet, and my dad almost fell over. My dad steadied himself on his cane, and told the kid to be careful so that no one got hurt. Five minutes later, the child’s mother approached my father screaming.

We moved to the back of the line to avoid any more conflict (probably the wrong thing to do), but sure enough, halfway through the show, I saw the woman’s child standing up in front of a group of other kids, in effect blocking their view. A father walked over and whispered quietly to the kid that he needed to sit down so the other kids could see. Five minutes later, again, the same kid’s mother was at that guy’s throat.

The entire show stopped. Like halted with a record screech. All of us sat there as we watched this crazy woman verbally abuse the man for asking her son – politely, I will add – to sit down so the other kids could see. Eventually a librarian showed up and got involved.

And asked the man and his child to leave.

It was that day that I learned a very important lesson about the world, or at least the community library in which I live. The loudest person to yell and scream and bully is invariably the one that comes out ahead. That doesn’t make it okay. It’s just the way it is.

The Pornography On The Second Floor

My kids homeschool. They always have, actually. It’s worked for us, and they are still super social.

And, my kids are pretty advanced in the majority of their subjects.

Several months ago, I took them to the library because they were working on a research project and paper. The way our library is set up places every single reference book on the second floor, so naturally – because they needed a variety of reference books for the project – we headed upstairs to get to work.

Well, the other thing that is upstairs is the computer lab. There are two computer labs in the library. One on the first floor in the children’s section, which is mostly host to video games. And one on the second floor in the reference section, which is – therefore – designated for adult or reference/research use. The ones upstairs have Jstor and other academic journals, while the ones downstairs have Fortnite.

My kids were only planning to use reference books, though, so we immediately headed to the encyclopedias. We had not even made it from the stairway to the encyclopedia section, though, before a librarian approached us.

“Sorry, children are not allowed up here,” she said to me, sternly, and blocking our path to the encyclopedias.

My oldest children are 16 and 12, so not exactly “children-children” but whatever. I replied, calmly.

“Oh, they need to use the reference section though for a research paper. We can just grab the books and go downstairs to a table if that’s okay.”

“It’s not,” she said. “Reference books are not allowed off the second floor. And children are not allowed up here. They can utilize reference materials at their own schools.”

“We homeschool. Seriously? Children aren’t allowed to use the reference books?”

“I didn’t say that. I said children aren’t allowed up here and reference books are not allowed downstairs. Your children will have to vacate the floor immediately.”

At this point another librarian came over to me and explained – more politely, I will add – that the problem is that the public use computers are paid for by tax payer dollars, which means they cannot have any real controls on them. This means that a large number of adults at the library have to be assumed to be using computers to look at pornography. And exposing children to pornography is – obviously – illegal.

So no kids allowed on the second floor. Ever.

(The thing about the reference books, I can’t explain.)

Today’s Unfortunate Incident

Today I brought my kids to the library to check out some reading books. After the reference incident, we’ve mostly just utilized the library for fiction and non-fiction books of interest, and for the required high school reading that my oldest daughter is doing.

We’ve tried a few of the reading times they have for toddlers, too; though it only reminded me of how loud and unruly small children are allowed to be in our library. I’ve seen kids running around in circles. I’ve seen kids rolling around on the floor. I’ve seen kids lying in a group on the floor to read. I’ve seen kids laying on the couches with their feet in the air. I’ve seen kids ripping pages out of books. I’ve seen it all.

Generally speaking, we are in and we are out.

Today was going to be no exception. The difference, of course, was that on the way there, we had stopped for my toddler to get blood work for allergies. He was not in a particularly good mood. But when we got to the library he was quiet and cooperative. He had his Kindle Fire and it was on silent.

As my two older kids stood at the computer designated for looking up call numbers, I stood there with my little guy sitting at my feet.

As I said, he was not in a very good mood, so I wasn’t going to fight with him to stand. It was a pretty clean tile floor. He was literally between my legs, sitting quietly. Looking at his Kindle.

Meanwhile, other children were screaming. Running around. One child was crying.

Mine was quiet. Looking at his Kindle. Between my legs, right there. Waiting patiently for the girls to get their call numbers so we could find their books and get out of there.

Less than a minute went by and a stocky woman stalked over to me from the check out desk.

“Hi yes, are you mom?”

“Yes.”

“He can’t be there.”

“I’m sorry?”

“On the floor like that. He’ll have to sit in a chair, stand, or leave.”

I’m starting to get a little bit of a complex here about people kicking my toddler out of places. I don’t know what exactly it is about us or him that makes people say he has to leave, but this is twice now (the first being the incident with him being scared on the Polar Express last month).

Other kids do literally the same shit right there right in front of us, and get away with it.

We act polite and nicely, and are asked to do something different, or leave.

The loudest people are invariably the ones that come out ahead.

I looked around, as I had when we walked in. There was not a single available seat for him (remember that thing about the teen center taking away a large portion of the seating areas?). He was certainly not going to stand.

So we left. I told my daughters we would come back later, when my little guy had gone down for his nap with my dad.

But I also got in the car and cried. I cried because this is not how libraries are supposed to be. They may not be quiet places for book lovers to spend hours perusing and reading through books at no cost, anymore.

But they are still a public respite paid for by our tax dollars.

And more than that, I cried because I’m trying my best here. I’m raising three kids, mostly alone. I do everything I can to comply with all the rules and educate and care for my kids, and sometimes – yes – I choose my battles and let my kid sit on the fucking ground. Wow. Call the police on that one. The point is that if I had fought with him to stand up, he would have started screaming and acting like one of the other many brats there. Or, I could have not gone to the library today, and then I would be denying my older children their educational materials. Or… or… or…

The local library is one of the few places left in our community that access to education and information is supposed to be readily available. They are supposed to be a safe place, as well. A place where people of all interests and places in life can go and feel comfortable. Where the homeless can find a warm chair to read the paper in for a while, or teenagers can have a safe spot to do their homework after school.

Or homeschooled kids can access reference materials.

I get the challenges that are faced in running a place like that which is wholly open to the public, and all of its bad sides.

But in the interest of – I don’t even know what – they are turning it into a place that is only for certain people. People who look at pornography. Adults without children. Adults with young children who also will loudly bully until they get their way.

Certainly, the library is not a place for homeschooled kids to do research projects. “They can utilize the reference books at their own schools.” And moreover, the library is apparently not a spot for a mother to bring her kids to check out some books, while trying to keep her toddler happy and quiet for a few minutes, however she has to do it.

I say get rid of libraries as they’ve become now, and start over. I don’t know how they would start over, or what would address these inequities in treatment from one patron to another. I just know that there is something inherently not right about the experiences we’ve had and witnessed at our local library. The library isn’t supposed to be for just certain people, or particular circumstances. It’s supposed to be for everyone.

If it isn’t, then what exactly are we paying for?

It’s Beginning To Look a Lot Like F&ck This

Sorry for that whole censorship ‘o’ the title thing, but a lot of times blog posts won’t make it into email boxes if they have swear-y words in the title.

Fortunately that doesn’t apply to the content. So here we go.

It’s beginning to look at a lot like FUCK THIS. That has been going through my head over and over, AND OVER, again for about three or four weeks now.

I don’t know about you guys, but Christmastime is a combination of magical wonder and complete and utter bullshit for me. I have been screwed over, stressed out, raked over the coals, and that was just in the prep leading up to the *big day.*

Some of it didn’t even have to do with the holidays, either.

  1. Thankless Thanksgiving

I wanted to do that thing on Thanksgiving that yuppies do, where they go around the table and everyone says something for which they are appreciative. We don’t pray, and the other adults in our house have a hard time being grateful and complimentary; so I just thought it would be a good time to set a better example for the kids, you know?

I was too buried in mashed potatoes and mixed emotions to even remember to have everyone do it.

The thankful part of Thanksgiving – unfortunately – went largely unrecognized. This isn’t to disregard the sincere and kind comments made by our guests; I’m really just referring to the 25 times I had to ask the people that live here “is it good? Is the turkey moist? Do you guys like the sweet potatoes?” …only to receive grumbled “it’s fine”s, or to notice that many of the dishes I lovingly prepared went largely untouched.

Which was fine. We had enough leftovers for me to spend the day after Thanksgiving turning all of it into freezer meals that fed us for roughly 9 days.

2. Who has time for hurt feelings, though, when medical stress descends upon you?

We’ve had some medical situations that sort of pumped the brakes on the rest of life, anyway.

My oldest daughter – almost 16 years old – had been having weird pain symptoms for some time, and because she’s a woman, naturally, every doctor we had seen prior to the last two months has dismissed her as “just another chick complaining.” She’s had three, main things going on – simultaneously: migraine headaches, severe abdominal pain, frequent and unexplainable “sports injuries” (in bilateral joints). We’ve been blown off by doctor after doctor after doctor. “Just a chick with migraines.” “Oh obviously you are playing too much tennis and not resting enough!” “Cramps are normal.”

One doctor at UCLA Women’s Health – a woman, younger than me no less – had the audacity to look me blank in the face, say “believe it or not, pain is actually common in many women that experience periods.” Then she asked me to leave the room and asked my daughter what kind of birth control she was really there for.

So in the last couple of months, it’s all sort of gotten worse. My daughter has hardly played any tennis or worked out at all, and yet she’ll still feeling pain in her knees or her shoulders as if she’s been training 6 hours a day. Her migraine headaches have gone from once a week or two, to Imitrex every day. And a few weeks ago, she started having the abdominal pain she got intermittently, which she describes as barbed wire being wrapped and pulled around her waste and back (those of you familiar will immediately think endometriosis, I know…); well that’s been happening almost daily now, and so badly we’ve wound up in the urgent care, the emergency room, and a solid two weeks of one doctor’s visit after another.

What has made the situation all the worse is this: everyone is a fucking asshole.

Healthcare in this country is total garbage. And I’m not just talking about the expense of it.

I made an appointment with one specialist over 100 miles from our home. We got halfway there and were going to be a few minutes late for the paperwork check in time (but still on time for the appointment), so I called, only to find out that the person who made the appointment never actually scheduled it. We turned around, defeated.

In a startling turn of events, when it was time to figure out the migraine situation – in late November – I learned that there is exactly one neurologist in the entire county that sees children. And he isn’t taking any new patients right now. One. Apparently kids don’t have neurological problems where we live, this is just too perfect of a place, right?

Luckily I found a phenomenal physician in LA County, we just have to drive 57 miles each way to see. Every four weeks.

(But wait…the migraine maintenance medicine he prescribed makes her so groggy and sleepy she can’t even do her schoolwork.)

What else…

  • A kid in the ER one night threw up on me.
  • Over 6 different people have suggested that birth control will resolve everything (it won’t, in fact birth control makes migraines worse and if she really does have something like endometriosis, birth control or any hormones for that matter are not the answer).
  • We hit our out of pocket maximum, and yet everyone is still collecting the money up front, leading me to be owed over $4,000 now at this point in refunds, reimbursements, and “hey this is YOUR share of the medical expenses.”
  • For pain, someone gave her Naproxen, and even though she has no problem with Ibuprofen, with the Naproxen, she broke out in over 20 canker sores inside her throat and mouth.
  • I asked the nurse practitioner at our primary care physician’s office to send her for abdominal ultrasound, just to be sure…sure, sure, no one thinks her pain is anything legitimate, but can we just check? The ultrasound came back with her left ovary literally swarmed by ovarian cysts. (The nurse called to tell me the news and suggested I put her on birth control, even though one day prior we had discussed just how that was not a solution and would only worsen her migraine headaches.)
  • In response to the news that my teenage daughter, who has been experiencing pain in some way or another for at least six months now, to the point that she is unable to function in her normal life on many days, was going to have to start having tests and seeing specialists to get a handle on what is going on, my husband asked me when the budget would be freeing up for him to get some things preventatively done on his commuter car.

The good news is that we are – hopefully – finally getting to a point that we are going to be taken seriously. Why? Because finally the neurologist suggested I just take her to my OBGYN practice. They are old men and they don’t really deal with menstrual disorders, but they won’t blow her off and they will advocate on her behalf to get good care.

3. It’s beginning to look a lot like fuck this

And then there was Christmas. Because of everything going on, Christmas was a scurry in the last couple weeks to make magic. I think I slept about two hours a night, while the rest of the time baking like crazy, ordering gifts on Amazon, and – finally, in a moment of desperation – paying my 16 year old (who is too nonfunctional to do much else) to wrap the majority of the gifts.

I did manage to take the kids to a light show, like we do every year; although – lesson learned – my dad can’t go in the future because he just rushes everyone through it, complaining about how cold he is and ruining the evening with his griping.

When the real FUCK THIS came up, though, was about a week before Christmas, when I attempted to take my kids to the Polar Express train ride out of Fillmore and Western.

If you are in Southern California, you know that one of the priciest and – supposedly – magical Christmas experiences is actually to take a ride of the Fillmore and Western Polar Express. Everyone shows up in their Christmas pajamas, there’s lights and music and they act out the movie/book in front of you as you take a train ride and sip hot chocolate. Everyone gets a bell; it’s fun.

We had never been, and I decided with everything shitty going on, it would be a fun break one evening for my kids. So we attempted to go, and the bad news is that my 3 year old – who gets startled pretty easily – was getting on the train with me, and a man behind us started yelling to his kids who were ahead of us. It scared my little guy, and he started to cry.

Not like a screaming tantrum crying though. A basic cry. It was honestly so loud in there, my other two kids didn’t even know he was doing it.

Nonetheless, we were sitting in the front of that car, and had barely even sat down; he was still crying and I was starting to calm him down, when the train employee came over me and told me I should take him off the train to calm him down.

I understood, but I also didn’t. Like I know my kid, and I know that I can calm him down before the train leaves. We still had 30 minutes, and literally no one could have noticed what was going on. I also knew that if I did take him off the train, there was no way I would get him back on. When a toddler cries for a calmer situation and immediately gets what he wants, instead of learning to self soothe and adapt… well, come on…

Still, I understood that the lady was just doing her job. Right? And I don’t like the thought of being one of those people that ruins the experience for everyone else with drama; especially at an event for kids. So we got off the train, and I – obviously – couldn’t get my little guy to go back on. The train left, without us.

So I emailed customer service, and this is where it gets really annoying. I told them what happened and just asked if they could maybe send us the bells. At the end of the whole thing Santa gets on the train and gives everyone a bell. My kids just really wanted their fucking bells, and I paid for them, you know?

I got an email back from them not apologetic. Not saying I could have my bells.

I got an email back saying it didn’t happen. That what I said DID. NOT. FUCKING. HAPPEN.

At that point, I just gave up and gave in. Christmas became fuck this. I did the gifts, the day. All of it with as big of a smile as I could manage. I made Christmas Eve dinner and Christmas morning brunch, and we did all the things and I’m sure that it is a fact that my kids had fun.

But I was also just done.

The terrifying part is that Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas is just the start of it for us. Now we have birthday after birthday after birthday, Easter…Moms have it hard you guys. We don’t just do it all, we bear the mental and emotional load of it. We are the figure it out-ers, we don’t just have to take our kids to the stuff, we have to figure out how to make it all work and advocate for them and make sure everything is where it needs to be so that things don’t get worse.

But also, we do it all because we want to. And that is where being a Mom is the weirdest and most emotionally conflicting job of them all.

So if you had happy holidays that resembled the most picture perfect scenario you could ever imagine in a Hallmark movie or quaint Christmas card hanging on someone’s mantle, I am genuinely happy for you. If you’ve had it rough this season, I feel you also. Or, if you are like me, and it’s a mixed bag of negatives and negatives, but also positives and unbelievably happy children – in spite of it all… well, I am right there with you in the trenches, my friend. This is a weird place in life to be. It’s beginning to look a lot like fuck this, but also fucking bring it.

It’s Pumpkin Spice Equinox, Bitches.

I am literally shitting pumpkin spiced foods and beverages out my ears at this point, that is how much I am up in this fall business.

I have been for weeks.

Every year, I find myself here. Writing a blog post about how fucking fabulous fall is. Others have done the same, about decorative gourds season, and about the bliss that comes with the best fucking season of all seasons to ever exist.

Eventually I get sick of it. I tire of the maple candles and the apple picking and the farm stands and the pumpkin spiced flavors and the basic bitch UGG boots. Then I move on to Hallmark movies and cherry and cinnamon flavor palettes and holiday music and putting my tree up before Thanksgiving.

But for now, it’s fall. It’s fall and I am in my zone.

I’ve reached the point where I stop procrastinating on the Halloween costumes, and they begin to take their final form. My two oldest kids – 15 and 11 – still dress up to please their brother, and I am ready. I am ready to sew, tuck, pin, and hot glue that shit together like the most Pinteresty Mom you’ve ever known.

My fall display has been out on the front porch for several weeks now, but I’m ready for phase two: excessive fall display. I’m talking hay bails, I’m talking corn stalks, I’m talking fucking potted marigolds.

Two weeks before Halloween, it will morph to Halloween-themed.

November 1st, we move back to excessive fall display with a flair of Thanksgiving.

And about a week before Thanksgiving, the Christmas bonanza takes over and my fall display moves to the table for Thanksgiving dinner.

I have a system. I’m ready. It’s go time.

As I am typing this, I’m actually – legitimately – sitting here, yelling -nay, screaming – in my Steroid Starla voice: LET’S DO THIS! LET’S GO! Because fall is my jam, and I’ve got my canning gear out.

Literally. I’m ready to make some pickles. To pickle some watermelon rinds. To give salsa and pesto and spaghetti sauce another go around. To make up some fucking fruit butters and canned pie fillings. I hate cooking, and I especially loathe the heat and load of canning. And yet the thought of spending an entire day over a steaming pot of vinegar and boiling water has tingles shooting out of every hole of my Martha Stewart reading – water bath canning – yes, I can do this and no, none of us are going to get a deadly intestinal disease from improper processing – head.

And the icing on this fall’s apple cake is: we seem to have escaped our typical, autumnal heat wave. For quite a few years, it would be a muggy 105 degrees for several weeks through September and October. We would slog around in the heat, wondering how we could ever celebrate autumn when it feels like we live on the equator in the middle of summer.

But – fingers crossed – with the exception of a couple days of heat here, and a few days of humidity there – it is cooling down.

Cooling down for, you guessed it: layers.

The thing I’m loving this year is the new appreciation for basic ass girls like me being into this shit. Like finally people are standing up to the naysayers of all-things-pumpkin spice and proclaiming: NO! You will not make fun of me for enjoying the fusion of nutmeg and cloves! NO! You will accept and embrace the addition of cinnamon to create a trifecta of flavors that have literally been around for centuries. “You know pumpkin spice doesn’t even have pumpkin in it!” the naysayers proclaim, and finally we are there, ready to respond: no shit … it’s called pumpkin spice because it’s the spice used in pumpkin pie, you ignorant, nutmeg-hating twats.

So today is the first day of fall and I’m feeling fabulous about it. I’ve got crafts staged in the garage, and pumpkin spice pancake mix prepped in the fridge for breakfast. It’s Pumpkin Spice Equinox, bitches.

Yo, Privileged Guy At The Tennis Courts

This is for you.

The other day I was sitting at the tennis courts where my kids were attending a group clinic.

I was sitting in the chairs that border the courts. You know, seating for human beings.

There were two other mothers there. We were – like – just sitting. Chatting, really quietly. (And I mean really quietly, because I know how dickwads like you give the coaches everywhere around town such a hard time.)

We were pretty much minding our business.

Then you told us to shut the fuck up. Like animals.

To be clear, you interrupted the mother I was speaking to, mid-sentence, and yelled: “hey ladies, could you take your conversation over to the parent’s area?”

Um.

The other mother said “Oh, sorry, are we being too loud?” And you yelled “just go on down to the parent’s viewing area over there.”

Parent’s area? I didn’t know such a thing existed. I didn’t realize that parents were being segregated from the rest of the more civilized folk. Maybe we are and I just don’t know, but what you were referring to, which you then clarified: the parents area was a group of chairs five courts down, in the dirt.

Hey ladies, could you shut the fuck up and go sit in the dirt?

You very obviously had a hard on for misogynistic undertones, because I also heard you refer to my 15 year old daughter as “blondie.” If I were less classy of a person, I would have told you to shut the fuck up too. But being polite and not wanting to embarrass my kids or the coaches (who deal with enough shit from assbags like you on a daily basis), I returned to my book, and listened to you.

You bitched about children in tennis.

You bitched about not having courts when you want them because of children.

You bitched about children’s sports on the whole. You said children shouldn’t be allowed to play sports until they are in college.

You said the coaches shouldn’t be allowed to support children’s sports.

You griped about how a “council” should be formed to eliminate youth sports altogether from the community, because it bothers you every time you are there playing tennis, or even at the park walking your dog.

Every time a child at the group clinic even uttered the slightest noise – and I mean slightest – you stopped what you were doing (serving, playing out a point, whatever), looked over, and said “REALLY?!”

But I digress. You know what you did.

After you finished your friendly match with a guy who seemed much more decent of a human being than you (though not – clearly – decent enough to call out that “blondie” comment), you guys went in to the clubhouse and ordered beers. Sitting outside, still on the chairs for humans versus the spots in the dirt for the parents, I heard you loudly yelling at the guy serving you that you couldn’t believe he did not know your account number. That of all the people that frequent the place, he couldn’t remember yours.

Yeah, so.

What is so disturbing about this is your sense of privilege. It isn’t that you are more privileged than others – with more wealth or better health, greater opportunities, or whatever. It’s that you believe – like actually believe – that the world is all for you.

That it is actually OK to refer to a child as “blondie.” Ever, in any situation.

That people should be segregated based on their “status” or usefulness? I don’t know, what exactly is it segregating by to separate parents from non-parents?

I read a meme the other day that said “privilege is thinking something is not a problem because it has never personally affected you.”

That’s true. But I think in your case, I would take that a little further.

Privilege is thinking that the whole world is set up specifically for you, and that in your case the rules do not apply. That you can actually say and behave in the way you did that day and get away with it.

Why? I guess because for now you do.

For myself, I’m going to start putting my kids in situations where people like that don’t rule the world. It may be hard to find. Or maybe I will just start speaking up, and speaking out. How else will I teach my kids to stand up to that shit and make a change, instead of quietly turning back to their books and do what the privileged motherfuckers like you demand, just to avoid conflict?

The Russians Interfered With My Dog’s Mayoral Campaign (and I couldn’t even make this up if I tried)

To say I have had a weird summer so far is a gross understatement of the situation at hand. My summer has been so strange, with odd events, weird injuries, and zany outcomes, I’m sort of just hanging on to anything not moving to ride this out for the last couple of weeks.

One such absurdity was that my town had a campaign for dog mayor.

And then it didn’t, because the Russians interfered.

It started innocently, one day in June. My husband was reading the local paper before heading out to work, and he saw that the city was having a campaign for Dog Mayor as a fundraiser for the local dog parks. Sounded like a good idea, and it seemed like a good opportunity to get my kids to take the dogs out more.

It was $25 to file, and you needed to run a normal campaign with flyers and appearances at designated candidate events (located, conveniently, at the dog park down the street from our house).

At the first candidate event, not many dogs had entered yet; so we were surprised when the voting opened and there were over 10 dogs on the roster. Some were cute, many were former shelter dogs (like mine), but one stood out as unique, in the sense that she looked exactly like my dog, and the owner was willing to match dollar-for-dollar any donations people made to the SPCA through the course of the campaign. It seemed a pretty extreme commitment from our middle class community, but I quickly forgot about it and focused my efforts on my own dog’s campaign.

We made a website, and started getting flyers going. She started making appearances in a red-white-and-blue bandana. And I started to solicit votes from people we knew.

Quickly the unique one, the one that stood out to me when the voting kicked off, took the lead with almost 800 votes. 800. EIGHT HUNDRED. Despondent, with only about 60 votes, I told my kids we needed to start preparing for the worst, but hoping for a good appearance at the next candidate event this coming weekend.

Then, yesterday, I saw a comment on the Facebook voting event that struck my attention for the fact that it was typed in all caps. The gist of the comment was that the family that owned the top dog was from Russia, and as such had solicited votes from their own social network, many of whom resided in Russia. I responded to the comment and asked if this was for real, and the man replied “YOU WILL SEE!”

I immediately dismissed it as crazy.

Today we were on our way home from running errands, and my phone rang from a number I didn’t recognize. Naturally, I didn’t answer; and I’m glad I didn’t. The message was the coordinator of the mayoral dog race, and she was letting me know that in my email was a letter to be read immediately regarding the cancelation of the election.

In short: the crazy, all caps contention that the Russians were hacking the dog mayor election was true.

Not only had votes been solicited from outside of the region, which was entirely against the rules, but the back-and-forth online arguing between the top dog and the crazy commenter had apparently continued to the point that the city decided to pull the plug on the whole thing.

It’s so bizarre to think that the Russians interfered in a race for dog mayor in a two bit hillbilly city such as my own, and yet – if we are going to be honest about what technically happened, here – they did.

Which doesn’t make much of a difference to me, because even if they had just disqualified that dog, mine was still all the way down in 4th place. There was no way she was going to win, which was probably a blessing in disguise because at the prior candidate events, she wasn’t exactly polite to the other dogs.

I can’t help but wonder if this is actually what the bigger Russian hacking conspiracy was all about. Infiltrating all these tiny little things to create a bigger, societal problem and certain level of unrest.

Whatever the case may be, it was the weird turn of events I could have never imagined happening in my local-yocal suburb.

Summer, amiright?