Things Are Getting Pretty Grim Around Here

This is a personal update, and has a major trigger warning: a lot of heavy shit, massive complaining, and hard knocks situations. But, it’s time to stop being stoic, and start being honest. Maybe that’ll come up with some solutions – flushing them out here, in a blog; because right now I’m out of them.

I’ve mentioned a few times that we recently moved. It feels like a lifetime ago, but the reality is that it’s only been about two and half months since we got the keys to the place. I guess, when you’re miserable, time slogs along at a snail’s pace. I’ve tried to gaslight myself, as have others: chalk it up to depression, chalk it up to turning 40 this year, chalk it up to the fact that I did not get into a doctoral program I worked three years to get into at the same time as we moved. I tried rationalizing it as something millions of other Californians are going through.

While all of these may be a little piece of the truth pie sitting at our table beginning to rot, the reality of the situation is that we – my family unit – is in a pretty bad place, and it’s only getting worse.

(And when I say “sitting at our table,” this is of course a mischaracterization of our home… there isn’t even room for a table in our home that we can all fit at anymore.)

We Were In The Worst Position To Move

When we received our notice that our landlord had decided to terminate our lease, we were probably in the worst position imaginable to move. I wrote a letter to them, begging to let us stay just a couple of extra months until the end of the school year – the beginning of summer. I outlined the reasons with total honesty.

The first was that our now-18 year old daughter was scheduled to have excision surgery for endometriosis with a specialist in San Francisco in the spring, something we had been waiting over a year to get the a-okay on. Requiring us to move at that same time would make both the logistical and financial aspects of that a complete impossibility, after seeing a considerable loss of our income through the first year of the pandemic.

The second was that our kids and their friends were in years foundational to a kid’s childhood, especially our 8th grader. To rip them out of their communities in that time would, in our view, be absolutely devastating to their mental health.

The third was that the housing market for rentals was going to be difficult to navigate. We had cared for the home as if it were out own for over five years, and paid our rent in full and and on time without question. Even when we had a 30% reduction in pay for the bulk of 2020. It seemed fair to ask for a couple extra months to find a place so our kids could stay in their community. This isn’t like we are a military family, where moves are expected and this was our choice. It was sudden, it was unexpected, and we were given very little warning.

In that letter, we also made a number of offers. We offered to pay considerably more in rent to allow us to stay until June. We offered, if they were planning to sell the home, to make it readily available for work, and showings.

Their response was callous and cruel: to reject our request, with absolutely no reason why. A lot of friends and family surmised that this was because they had planned to quickly get the house on the market for sale. In reality – we learned from several friends we left behind that lived on the same street – it was so one of the landlord’s family members could take the home.

You all can imagine the result: my daughter’s endometriosis surgery has now been indefinitely postponed. The kids missed out on much of the year’s things with friends, even though I have tried as hard as I could to drive them back for all of them. We were forced to take whatever was available, even though it was far away and a significant increase in our monthly cost of living, our rent alone now constituting 46% of our monthly income, with a host of other additional costs of living where we now live.

And as it turned out, this was only just the beginning.

I Had a Premonition

Originally I thought that the worst of the stress was going to be finding a place, and moving to it. Moving is the absolute worst, and we were doing it under forced circumstances.

Now I’m not saying that I’m psychic or that I actually believe I had a premonition. But I do often have hunches that turn out right, typically my anxiety piques for a reason, and more than anything I listen to my dreams, because they’re telling me what I already know and don’t want to believe or admit.

About a week after we moved to our new place – a whopping 45 minutes in the best of circumstances from our old home and our entire lives – I had a bizarre dream about moving, and woke up thinking and the move was just the beginning, the worst is yet to come. In an instant, the reality that I had not been focusing on (just trying to get myself, my husband, my three kids, and my 79 year old dad moved, and the house looking as nice as I could make it) came crashing down on me, and it was true.

The move was just the beginning, the worst was yet to come.

For the Kids

So I’ve mentioned the situation with our 18 year old, but more than that this has put her entire life’s plans into peril. At the time that we were notified of our move, she was being scouted by several colleges to play tennis. But the thought of being that far away from home, and making that kind of a commitment, was too much for her if she had not yet had her surgery.

The problem now? Several-fold.

First, and foremost, the surgery requires a significant amount of financial commitment – travel, hotel, the costs of the surgery, and so on. We also will have to go back on a waiting list, which at the moment is over a year long. That, probably, is a blessing in disguise because – as I said – we were totally unprepared financially to move; now financially unprepared for anything medical, dental, or otherwise, to be honest. To be frank: with the exponentially higher cost of living here, and the amount of money it took for us above and beyond our savings to move here, I find it hard to imagine how we will even recover financially from this move, let alone be able to save up for more things years down the road anyway (something I try not to think about too much just yet, because right now it’s about surviving each day). But for now, we’ll stick with… four year college is on hold.

Nevertheless, she has considered two paths until we figure out the surgery: community college, with playing tennis there; and/or coaching for tennis. But still, we come up against more walls, as the community college with the tennis team closest to us is an hour and a half one way, in good traffic; giving lessons would also have to be done around 45 minutes away, as the only courts near us are already reserved by other coaches.

People have suggested we just get her a car – a fair proposition, if we are comfortable with increasing our cost of living even further beyond the bounds of what we can afford; except when beginning to explore this, our HOA notified us that we had already reached the maximum number of cars allowed in the community, and any additional vehicles on the premises beyond 48 hours will be towed (see what I mean when I say they hate renters?). And remember that condition she has that requires surgery? She takes medicine for part of each month that makes driving a bit dicey anyway. Wherever she goes, whatever she does, we need to bank on that she’ll need a ride.

So she is in something of a holding pattern, trying to figure out what to do while feeling entirely helpless to even make that decision. And the clock is ticking – you can’t wait forever to begin the rest of your life, or even your next year. There’s really no winning for her at this time, in this situation, and that we have done this to her at this point of her life is absolutely devastating to me, something I don’t think I’ll ever be able to forgive myself for.

Our middle child, the 14 year old, seems to be relatively okay. Because of the move, she decided that she was definitely going to public high school back home. And while this seems like a positive thing: she’ll be with her friends, her community she’s spent her entire life with, the school is good, and relatively safe compared to other area schools; for myself I’m trying to wrap my head around how exactly I can manage to commute her older sister to school or work or whatever, plus her to school and high school sports…

… and also raise my 5 year old. He will homeschool for primary grades, as his sisters did; but that doesn’t mean he should be forced to just be carted around to chauffeur other people all the time. And then, of course, since he’s reaching the age of starting to get into activities himself… where exactly am I to put him in those? Back home, where we hope to eventually return to and where his sisters have lives? Or here, where we really don’t know anyone and it’s not exactly… safe? And the schedules for everything, should I just expect the schools and the coaches and the activity directors and the other families to work around us and our ridiculous situation? How, doing this all – for the most part – alone, am I to do that?

We’ve explored several options. My husband looked at a few office spaces to use as hubs back home, but none were within our budget, and moreover, most had restrictions about times and who could be there (no little kiddos, which seemed odd). Someone suggested using a family members house as a to-and-from hub. Well first, what family? We have a lot of family, but we may as well live on Mars to them. When we said we were moving, we got little, to no, offers of help. It’s been years since many of them came to a birthday party, a graduation event, invited us to either, or even said “Hello” to us when we’ve seen them at the tennis courts and said “Hi” (and don’t get me started on seeing family members pay little kids we know on Venmo for tennis lessons, when they know our daughter is trying to get her own coaching business going… hurtful does not even describe that one) – again this is one of those topics we can save for another day, and another post. Even so, we are still trying to be COVID conscious, and so I just would love to know how… that would even work when most everyone else has moved on? Because of my dad, we still have to be careful…

Whatever the case may be, it all comes with a price tag – either a physical one, or an emotional one; and frankly, the piggy bank on both is empty.

But Wait, There’s More

But it isn’t just the logistics of my children and their future that make this situation untenable to all of us.

Because of how few housing units were available, and the competition in the rental market that we were just unable to compete with at the time, we had to take the first place that came available that would approve us and that we could make work, even under dire straights.

Putting it bluntly: this home is way too small. It has the same number of rooms as our old home, but they are infinitely smaller than the other house, which makes things incredibly difficult; and some are open concept or an area of courtyard with no roof, so cannot be actually used as bedrooms or office/study rooms.

My dad’s room is on the second floor and has no closet. That’s right: it has no closet, making me think it was an office that the landlords decided to market as a room. He’s getting older, though (he’s 79 and his mobility is starting to strain), so if he’s having a bad arthritis day, I see him literally dragging himself up the stairs, I’m assuming due to knee and hip pain. Also upstairs is where my husband has set up our bed, all of our storage (forgot to mention there is no attic in this home); and his work space. The walkway between the wall and all of that is so tight that you have to walk sideways at some points just to get an Easter decoration out of the closet, shoved between his jackets and t-shirts.

My son has completely sacrificed a bedroom, and now sleeps downstairs in the largest bedroom with my two teenage daughters. His toys are stored in the garage. Because the room is the largest room in the house (so the natural room to put three people), but only a little larger than the other two rooms upstairs, we had to get rid of his bed. So he sleeps in one bed, and my two teenage daughters sleep in the other. In there, they have their own bathroom, which is good – kids bathroom downstairs, adults bathroom upstairs; except that the lights malfunction, and the landlord refuses to do anything about it, so they have to shower and get ready for the day and in the evening, with the lights off. The flickering is just that bad.

You all may be remembering that my husband works at nights. Yes, the thing they never tell you about the film industry is that hours are shit. His job in post production marketing is from just before 6 pm every evening, until whenever he’s done working in the morning. He doesn’t like to be bothered by our 5 year old during the day, when he sleeps though; so he locks the door to the room. This, coupled with the fact that all of our stuff had to be stored in that bedroom closet (old DVD cases, papers, holidays decorations), being the only storage to speak of in the entire house besides the area by the laundry in the garage, I have to keep my clothes in bins in the kids’ closet downstairs, and use a rolling garment rack that sort of just roams around the house, to store my clothes. And to sleep?

That’s right, I sleep on the couch. For the first year of the pandemic, I slept on the floor in my kids room along with my son. That was better than this, and more comfortable; but not possible, as you can see the floor through out the house is tile. As the pandemic wore on after that first year, we were able to really adapt our house for the long haul, as it became evident that the government wasn’t going to do anything to return actual pre-pandemic normalcy. But now? Now there is just no option but the couch for me. Every night. And because our house is so small, I can hear my husband working all night, I can hear my dad going to the bathroom at 4 in the morning, and when the kids get up… well then I’m up too. No locking bedroom doors and getting a solid 8, or even 4, hours for this lady.

We no longer have a laundry room, those hook ups being in the garage. I know that’s fairly common, though it does make it difficult to do laundry for six people when you live in a desert that gets really hot and dry during the day, and where you can regularly look over while sorting your whites from colors to see whatever the fuck this is:

Even the dogs lose in this situation: whereas at our old home they had a nice, grassy yard they could play in; now they have some concrete and a dirt hill in the back. It doesn’t matter that we have that back area, though: the first couple weeks we were here, our duplex neighbor complained to the landlord that our son was giggling in the back yard and playing with the dogs. So, frankly, we don’t go back there much.

And That’s The Rub

For the short term until we could find a new home, this seemed do-able. But as the days wore into weeks, it became less and less likely that getting out within months was a possibility. And so, hopelessness and depression has become pervasive to our household unit.

I haven’t even gotten into the crime in this community, which is something to write a series of blog posts about. We’ve had white collar crime, squatters, drunken people passed out outside the neighborhood gates, a throuple living next door in their mid-60s (not exactly crime, but also not something I want to have to explain to my 5 year old), someone try to break into our home, and, as mentioned before, our crazy duplex neighbor has it out for us something bad. Beyond the complaints about the mere existence of my son and dogs in her general vicinity, just today, we saw her taking photos of our garage when it was open, and later saw in her garage she has a pinboard with photographs of us and our house pinned up on it. This all, in just over two months.

But again, what even can we do? Can we get out of the lease here? Sure. In fact, we’ve consulted with a lawyer, and it should be easy and cheap to do so. But then what? Having spent our savings, plus recognizing the rental market everywhere right now, it’s hard to see an easy solution. We are not competitive, and have no way to pony up another security deposit, after our old landlord illegally stole ours for nefarious repairs that had nothing to do with our tenancy. There’s no way we can, or are even willing, to purchase a home at this time – it is way beyond our means, and more responsibility than any of us can fathom after everything that’s happened these last few months. Then again, it’s hard to make any decisions when my kids have medical needs I don’t know how to meet, they have educational and social needs that are becoming more difficult by the day; and everyone is literally on top of each other, while I basically do not sleep anymore.

It’s ultimately a dire situation, and hopeless to boot. And while I don’t have answers, and don’t expect any from you, what I do know is that we can all demand more housing and for our elected representatives to solve this crisis the entire country, and especially California, is experiencing right now. That’s about all I have left to hang on at this point.

The Newsletter: Issue #10

So much is going on in the world, and in my world: it’s a little bit of a whirl wind. I’ve been trying to post more in general, keep up on my social media following; and to keep up on this newsletter too. So let’s get to it.

Around the World

Somehow I got sucked into the Johnny Depp and Amber Heard trial. I’m never into these types of things – like ever – but then I see it streaming live on my For You page on Tik Tok, and I’m hooked.

One thing I think that I’ve noticed above all the details, the commentary, the cutting off the middle finger thing – all of it; is how authentic Johnny Depp is. Between his clarity on specific details of conversations, his bizarre hair dos, facial hair, and attire/accessories, to his remarkable pride in having quit using opioids, Depp – in all his weirdness and classically Depp deadpans – is unapologetically himself. Does that make sense? Regardless of the trial, or how it all turns out, that is what I take away from this.

Of course the other big obvious going on in the world is that COVID is going masks off-balls out, and yet the government is scaling back its efforts and funding in ways we probably never saw coming, no matter how bad things have been. (Just remember: it can always get worse, right?)

With variants upon variants cropping up that are just, to many of us, terrifying, it’s hard to really know what to believe. And yet, the doctors of Twitter and the mainstream media seem to have also flown the coop. Some, like Leana Wen from CNN, have gone batshit crazy, blocking major figures in public health, and even Marked by Covid (the largest national advocacy and lobby group for survivors and families of victims from COVID 19) from viewing and reacting to her comments on social media, all the while accusing the world of bullying and harassing her for having unpopularly eugenic views; while others, like Jeremy Faust, have decided it’s time to monetize.

I find the latter to be, frankly, stunning. This guy started writing a newsletter less than a year ago, and has fewer email subscribers than little old me, and yet he’s still thinking it’s a good time to grift. For $5 more a month than your favorite 99 cent game app on your iPhone, or regular emails from WaPo, you can get, as Faust describes it: “…after I publish, I realize that there are more considerations worth sharing for people who want to go deeper…”

Whenever I criticize this, people say “running a website isn’t free, Heather.” Sure, yeah, I definitely know that. As evidenced by the website I run, here. But if you are doing something for the sake of public health, monetizing a website that can be thrown together, maintained, used to host your email server, and give you a unique domain, for around $100 a year or less, when you’re a doctor that also makes high dollar media appearances… well, I don’t know… monetizing your very important medical information and advice seems sort of grossly capitalistic.

But America is a capitalism, and our healthcare is for those with the means only, right?

One more thing that is absolutely bananas to me going on in the world, of course, is this:

Around My World

It’s a bit of a shit show in my personal life. We really are not adjusting to the new house well at all. My kids and their entire communities are around 30-45 minutes away from home (depending on the day and traffic). This isn’t a situation where we are like the military, where moves and changes are expected and a part of life. We will continue to get our kids back to our old city to be with friends and their sports and social stuff, it’s just … really really stressful to juggle it all (and the cost of gas doing so).

Of course you guys all got my email yesterday about Hello Kitty Toaster coming back for a pop in.

Meanwhile, at our new house, I’ve recently discovered that across from our house is a home that I am 90% sure is occupied by squatters.

The people that own the home live in Texas for the bulk of the year. They just keep this home to use casually when they visit their adult children in town. Now we’ll save the fact that people that own multiple homes only for one to sit empty most of the year, while the rest of us scramble for any slum we can find to pay 46% of our monthly take home pay to live in, are making me more upset by the day, because these types of practices (their right, or not) have irreparably harmed my family, I still feel something of an obligation to … at the very least investigate.

I’m finding myself become more and more like Tom Hanks in The ‘Burbs, by the day. I’ve camped out on the living room couch for about two weeks now, waking up in the middle of the night, taking photos of the lights on, searching around the gated and upper-middle income community in which we live for any signs of something amiss… I even considered buying binoculars.

I’ll keep you guys posted.

You Can’t Unsee This

Presented without comment:

STFU Fridays

Again, with the masks.

I know, I know, but hear me out: even if you don’t give a shit about masks, you only care about yourself and what you feel in terms of protection, and you are just done with this whole pandemic…

… you could still keep your fucking mouth shut to those that still mask.

Monday the mask mandate for travel and public transportation was lifted by some dumb-dumb judge with no public health experience or expertise whatsoever, and the world cheered. (I wrote about it HERE.)

Within a day, accounts of people being shamed and bullied for still wearing masks cropped up.

The highest profile person I saw post about it was Trump’s Surgeon General, Jerome Adams, who has – oddly enough – become the voice of reason these last several months. You really know things are bad if any of Trump’s folks are the voice of reason, but we can save that conversation for another day. Adams went to board a flight, and a Delta pilot made some snarky comment about how he should take off his mask and breathe the fresh air. Adams posted about it on Twitter, and the anti-maskers went WILD on him.

Really? Just shut the fuck up. The fact that these people got what they wanted, but did not stop it there, indicates – at least to me – that it was never really about freedom or their personal choice. It was about an ideology and what the masks represent: weakness, fear, and probably a little bit of racism towards cultures in which face coverings are the norm.

Gross.

So to them, I say: shut the fuck up. Just shut your fucking mouth, and cough all over people all you want. You won! At least for now. We’ll all still be there to empathize with you when COVID bites you in the ass, because the data doesn’t lie on the promise that sooner or later, it will.

One more thing…

If you haven’t signed up yet, please subscribe for this bitch to be sent directly to your inbox:

Happy Weekend!

Newsletter #5: It’s Halloween Season, Bitches

The pandemic is still raging, and so is my neighbor’s daughter’s nasty case of crotch rot (I wish I was kidding, but I’ve heard the stories told over… and over… and over again as she squawks about it loudly over the phone in the backyard…more on that in a bit…), but Halloween season is here.

You guys know I love fall. LOVE. Fucking love. I love it so much I blogged about it HERE, and HERE, and… HERE. The funny part about it is that in Southern California, fall is when it starts to get FUCKIN HOT. I mean like 100 degree heat waves, fires burning down half the town, and air quality that looks like the inside of a smoker’s lung. Nothing says “it’s autumn” like your kids going trick or treating in tank tops and booty shorts because it’s still 90 degrees out by the time it gets dark, and a random fire breaks out in the mountains so you have to cut trick or treating short to go home and pack *just in case* (this happened two years ago).

Anyway, I’m not being smarmy and sarcastic. I really do love fall. I’m not sure what about it – maybe the nostalgia of what fall represented when I was a kid; maybe it’s spending time with my own kids doing stuff with them; maybe all the delicious flavors… don’t know, but I love it.

Around the World

Nevertheless, the pandemic rages on, and while kids are now being promised a vaccine “sometime this fall,” (supposedly by Halloween) I remain skeptical. They just keep pushing the timeline back, and moreover, I just don’t know what to believe about any of it anymore. This is NOT to say that I’m a COVID skeptic. I am merely cynical of the prospect that this shit is going to end and get better some day.

There’s all this buzz about boosters too, and while I am usually critical of people saying that the messaging is “confusing” (it’s usually not, unless people are all just dumb…), this time, I have to agree. If you’ve ever seen Eric Topol on Twitter, he puts it perfectly here:

Of course none of this has stopped football stadiums from packing it in again, high schools from getting back to dances and rallies, and – you know – everyone sort of being out for themselves at this point. So I say we should all just do what we have to do to protect ourselves, plain and simple. As my grandma used to say: sometimes, it is what it is. For now, it seems to be a bit state of nature, figure it out on your own, let’s hope we all survive… in the end, though, what can any of us do about it? Shrug, and go on about our daily lives I suppose. Do what we can to protect ourselves and those we love.

It is what it is.

Around My World

Well back to fall and Halloween, my two oldest kids and I have been watching a lot of scary movies lately. I’m not sure what sparked it, but I have to say I’m happy we’ve taken this turn with our Netflix/Hulu/Disney+/Amazon viewing.

The best part, though, is that now… finally after all this time… I get the memes.

The Conjuring(s) and Annabelle

Admittedly, I really only liked-liked the first Conjuring. The second was still pretty good. But from there? I don’t know…

Still, what is particularly eery about these films, as well as Annabelle, is the devil-made-me-do-it, religious aspect of it all. Probably because I’m Catholic, and while I certainly don’t practice, I still bow my head and genuflect every time I go near a church… because habit.

Of them all, Annabelle had the most hair-standing-on-end moments, as well as me yelling “why would you do that?!” repeatedly at the main characters, because what is a good horror film if not for a main character that makes stupid choices?

Malignant

I let my teenagers watch Malignant, and I knew it was a gamble and probably – definitely – not recommended by Common Sense Media. But we watched after my four year old was fast asleep (so no chance he would come running into the room), and I just knew it would have a campy-Evil Dead-Army of Darkness vibe to it. In that department, it did not disappoint. (My kids also watch Supernatural, Vampire Diaries… all that crap, so blood and guts is pretty much streaming on their iPads on the reg).

What I certainly wasn’t expecting – campy expectations or not – was to laugh so hard. There were just some moments that were just so over the top (jail cell scene anyone?), who couldn’t help but laugh? I have no doubt in my mind that this will go down as one of the all-time great cult classics.

It

This is the one I am particularly happy about, because when the remake of it first came out there were Pennywise memes everywhere and I did not understand a damn one of them. Then, when the second film came out – just a few years ago, right before the pandemic – down the street from my husband’s office there was a pop up It experience. I remember scoffing at the enormous line of people down the block to get in, simply because I had no idea what the hubbub was about.

So we watched the first It last night, and are planning to watch the second tonight. I. Get. ALL. Of. The. Memes. Now. Wow. Just wow.

And, in the end, I thought it was a pretty good movie. I was particularly impressed – not to get all “Industry Wife” snooty with the discussion here – with the way the characters were fine tuned down to the T. Like when Beverly’s dad comes on screen for the first time, you look at him and you just know he’s a child molester.

Needless to say, I’m looking forward to the second movie and… for COVID to settle down and for that pop up It experience to come back to California.

STFU Fridays

So as I said in the beginning of this week’s newsletter, my neighbor’s daughter has – what they call – “crotch rot.”

A little backstory:

So my neighbor is a hard and fast believer in QAnon. I mean she is legitimately in the group. She talks about Q all the time. Not to me, I don’t talk to her – except for the one time she came over and banged on my door to let me know that a piece of paper had fallen out of our trash can on trash day. I mean that I hear her talking about this shit on the phone, which she spends probably 6 hours a day on while running an at home daycare, with absolutely no young children of her own. She is also hyper-Christian, though does not go to church… and by hyper-Christian, I mean it’s cult like. But I guess it’s a cult of one, because – as I said … no church.

So her oldest daughter is 20 and her youngest is 18, just graduated high school. The oldest now lives with her boyfriend at his parent’s house – he, a real winner by my estimation (imagine: my eyes roll into the back of my head until I seize) – and they went on some couples trip.

To a motel down the street.

When I heard the daughter, over visiting several weeks ago describing it, she called it romantic. I called it the Motel 6.

Now I’m not naive about these things, and I don’t think my neighbor is either, but long story short the girl now has some sort of smell coming from her vagina. It has persisted over several weeks, and apparently nothing is helping.

I learned this when QAnon lady squawked about it over the phone to her sister in New Mexico, on several occasions. They discussed possible causes. They discussed holistic treatments. And then – today – the daughter came over, and I heard the mother say the following:

“Look… I’ve been thinking about your crotch rot – hahaha – okay okay, your vag-i-nal o-dor, and I think it’s time you stop letting doctors and such force things on you, and you let the power of Jesus flow through you to fix this.”

What. The Fuck.

Jesus is not a solution for an infection of the vagina, Q. The power of God flowing through your vagina is a recipe for immaculate conception, not a resolution of bacterial vaginosis. For fuck’s sake, a tampon soaked in Greek yogurt would probably be more effective than calling on the Holy Spirit to fix this problem.

Where is this shit coming from?! This is the same reasoning these religious nuts are ignoring signs of cancer, refusing measles vaccines, and who fall for that *cut open purple onion and put it in your bedroom to prevent the flu* meme that goes around every year. The power of Christ compels you to ignore all common sense and modern scientific medicine; but if that doesn’t work, here’s an anti-parasitic for farm animals you can try!

This has certainly gone off the rails, and while it’s none of my business in the end, they make it my business by screaming about it into their cellphones – on speaker – for hours on end every day. I live in California. We are stacked on top of each other like sardines to the point that I could vomit – not even the projectile kind – and some would splatter on their deck chairs. Certainly, I sympathize with her daughter’s vaginal issues. Really… I do. But it’s about time they shut the fuck up, and if any of you are this open and talky about your medical problems, you need to shut the fuck up too!

Anywho, happy weekend!

Newsletter #2: In Which I Bailed For a Few Weeks

Well, you can all imagine the horror when, immediately upon starting a newsletter that was going to go out weekly, I immediately bailed for a whopping two weeks.

Allow me to explain.

I had a cup-floweth-over allergy situation, where I ingested, applied, and sprayed too many allergens around myself at one time… I’m not even kidding, it was like I was very itchy, and sort of sneezy, then I accidentally took a generic Benadryl that had an ingredient in it I am deathly allergic to and well, let’s just say… thank goodness for Epi-pens and steroids. Recovery from that hellscape of an event has been long, hivey, and a bit… hazy.

So I do apologize for the delay in our newsletter. Today, let’s make up for lost time… this Friday, we’ll get right back on track.

If you’re reading this because you clicked a link somewhere, let’s start by getting these bad boys straight to your inbox:

Now, without further ado…

Around the World

So as I’ve said, I’ve been in a bit of a fugue lately, but from what I can gather:

The war in Afghanistan is over. Cool cool. Too bad thousands of service members had to die because of it over the last twenty years, but at least it’s finally over. I have to say that the outrage of those towards Biden right now seems a bit displaced. Didn’t his son serve in the military? It seems like of any of the dipshits running things over the last twenty years over there, he of all people would understand what was lost and what is at stake. What I’d like to focus on with this one though is the fact that now there’s this meme going around of the faces of those that were lost in that surprise bombing attack a few days ago. And to those sharing it, I have to say: well congratulations for caring now all of a sudden after two decades of not uttering a fucking word. You all deserve your own medal of a sort.

Seriously though: where was your care with the literal thousands over the past 20 years? Or, for the innocent men, women, and children that have fallen victim as innocent, civilian bystanders? Oh that’s right… there was none.

Wars are tricky, messy, and ultimately horrific. There is no real war that is necessary, and the question of “how many lives are worth sacrificing for our cause” – is, at the end of the day, none. When a life is extinguished, it is forever and no freedoms or revenges are worth that.

We can argue all day about Afghanistan and who is responsible, but at the end of the day: there’s really no place to judge, no place to criticize, and only a place to talk about how we can not have these types of things happen again. One thing, I would suggest, is to perhaps elect competent leaders…

Around My World

Well, as I mentioned in the beginning, I haven’t been feeling so hot; and also the Delta variant has downright fucked up all my fall plans. From what I saw today in the news, another not-yet-named variant is barreling towards us, so we’re pretty much doing our usual thing minus the indoor activities, plus the masks.

One thing I’ve developed a newfound appreciation for among this increased time at home over the last year is movies. I liked watching movies, and especially documentaries, before, but have I ever developed a love of these new age, existential documentaries I’m finding on Netflix, Hulu, and the like.

In the last week, we’ve watched a ton of Attenborough, a New Years Eve-style special with the lady from Glee called Earth: Live, a documentary about fungi (which BLEW. MY. MIND.), and today we watched a stunning film on Netflix: My Octopus Teacher.

Those of you that have been around a while know that I have a Bachelors in Political Science, a second Bachelors in Philosophy, and a recently acquired Postbaccauleureat Certification in Philosophy and Ethics. Something has been on my mind as a result of all this philosophy and watching these nature documentaries:

It is wholly unethical to interrupt the cycle of life for your feelings. Nature is, in a word, brutal. To paraphrase my dear friend Thomas Hobbes: in the state of nature, life is nasty, brutish, and short. But that’s reality, so when I watch some of these Nature documentaries and see the filmmakers interfering in the natural course of things, I curl up in abject horror. It doesn’t happen often, and it hasn’t detracted from my overall appreciation of the films; but one in particular stuck out to me, which was in My Octopus Teacher, when he (the guy) feeds her (the octopus) as she is knocking on death’s door after a Pajama Shark attack. It’s just… not the way things are supposed to be.

The guy is narrating and explaining how his feelings just got in the way, and to that I have to say – to all filmmakers, and all of us really: especially when it comes to the natural order of things, fuck your feelings.

STFU …Mondays?

Well it’s usually STFU Fridays, but since today is Monday – and every day is a good day to tell people to shut the fuck up – let’s conclude with another round of STFUs. Today’s victims?

The morons calling COVID restrictions “lockdown.”

Few places in the world have had any actual lockdowns through out this entire pandemic, and absolutely no where in the United States has. The one exception, I suppose, we could concede is that the Navajo Nation had something of a lockdown in 2020 for a bit… but it was nothing like you saw say in China, where people’s front doors to their homes were being welded shut; or in India, where people were walking on the street and if caught were beaten with bamboo rods. In New Zealand, they’ve gone in and out of some pretty minor lockdowns, but my understanding from those I know living there, they are short, and – well – enjoyable.

Even in California, where a lot of businesses were closed down, or reduced in capacity, we did not have lockdowns. We still got to hike on the trails, go to the beach, take car rides… as 2020 wore on, people could eat in restaurants, everyone was still able to go Christmas shopping…

And still, people called it “lockdown.” Today, everything is wide open, only with some testing requirements, and masking requirements as well… and still, the nut jobs are calling that a lockdown. To them, I have to say: shut the fuck up! Shut the fuck up with your loose grasp of reality, your thin skin, your fragility that exposes more than I think you intend it to. If you think that wearing a piece of fucking cloth over your face is a “lockdown,” boy do you have a very limited world view. Shut. The. Fuck. Up!

I know people that call what my household is doing “a lockdown” too. Those people, again in one word, would simply be: wrong. We aren’t locked down. We still go to the store. We still go on field trips with my kids, we still get take out. My kids still play sports. They still walk the dogs, we still go to the beach.

What we don’t do is take off our masks outside the house. We don’t go to high risk settings, like indoor movie theaters or packed bars. We aren’t commingling with large groups of people with whom we don’t know what unvaccinated people they’ve spent time with. When I see on social media that someone has spent Monday with one group, had company for dinner on Tuesday, went to a movie on Wednesday, then had an out of town guest that is unvaccinated for a long weekend, no… no I do not then spend time with that person myself, or take my kids around them. That is not a lockdown, that is being smart and making wise choices in the middle of a global pandemic that continues to kill people.

But no, we are in no lockdown. We never really have been. California isn’t. People having to wear masks is not locked down. The United States at no point was in a hard lockdown. Anyone that tells you any of those things is a liar, and they should shut the fuck up. Because words matter, and maybe this pandemic would seem less awful to approach like adults if we started taking responsibility and using words that actually have meaning appropriately applied to describe the situations we are encountering. Maybe then things would get better, but what do I know?

Anywho, until Friday, when I’ve got some real juice to spill… I leave you with:

It Is Never Too Late To Defang This Stupidity

I feel as though we have really reached peak bullshit in this pandemic. It is exhausting to even just get up in the morning, let alone live, breathe, and witness the rampant stupidity that seems to now be at the wheel in controlling this thing.

I’m here today to say: it is never too late to defang this stupidity and change course.

You Can Still Get Vaccinated

I am by no means asserting that all people unvaccinated are morons. Let me be abundantly clear on this: that is not what I am saying. I. Am. Not.

There are a host of reasons people are not vaccinated still in the United States, as well as the rest of the world: poverty, access, eligibility… you name it. Even here in the United States, it’s estimated that a fair percentage of those unvaccinated would like to be, but work seven days a week and simply just are unable to afford any time off to do so. Also, no one under the age of 12 is currently eligible for vaccination; and I think we are grossly underestimating how many people that truly represents in this country.

But there is also that lawless group of mouth breathers who have the access, have the ability, and who have just folded up and said: NO. These are the morons, the mouth breathers, the plague rats that are keeping this going in an endless circle of chaos, destruction, and death – because this is what they live and breathe by.

These are the people that have covered their Facebook profile photos with banners that say “proudly not vaccinated,” who respond to news articles about the death of a child from COVID with the laughing emoji, and who walk into stores coughing all over everyone without a mask on and say really stupid things like “I identify as having an immune system.”

Morons.

You Can Still Implement NPIs

NPIs – for those unclear – are non pharmaceutical interventions. Things like social distancing, stay at home orders, masks… these are the things that are tried, tested, and proven to be effective in mitigating and slowing the spread of epidemic diseases.

I’m not advocating for “lockdowns” (which, let’s be clear, we never by definition had in any corner of the United States, with perhaps the exception of the Navajo Nation for a couple of weeks last year). I’m not even really advocating for stay at home orders, with vaccines and more medical treatments becoming available, of course some mitigation can/should loosen.

But limitations on capacity in indoor public spaces and masks seem very reasonable solutions to the newest surge of COVID being seeing in virtually all of the United States. And the misrepresentation by politicians and public health professionals that they were gone for good was, frankly, irresponsible.

So why won’t governments, private businesses, and public health agencies do them more assertively now?

Well, for one, they screwed up. If I know anything about contemporary American culture, it’s our unique inability to ever admit when we have done something wrong.

The newest rash of idiots taking center stage at this shit show we call life though are politicians, public health officials, and corporate stakeholders making the argument against the assertive and targeted use of NPIs in public spaces because: “we can mandate masks all we want, we will still have people refusing to wear them., so therefore we are choosing to do nothing”

[crickets]

“We can’t make seatbelts a law because some people will still not wear them” is what y’all dumbasses sound like when you say you won’t make public health guidance that is consistent with tried and true, evidence-based science, because a couple of hillbillies that probably have the collective IQ of a salad bar won’t follow said guidance.

You Can Still Open Schools Safely

Let’s be clear on this: the opening schools plan in the United States is not safe. This is the problem with stateside rugged individualism, and the inability of our government and broader community to rally around doing at least this is perhaps the blackest of marks that will go on our permanent record. Why is this what I believe? Because it is going to kill innocent children.

The refusal by some states to put in place any and all safety measures, and others to not offer alternatives, hybrid, and synchronous off campus instruction for students uncomfortable with returning to the classroom is something I continue to have a difficult time wrapping my head around.

Now those of you that have been around a while know that I have homeschooled my own children for more than a decade at this point. But the fear, terror, and abject horror of so many friends and family members – scattered all over the country – as their kids are being given virtually no options, or being sent into the classroom with masks optional, ventilation a joke, and distance an idea that never crossed anyone’s minds – is really starting to get to me. It is unconscionable, and for most of the summer I just could not understand.

Until I realized it was all about the money.

If kids are still given the option to stay home and still have access to an accredited teacher and all of their materials, yes you will still have a lot of parents (1) claiming unemployment every week, and (2) not returning to the physical office, continuing to work from home instead. I can see wanting to avoid this scenario before the current surge that involved a more transmissible variant affecting kids.

But the silence and the refusal to revisit school reopening plans now that cases and hospitalizations in kids are seeing their own exponential growth – both in heavily vaccinated and uvaccinated… masked and unmasked communities – is a level of ignorance on the part of policymakers, teachers unions, and education administrators that borders on criminal negligence. And it pokes holes in their previous arguments that any measures last year were about anything other than protecting only themselves.

I am not even sure who everyone seems to think will stay with the kids at home as they go in and out of quarantine from exposures, outbreaks, and positive tests themselves. 14 days is a long time to take off work unpaid, and the disruption our children have in store for them to their learning is perhaps even more profound than at any other point in this pandemic.

You Can Still Take the Politics Out of the Pandemic

I keep hearing people say the real shame in all of this is that the virus and the pandemic have been politicized. In a voice that sounds like the village idiot, or Sheriff Barney Fife on Andry Griffith, everyone just says “well I dunno what to do now that this whole thing has been politicized.” [shrugs shoulders and picks nose]

The real simple solution is that we stop using that excuse. Just stop. Stop politicizing it. Stop using the politicization of it as an excuse.

Policymakers can stop determining their policy by whether or not it’s favorable.

Local politicians and public health officers can stop tying what measures they take to whether or not their constituency polls favorably on it, or if there is a segment of societal mouth-breathers that won’t comply.

We are at what I believe to be the most dangerous point of this pandemic. It is the most chaotic, the most unhinged. This is the time when we have the most unknowns of what is to come: where projections are proving themselves wrong in all directions, and the science is continuing to change rapidly, while policy is not changing along with it.

Overarching all of it, though, is that our collective idiocy has taken the forefront of the conversation, or rather it’s taken over. Remember what Einstein said about the next World War: “I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones.” Everyone keeps on calling this a war, and at this stage I do believe this could be argued as our third World War. It is unrelenting, it is resulting in mass casualties, and the enemy is literally everywhere. But if this is a war, we are fighting it with stupidity, and that is why it is taking us all down. When all of this is over, if it’s ever over and if any of us are left standing, we will have to have some very serious and broad conversations about education, and our failure in it over the decades to adequately prepare ourselves to defang this stupidity.

That is if it doesn’t eat us alive first.

Why Everyone Should Still Be Wearing Masks

I’ve been hesitating on posting on the blog until I have my straight-to-blog book about running for city council last year ready to hit the publish button. But this topic is just too important, and while the debate is gaining a fever-pitch for another critical moment in this ongoing pandemic… well, I just had to throw in my two cents.

We all have felt the whiplash of the back-and-forth recommendations from public health over the last year and a half; many of us as parents even moreso since the CDC announced that masks could be burned in the fire in almost all situations for anyone fully vaccinated. Our states quickly followed suit, along with individual businesses and enterprises everywhere making big announcements – as if such a thing was even necessary. Now I’m not saying that people always wore masks perfectly everywhere, but there is something to be said for just quietly changing rules instead of making such a hoopla over it.

Even local journalists were hosting Twitter threads announcing what locations immediately took off the masks; a shocking admission of their position on the matter, and moreover not equally covered now – weeks later – as cases have risen, neighboring counties have reinstated mask recommendations, and failing today to report on the actual quiet changes the CDC has made, such as reinstating mask mandates in homeless shelters for vaccinated people experiencing homelessness. To put it simply: the pressure on politicians and public health officials was strong from the press to take the masks off, but to back off on that? Not so much.

Now, a bit after the mask guidance dropped, and as coronavirus infections (for some) and variants (all over) have risen in number and prevalence all over the country, the mask debate goes on. I see doctors taking selfies unmasked, because – as they say – the vaccines do work. But I also hear wet coughs and comments about “freedom from face diapers” by people wearing t-shirts that say things like I will not be your medical experiment while I’m at the pharmacy picking up my unvaccinated four year old’s medication. As has been the case for the vast majority of this pandemic, when public policy has not intervened, the honor system has been asked of people. And while before public policy was effective enough to at least deter some of the negative effects, now – so it seems – people of all political persuasions have donned the Trumpian MO of staunch, and at time narcissistic, individualism. I got mine (vaccine), so you get yours and you’ll be fine. No more public policy needed.

Except every human being alive today under the age of 12 is not eligible for vaccination just yet.

In my own city in Southern California, the city decided they would encourage masks for everyone, but also make them entirely optional even for the unvaccinated. They (masks), thus, largely no longer exist. Anywhere, and for anyone – this being a total and direct defiance of county, state, and federal public health guidance. If immune compromised kids or adults want to go visit our local public library without at least some level of worry, they can – essentially – go blow.

(I wrote my city council on this, by the way, and not a single one of them could be bothered to respond… including, and most notably, the nurse.)

Masks, at this point more than at any other in the pandemic, have become so deeply political and incredibly controversial – both keeping them on and taking them off, and what each means in so many different situations – that I find myself spiraling down a hole that can best be described as Reverend Lovejoy’s wife on The Simpsons, just screaming over and over again in abject horror: “think of the children!” in hopes that some part of this will at some point settle down, and make sense. Pretty much 24/7.

Yes. Think of the children.

Please. Think of the children.

Severe COVID in children is exceptionally rare, though as more transmissible variants crop up, this may not remain to be the case. As with all new diseases and science – they just don’t know. As it stands, the American Academy of Pediatrics reports that in the week ending July 1st, 1.3% – 3.6% of COVID cases in children required hospitalization, with an all time figure since COVID appeared ranging between 0.1% AND 1.9% of all children infected in the entirety of the pandemic (to this point). A concerning increase? Maybe. I’m not a doctor. But the real issue is that the more people in need of acute care in a hospitalized setting, the less people and supplies there are available to care for them (resulting in more severe outcomes).

Death from COVID in children is even more rare, with somewhere just above 300 children in the entire United States having succumbed to the disease, most with underlying health conditions. A child in my own county died earlier this year of it, and the most disgusting, and common, reaction was to normalize it by saying “but he had other health conditions.”

Nothing about having other health conditions changes the fact that without COVID, they would still be alive today. If there is more we could have done to save that child’s life – any of those children’s lives – we have failed them by not doing so. Which is exactly what we are running the risk of doing now as virtually all mitigation measures are being stripped systematically by hacks in local government who care more about being re-elected than doing the right thing.

Children Need To Be In School In Person Next Month

The same thing that happened last summer is playing out again this year: the debate about how schools should open in the fall are ramping up. At the same time, we’re seeing viral Twitter posts, alarmist doctors, and legitimate news sources with clickbait-headlines about debated studies (from Israel) on vaccine efficacy, and disastrous accounts of more and more breakthrough cases cropping up. Mask guidance has again become nuanced – because we apparently don’t learn our lesson about how the general public deals with complexity and nuance.

The CDC has not even put out its guidance for schools in the fall yet, while some school boards have already made their decisions about what – if any – protections they will be putting into place. And at the same time, cases are rising in some areas of the country, even in my own heavily vaccinated state of California.

And yet the facts remain about school and children in the time of COVID: distance learning has profoundly affected children on an educational, as well as social and mental health, level. It’s also become a socio-economic hardship for families to have one parent staying home, with extended unemployment benefits expiring in the fall as COVID still ravages parts of the country, and other teacher’s unions signal they will not come to reasonable agreements over fears about breakthrough cases and variant transmission.

And yet still, I personally know of a handful of mom friends all over the country who are looking at rising cases in their communities, feeling uncomfortable with what safety measures their individual schools have planned, and are planning to keep their kids home, and in many cases strapping themselves even more financially, simply because so many people in their communities are now clinging for dear life to this rugged individualism that is killing people in real time.

There have been several studies proving without a doubt that children in school faired better with COVID. That is to say that in school with proper protocols being followed (ventilation, masking in some scenarios, etc), kids got sick less and had far better outcomes. With teachers and staff being protected now through vaccination, it seems to make sense that if we properly protect kids with other mitigation measures until kids can be protected through vaccination as well, getting them back into school is the right choice.

But…

As all things pandemic have been politicized to this point, what has become increasingly clear is that more than simply the educators and scientists will be making the decisions on this. Politicians, interested parties, and the parents with the loudest voices (though both sides are pretty loud and backed into their corners at this point), are already making school reopening policy with their rhetoric, and the virus and the media with their headlines.

To me, the logical thing to do to make sure we get kids into schools in person this fall in a safe environment is to universally mask back up until there is much more certainty about the variants, as well as the vaccines; until the headlines about the breakthrough infections subside, and the schools are at the point of no return to get kids back in their desks and in school.

It will put an end to headlines like we saw here in California yesterday, about the news that staffers at the Capitol had an outbreak with an unusually high number of post-vaccination breakthroughs, and only after the Capitol had slightly relaxed its masking guidance for vaccinated employees. It will slow workplace outbreaks, in particular in low wage service industry jobs that are public facing, where we rely on the public to be honest about who is in the store without a mask or a vax.

Because people can make their personal choices all they want. When you operate on the honor system, unvaccinated people by choice are violating this honor system, and in turn getting sick. Mask mandates in indoor public spaces showed they worked. Even with people continuing to gather in homes, at gatherings, and with capacity limits being lifted. By toning down the news cycle (which the media clearly cannot see any sort of moral imperative to do), we can make sure the ammunition in the school reopening debate is eliminated.

Won’t Somebody Think Of The Children?!

There are some other key points here that make sense to even someone like me – just a mom who pays attention:

People under 12 years old are not eligible for vaccination yet. Full stop. To say that it’s on the unvaccinated to protect themselves is a pretty dicey proposition to so many people literally cannot. They rely on the goodness of everyone else, and right now everyone else is not showing themselves to be very good. And while we already established that severe outcomes from COVID for children, including death, are exceptionally rare, long COVID (coronavirus symptoms more than 120 after testing positive) remains a persistant issue for children, just as: well, they’re kids.

Not a single child on this planet brought this pandemic on themselves, and to look at them and suggest that their risks are low, so we’ll now do nothing is… well, I can’t even think of a word to describe how awful that is.

Kids are also not as dumb as adults seem to consider them now. For the last year and half, we’ve asked them to make enormous sacrifices to protect the adults, in particular the elderly ones. We’ve taken away school, sports, aid for kids with special needs, consistency, they’ve watched families die, sacrificed much of their future, decimated their mental health; we’ve isolated them from friends, subjected them to greater food insecurities, pushed some into abject poverty and homelessness. Not everyone agreed with that proposition, and the science in the end has shown that some measures went too far.

But I continue to find not a single child that had a problem wearing a mask. And more so, including when I ran for city council, over the last year and a half, I have found that the kids were the most adaptable; the most willing to do what they had to do, no matter how hard it was, for the sake of caring for the adults. Will it hurt them in some way in the end? Probably. But they were willing to do it, because kids are like that – they have empathy and compassion that the rest of us seem to have, sadly, lost.

I have three kids, you guys know this. One is 17, one 13, and one 4. My 4 year old was the hardest to convince to deal with the discomfort of wearing a mask, but when it came down to him understanding that we were doing this to protect others, he immediately complied. This was the theme of the mask debate in the earliest of days, including after the Biden Administration took over the pandemic response, and he issued that 100 days to wear a mask and protect our communities in doing so. Masks work if they are worn universally. They provide some protection for the wearer alone, but if everyone does it they work remarkably well. This, like all of the other things we’ve discussed, is proven.

So what does it say to kids that know they still aren’t protected that suddenly no one is wearing a mask? Kids under 12 know they haven’t gotten the COVID shot, some (like mine) were there when siblings got it. They know COVID is still out there, they know some places still require masks or some of their parents are still working from home. Many still have family dying of the disease, wondering if they or another loved one is next.

After a year and a half of asking them to wear masks to protect everyone, what does it tell them now that the adults won’t wear masks to protect them?

The pandemic did require sacrifice, and it still does. From everyone. And while we can debate on whether or not some was just or went too far: at least some lives were saved in the process. We may never know if it could have been more, we may not know what will be required of us in the future. Today, we find ourselves in a new stage of the pandemic: one that is about controlling the virus, and preventing the variants from causing more large scale catastrophe until everyone has had an opportunity to be protected. It is a fact that everyone hasn’t, and another one that a lot of people do not care. It is a stage that the CDC and Dr. Fauci argue should be based on each person’s individual risk assessment. But is that a realistic and grounded expectation of the average American? To assess their own risk and act accordingly? Arguably, based on the behavior of a lot of people over the last year, in addition to just the reality of the different paths and struggles we all walk every day in this modern American life, I would argue not. People barely have time to sleep more than a few hours a night, let alone take the time to read studies, follow community transmission, and consider personal risk assessments. Many also just trust the government to do what is right, and as a mom it seems right now like they are doing anything but.

When all is said and done, I would argue that everyone should still be wearing masks as we continue to think of the children. On the precipice of kids getting back to some sort of a normalcy this fall – with school, sports, friends, and good health – is it really so hard to just put the cloth back over your face sometimes? Personally, to me, it says more about you as a person if you won’t.

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.

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?

We Need To Discuss Your Summer Plans

“Summer plans,” or – as I like to call them – “just another group of months with the same old shit only hotter” are steadfastly approaching, and I feel like we need to discuss them.

We were at the doctor the other day, my 15 year old was having her yearly physical. The doctor asked what our summer plans are and the crickets chirped. Summer plans? The concept is lost on me.

It’s been in conversation for about two months now.

It’s a woefully tiresome topic, because – inevitably – it becomes one of those instances in which I feel like I have to explain myself to people. Twenty minutes into it, I’ve gotten nowhere. Usually this is evidenced by whomever I am talking with clearly not understanding what I’m saying, and changing the subject with something like “well there’s always room for spontaneous summer plans!”

And herein lies the first problem I have any time people ask me questions: I can never just give simple answers. Somewhere along the line, I conditioned myself to always justify what I am saying. In reality, I don’t have to explain my or my family’s reasons behind what we do, or in this case don’t do, to anyone.

We don’t have summer plans. Why not? Because we don’t want to.

Because we homeschool, we might be a little unique. My kids are around all the time during the school year, so I can’t exactly identify with the whole you-people-are-driving-Mom-crazy-for-these-two-months-every-year thing.

My kids drive me crazy all year long.

So in terms of camps or classes, or special outings: there’s really no need for it. Why would I put my children in a day camp that is the older-kid-equivalent to daycare when there is literally no need for me to do so whatsoever? It isn’t like they’re getting bored and need to be kept entertained. Or they are driving me batty and I need them out of the house. Summer for other people is our lives, every day of the year (except there’s schoolwork in there).

This is the second problem, although I wouldn’t call it a “problem,” so much as a circumstance. Our circumstance, because we homeschool, is that my kids are around all the time. I don’t need to keep them entertained, or do all kinds of extra activities because they are driving me crazy in the house. These things (the stuff we do, including the fun stuff) is peppered here and there through the entire year, because we aren’t beholden to a school district calendar.

That’s just the way it is, and yet no one (and I mean no one) can seem to grasp that concept.

The third thing worth mentioning is my husband’s work schedule. One of the reasons we homeschool is to accommodate his career in film. It’s hectic, it’s unpredictable, and it’s overnight. Anyone that’s ever worked in the film industry knows that summer and holidays are the busiest times for them, so vacations around then are not always in the cards.

If I’m being entirely honest, vacation isn’t really something we normally do at any time of the year, either. He’s just usually too busy, and when he’s not busy he’s catching up on sleep. What kind of a vacation involves Dad sleeping half the day, and keeping everyone up all night because he can’t (and shouldn’t) change his sleep schedule for the couple of days?

(And also, if we’re being REALLY HONEST… film work doesn’t exactly cover the cost of exotic cruises and trips to Hawaii for 5 + my dad.)

At a tennis match the other day, the mother of a couple kids my kids play with told me that she’s decided since her husband is working a lot this summer, she’s going to maybe just do the craziest thing ever and take the kids somewhere on her own! Can you imagine?

I take my kids places on our own all the time. If we waited for my husband to be available, we would be waiting years behind our graves.

This, I think, is a suburban thing: that families should do it all together, and if they don’t there’s something crazy or exotic or weird about it. The reality of it is that there is absolutely nothing unique about our situation at all. So many people have so many different circumstances to their jobs/homes/lives, it just is what it is.

And yet… this is the fourth thing. I waffle back and forth between wanting to live my life and let my kids live theirs; and feeling the guilting and the pressures that our culture has me conditioned to believe, which is that we should all be patiently waiting to live our own lives with our hands folded neatly in our laps for my husband to be available.

Except that he’s living his life by working in his dream career. This is literally what he dreamed about in childhood, went to college for, and has worked all these years to achieve. So we should not live while he… lives?

Why do we worry so much about summer plans anyway? Maybe this is just some weird stage of life I am in, where your plans end up largely dictated by your children’s plans, forcing everyone into these specific time frames to create family memories and – oh I don’t know – live life.

Or maybe it’s something bigger. Like a status thing. I remember a movie once where the guy says in a snooty voice: “where do you summer… I SAID WHERE do you summer?” The concept is lost on me.

My summer plans are the same as my every day plans. My kids do schoolwork. They do chores. They play tennis. The baby and I watch Story Bots and play with blocks. I cook. I clean. Sometimes we go to museums and libraries, some days we binge watch Supernatural.

And I think I’m much happier and more content than a lot of people. We don’t save life’s moments for special occasions or the summer months, when conditions are perfect. We live them every day.