The Time I Almost Got a Lot Lizard for a Mommy

After my parents split up, my Dad wasn’t all that eager to jump back into the dating pool. For a while, he was content just hanging out with friends and drinking his beer. He had three kids to manage. It wasn’t until a few years after the divorce that I even saw him interested in anyone. A woman named Donna, introduced through a mutual friend of the family. She seemed nice enough, and I noticed my father talking to her more than he usually talked to people.

After one night of visiting, we came home. As I was brushing my teeth, he stood in the doorway of the bathroom.

“What do you think of Donna?” he asked. I shrugged.

“She seems okay.”

“What would you think if I asked her out on a date?”

“I think that would be okay,” I answered earnestly. “Mom has a boyfriend. There’s no reason you shouldn’t go out with people, too.”

Dad nodded and nothing more was said of the subject.

A week or so later, Dad came home late at night, looking annoyed. I asked him what was wrong.

“Have you ever heard of a Lot Lizard?”

I had not.

So, earlier that evening, my father was over at mutual family friend’s house. So was Donna. Donna and Dad were visiting, he asked her out. They made a plan to go out that weekend. At the end of the evening, Donna needs a ride home, Dad offers said ride. Donna accepts.

As they are driving, Donna asks my father to drop her off at a truck stop that they are coming upon, and just leave her there. Dad is confused.

“I need to make some money tonight.” Explains Donna. Dad is still confused.

Upon further questioning, Donna explains that she provides company to lonely truck drivers for a nominal fee.

Dad noped right out of that. The planned date never happened. Dad never spoke to Donna again. He may have been an alcoholic, but even he had standards.

Dad and I had stopped by Mutual Family Friend some time later, and the old bat had the nerve to chastise my father for being stuck up and too good to date Donna.

“Some people have to make money the only way they know how!” She reasoned.

Dad argued that she could wash dishes or something that didn’t involve sucking some guy off. Dad may have had standards, but he still spoke bluntly.

And thus ended my close encounter with having a new Mommy who was a Lot Lizard.


Sun Rises and Clean Slates

I really, really don’t like working on weekends.

Oh sure, I knew that when I became a nurse, I should expect to work holidays and weekends. Expect I am going to miss out on stuff because of what I do. That being said, I really, really hate working weekends. I hate getting up early, I hate being away from my husband, and I hate being away from my daughter. There’s one thing I don’t hate, however, is the drive to work.

We live in a rural area. Not podunk country, we’re 15 minutes away from all the creature conveniences of city life. No, we’re rural enough that we have a big-assed propane tank by our house, and a septic tank buried somewhere in front of it. Our place is nestled in the slow rolling hills of our county, the beauty of the nature surrounding us only matched with the crappiness of the cellular signal. Driving out of our “neighborhood”, you climb a big hill, and upon cresting, you can see for miles. You can see the city in the far off distance, the activity of the airport, the little McMansions dotted across the countryside, the trees, the fields waiting for their crops to be planted.

On those Sunday mornings I am driving to work, I also get to see the sun rise when I crest that hill, painting the land with its oranges and pinks while it waits for the rest of the world to wake up. It takes my breath away every single time.

I love going on cruises. Logtar, not so much. He asks my why I love it, and I really don’t have one singular answer. There’s a lot of things I don’t like about it: the crowds, the seemingly inflexible schedule, the crowds, the rude passengers. But probably one of my most favorite things is pulling into port.

Usually, ships arrive at their port early, early in the morning, while everyone is sleeping. So, when you wake up, boom, you’re there! Excitement builds as everyone gets ready for their island adventure.

For me, I tend to wake up right about the time the ship nears the port. I wake up on my own, I don’t know why. I step out onto the balcony and watch as we drift slowly towards our stop. The island coming closer and closer. The only sounds you hear is the splashing of the water as the ship navigates its position towards the dock, you may hear the squeal of a seagull or two. The air is fresh and salty. The temperature is just right. You feel a slight breeze on your face. Meanwhile, you’re a little closer to the island, and from your elevated vantage point, you can take a better look. The dark of night ebbing slowly, like a wave good-bye to an old friend. No people milling around. No cars. Virtually no activity. The sun makes its sleepy debut, and your pupils begin to dilate in delight of the beautiful pastels of the sun rise. You are witnessing the world, still asleep, on the cusp of waking up. You are witness to a brand new day, full of endless possibility. Your day is a blank slate, and you have the ability to make your own adventure in this new place. Small worries melt away as you realize just how awesome your life is. You lean over the balcony rail, and look up and down the side of the ship, seeing a few others doing the same thing you are doing, with the same look of peace and contentment on their face.

I get this exact same feeling on those Sunday mornings when I am driving to work.

It’s so easy to get caught up in worldly events. It’s even easier to fall into despair because it seems hope is a luxury that few can afford. I’ve fallen prey to it just as easily. In my early morning commute, I wondered why I just don’t feel this way all the time. The answer is easy…you just simply forget to.

How hard would it be to wake up every day with a sense of wonder? Instead of worrying about what may or may not happen at work, instead be excited that you have another day to be master of your life. To spend with family and friends. To finally make plans to do something you have been putting off. To make a difference. To have an adventure, no matter how big or how small. How difficult would it be to get out of bed thinking about all the cool stuff you have in your life, versus what is missing? What a challenge would it be to wake up with the singular thought, “MY LIFE IS AWESOME!” Instead of waking up and just going through the same motions you do everyday, and not take notice because you think what you do is unremarkable.

Attitude is everything, and you can have one everyday. Everyone has the choice: will it be a good one or a  bad one? Why wait until an early morning sunset on vacation or just driving in your car to have an epiphany on how great your life is? Appreciate ALL THE THINGS. Your hot (or iced) cup of coffee. That your husband gets out of bed, and makes a beeline for your side to give you a kiss good morning. That your baby always smiles when she sees you. That your husband is always excited to see you.

When you start thinking of all the good things, and start approaching each day like a blank slate, more and more you feel that amazing lift that comes when you crest a hill and see the whole world laying before you. Before too long, you will agree…that your life is awesome.

Now, go out there and have your adventure!

Getting Out: Crabs in a Bucket

When fishermen catch a bunch of crabs, it is not unusual for them to keep the crabs in a bucket and not have a lid on it. Common sense would tell you that this is a dumb idea because the crabs would just climb out of the bucket. However, the fishermen know that this is probably not going to happen because if one crab tries to climb out, the other crabs will grab onto the would-be escapee and pull it down in an effort to pull themselves out. No one escapes, and at the end of the day, they go on to end up on someone’s dinner plate.


The general idea is that the mob mentality can keep a person from forging ahead and doing better for themselves. “If I can’t do it, neither can you!”

This analogy is a perfect example of trying to get out of the cycle of poverty. Even if you strip away the systems in place that keep people in poverty (welfare, cost of education, etc), it doesn’t consider that one of the biggest hurdles of breaking the cycle are the ones closest to you: friends and family.

You hear about this peppered through the pages of the news: people who win the lottery, professional athletes. I don’t have to look much further than my own personal experiences. I grew up poor, my whole family did. My father’s family is a never-ending cycle of it, and only recently have some of my generation or newer are getting out of the pot. I’ve heard the crab in the pot attitudes echoing throughout my entire life.

  • Cousin marries, they acquire a couple of modest rental properties and during the summers have their own fireworks stand. (She thinks she’s too good to spend time with us since she has money.)
  • Aunt remarries a guy who works hard at a steady job. He’s a hard worker. He eats out whenever he wants, has a hobby of rebuilding classic cars and going to car shows, and drives a newer truck. (She married a high-roller, and now she’s thinks her shit doesn’t stink.)
  • People that live in nice houses and have swimming pools are automatically assholes.

I even experienced this directly. I received a settlement after a bad car accident. A family member assumed I would give him half because he happened to be in the car with me when it happened (he was uninjured). When I told the family member that the settlement was for medical bills and the rest would be applied to nursing school, I was accused of being greedy and putting money over family. That family member was living with me at the time, and decided to stop paying their share of the rent because they felt I didn’t need the money.

Another example being that my chosen career path pays well. While it does not put me into a wealthy category, it certainly offers security, good benefits, and not worrying about things like broken down cars, food in the fridge, and clothes on my back. Instead of being happy, family members have replied bitterly, “Must be nice to not have to worry!”

As far as crabs in a barrel? I’ve experienced that, too. I kept “loaning”money to a family member who was always short on their house payment. “If we miss this payment, we will get foreclosed on, and our kids will be out on the streets.” I found out the hard lesson that loans to family members weren’t really loans at all, but viewed as some sort of  profit-sharing between family members that did well and those who couldn’t manage their money. I almost ended up losing my house because I was funneling so much money to help other family members, that I was neglecting my own needs.

Just like crabs in a barrel.

Why, you  may wonder, would someone almost go into foreclosure to help a family member? Guilt. It is the guilt of getting out, and leaving family members behind. This guilt starts at an early age. When you are poor, you don’t have anything but your family. This idea is drilled into you, that the family is all you have, and you must keep it intact at all costs. This mentality, while seemingly noble, is what not only keeps poor people poor, it also guards secrets that should not be kept in the dark, like molestation. All fueled by the guilt that consumes you and prevents you from fighting to get out of that damn bucket.

Some would argue that there is honor in such blind loyalty to family. Looking at it now, it looks more like insanity.

I have a cousin, who has a niece, and she will be the first in her family to attend university. Not just any university. A big one. She is the oldest of 6 kids, and she has known poverty for her entire life. While her Dad has been encouraging, and an Aunt who has been her biggest cheerleader, her brothers and sisters seem to be disinterested in doing better for themselves, and a mother that thinks panhandling and prostitution is a perfectly acceptable way of making money. I would think about her a lot, knowing just how hard she would have to work, and how difficult it would be to maintain focus.

“At this stage in your life, the decisions you make will affect the rest of your life. Move cautiously, be smart, and never lose focus,” I told her.

As I write this, she is home, pregnant with the father of the baby having seemingly abandoned her, and slim to no chance she will be returning to college. No job skills other than working at a Subway, no solid support system. Another crab, almost out, now pulled back into the bucket. The cycle of poverty ensured for the next generation.

I hate that goddamn bucket.

A Life Gone Sideways

“Your father put a gun to his head tonight.”

Twenty-three years ago, I thought I had a pretty good grasp on what I wanted with my life. After graduation, I had moved to KC at my oldest cousin’s invitation to work and save some money before I started college. I decided to take a year off before I was going to start at Northwest Missouri and work towards a teaching degree. (I believe they call that time a “gap year”now.) To make money, I was working as a CNA at the nursing home my cousin worked at, working the 11pm to 7am shift.

The shift started out typically enough. I got my cart and was filling the ice bucket for the evening fresh ice water pass when I looked down the hall and saw my cousin standing at the desk. It wasn’t unusual for her to stop by on her nights off because she was bored and would often come to visit. A nurse at the desk pointed down the hall, and my cousin made her way to me. She did not smile.

“I need to talk to you.”She said, and motioned for me to follow her. We ended up in the large shower room. It was then that she said those words.

“You’re father put a gun to his head tonight.”

Out of all the ways she could have given me the news, twenty-three years later, I still wonder what on earth possessed her to say it that way. Bold. Harsh. Real.

My world started spinning. I felt like a giant hole had appeared, and was pulling me inside. My eyes locked with my cousin’s, looking for any type of anchor to keep from being sucked into despair.

None of it made any sense to me, and yet all the pieces fit into place.

My relationship with my father had been tenuous since I had moved out earlier in the summer. We lived in a minute town, the kind you read about where people go and they never leave. But I wanted more in life than what that town could offer me. Someplace bigger. A fresh start where I wasn’t known as the daughter of the town drunk. A place of opportunity. My cousin offered that, and I eagerly took her up on it. My father, on the other hand, saw no merits of my move, and looked at it as the ultimate act of betrayal. He refused to speak to me again after that. When I would call home, I would speak to my brothers, and even my father’s girlfriend at the time. During those calls, my father would suddenly have something to do away from the phone. I never gave up, though.

The silent treatment ended in mid-November when my step-Grandpa passed. Not a bio-dad to my father, but treated my father a lot better than his own dad ever did. (My bio-grandfather was a colossal dick.) Dad finally started talking to me again, mostly about Grandpa Verle. For the week or so that followed, we talked almost every night. He almost always was drunk. He hated his job, working at some factory that made campers or something. He was having problems with his girlfriend. He was bickering with his own brothers and sisters. Truth be told, there were some who were pretty toxic to be around. I tried to be encouraging, as much as an 18-year-old can be.

The last time I spoke with him was twenty-three years ago, today. He called to tell me that his girlfriend took her kids and moved out earlier that evening. He asked me if I had seen or heard anything about another woman he used to date. I said I hadn’t, but I would see if she still lived in our old hometown. That seemed to cheer him up. We talked about him and my brothers moving back to Missouri. I don’t remember what else we talked about, but I do remember the last words I said.

“Don’t do anything stupid.”

A few hours later, he did just that.

To this day, I still don’t have the full details, but what I know is this: After his girlfriend left, my father proceeded to go on a drunken bender. Around 9pm or so, he started playing with one of his guns and going on one of drunken, paranoid rants. This was not unusual for him, I remember him doing it when I was very young and we still lived in Colorado. My brothers and I eventually learned to steer clear of him when he was in one of these moods. In the living room, where the event took place, were my father and my two younger brothers. One was 14, and the other one had just turned 16 that same day. My father said something, to which only my brothers know and will not tell me, and then he shot himself with a .22, behind the right ear.

My youngest brother fell apart. My other brother went to his father and elevated his head while yelling at the youngest to call 911. Shortly after the call, the sheriff’s deputy, who lived just down the road, ran into the house with her gun drawn. Apparently, they thought something very different happened. After she ascertained what had really occurred, EMS arrived. My father was rushed to the nearest hospital, and then life-flighted to a Wichita trauma center where he was placed on life-support.

At the time, my father was not married. Nor did he have an appointed DPOA. Because of that, all medical decisions were then the responsibility of his oldest, living kin. Me.

I don’t remember much about the drive to Wichita, other than it was just me and my cousin. I remember crying when I saw my brothers sleeping in the waiting room because they had grown a bit since I last saw them. I remember the doctor and one of the nurses sitting with me in a conference room and telling me that tests concluded that my father had no brain activity and that he would not recover. I remember talking to my brothers about what the doctor said, and I remember that an 18-year-old, a 16-year-old, and a 14-year-old decided that our father would have never wanted to live on life support and that we should let him go. I remember how vile my aunt was to me when I told her of our decision. I remember that aunt giving me the bag full of personal effects he had on him, but not before taking all the money out of his wallet before she did. I remember telling the nurse of our decision. I remember the family that chose to stay, standing around his bed in the ICU as the staff turned off the respirator. I remember holding his hand. I remember he lived on his own for just over an hour before his heart stopped beating. I remember my eyes being unable to produce any more tears because I had cried so much. I remember telling my aunt that I was taking my brothers home with me and she threatened to call the police for kidnapping if I did. I remember inviting her to do so because I knew the law would be on my side.

I don’t remember the drive home. I don’t remember the events leading up to the funeral.

We opted for a graveside service. He was buried in jeans and button-down “cowboy shirt”. His usual fashion choice when “dressing up”was required. Old friends came from hours away to pay their respects. A Nazarene minister gave the sermon, but I couldn’t tell you a word of what he said. I remember his three children sitting in the in the chairs in front of the simple, wooden casket, hands of the family behind us resting on our shoulders. I remember that none of his children cried, while the rest of the family sobbed.

After the funeral, we went to his house, packed up what we could, and drove back to KC.

Then, life went on.

I never did go to college to  be a teacher. After my Dad died, something inside me just sort of went sideways. Eventually, I made it through nursing school and now I take care of cancer patients. During nursing school, I was assigned a patient who, after making a lifetime of bad choices, decided to kill himself with an electric carving knife. He was unsuccessful and landed in the ICU where I was doing my clinicals. The man’s daughter, a wide-eyed, 18-year-old blond, had been called. In that moment, in caring for him, and watching her without getting swamped in my old grief, I felt like things had come full circle, and I knew that nursing was right thing for me to do at the time. Like a calling.

My brothers and I never talked about that day. Years later, I found out that my vile aunt went to the Kansas Bureau of Investigations reported that she was certain one my brothers pulled the trigger that night; there was no way her brother would have done that to himself. (If she had known him as well as I did, she would have known this to be patently false.) I also learned that as a result, my brothers were interrogated by the KBI to the point my youngest brother mentally broke. The investigation ruled the accusations were unfounded, and only succeeded to inflict further scarring upon two teenage boys. I never spoke to my vile aunt again, and when I saw her recently, her mind was too far gone to even recognize me. At that point, I let my anger go because unleashing it, or keeping it bottled, would have both been pointless.

There are certain universal truths about suicide that people don’t understand unless they have been exposed to it. One being that suicide only transfers the pain of the one person who died, to the rest of the living. Another truth is that it stays with you always. Here it is, twenty-three years later, and I still have moments where the grief is fresh as a new cut.

I once read an article from a woman whose father killed himself. She likened life to being a can of white paint, and that all our experiences are like little drops of color sprinkled in. Yellow for the times you are happy. Blue for the times you are sad. Green for those times you are most at peace. Suicide comes along and tosses a big blob of red right into the can, and if you mix the paint, you soon have a can of mauve colored paint. That is what suicide does. It taints everything, and you are constantly being reminded of it. I know I was and still am. It was there when I graduated college. When I got married. When I gave birth to my little girl. When she first smiled. Or said her first word. Or took her first step. It’s in the sadness I feel when I know that my father should have been there for those things. It’s in the anger that I feel that he made the horrible choice that surrendered being part of those things. It’s in the guilt I felt when I thought of my brothers having to witness that alone, and see them struggle because of it. Or the guilt that I felt when I wondered if things would have been different had I not left him after I graduated high school.

Things are a lot better now. I saw a therapist at the encouragement of my husband. Up until that point, I never talked about what happened. Only a few people in my closest circle knew. Talking about it hurt too much, and in some weird way, I felt like it was a secret to be kept. A source of shame. That I could bear it alone without crumbling was something I was oddly proud of.

Yesterday, I was watching a documentary about a UFC fighter named Cat Zingano. The story goes into how her estranged husband killed himself. She later fights Ronda Rousey, who is also the child of a parent suicide, and she wants to talk to her mom, to know how she got through it. What did she do to help her daughter get through it? It got me thinking. What would have been useful to me when it happened? What things did I need to hear to help me move on?

I wish someone would have told me that it wasn’t my fault. That was probably the most important. I remember for a long time after, I kept thinking if I would have been there, I could have stopped it. Or I should have picked up on it that last time I talked to him. I should have done something.

I wish someone would have told me that I didn’t “allow this to happen”. You can’t control what another person does. If they truly want to harm themselves, it’s going to happen. You might be lucky and intervene at the right time once, but if they mean to do it, they will try again. And they will be smarter about covering their tracks. The signs are never there if you are not looking for them. Hindsight is not the same as foresight.

I wish someone would have told me that it was okay to grieve for him, and given me a safe space to do so. He was my dad, after all. And no matter what kind of a life he lived, or mistakes he made, at the end of the day, he was my dad. The loss was just as acute as anyone who would have lost their parent by natural causes. Crying doesn’t make you weak, and it doesn’t make you less of a person. Showing vulnerability is not something to be ashamed of.

I wish someone would have told me that I made the right choice. I could logically explain to myself that it was, but in the back of my brain, I wondered “what if…” It wasn’t until I finished nursing school and worked in the field a while before I truly understood what everything meant.

I wish someone would have told me that by him doing what he did, it didn’t mean that he loved me any less. My father did love his kids. The problem was that he didn’t love himself.

And finally, I wish someone would have told me that just because this awful thing happened to me, didn’t mean I was a broken person. This permeated any and all relationships I had. My self-worth took a major hit, and the caliber of the guys I dated reflected that. It made me aloof. Unapproachable. I also didn’t care for myself as much as I should have because I didn’t feel I was worth the effort.

So, here we are now. Twenty-three years later. Like I said, things are better now. I’ve certainly changed a lot. Friends often say I am more at peace. Less angry. More hopeful. I have my own little family, and in its own way, rights the wrongs of my childhood. How much of this will I tell my daughter? I suppose if the information is relevant, I will tell her. But I will also tell her of the good person her Grandpa was before his demons became too much for him to bear.

There is no use in keeping my father’s suicide a secret any longer. They say the truth shall set you free, and they are right. Putting it out into the universe frees up more space in my life for things that are good. Remembering the good stuff he did when he was alive is far more worthy of remembrance than how he died.

My Breakup Letter to CNN

I’m breaking up with you, CNN. It’s not me. I’m fine. Actually,  better than fine. It’s that feeling you get when you realize that you don’t have to swim while carrying a dead rhino on your back. You just let it go, letting it sink to the bottom of the river, where the bottom feeders reside. Where you will fit right in.

As I sit here, the day after the shit show of the elections, my emotions still roll like a slow boil. Heartbreak. Disgust. Disbelief. Shame. Embarrassment. Fear. Anger. So much anger. We were supposed to be an advanced society. An accepting society. A society where my daughter would grow up in and everyone belonged. Turns out, we were wrong on all counts.

What does this have to do with you? Well, I will tell you.

There’s a lot of blame going around. CNN, and you deserve the lion’s share. You and your friends at Fox. And MSNBC. But this isn’t about those other networks. I haven’t been in a committed relationship with them. It was you. Always on in the mornings when we got ready for work. Always on in the evenings when we got home and were unwinding before switching over to Netflix. You were our constant. Always there for us. Sure, it got weird when you started obsessing over missing airplanes, but eventually we moved past it.

Then, the campaigns began, and everything was all about Trump. In the mornings, we would see Chris Cuomo practically orgasm on live t.v. because he got to talk to Trump every day. Just like buddies having morning coffee. A friend of the show! The small-fisted orange one would make outrageous claims, and no one would call him on it. At some point, you fell out of favor with Orange Hitler, and fewer calls came, but that didn’t stop you from talking about him. All Trump. All the Time. You would marvel that he was spending very little on his campaign, while ignoring the obvious truth: he didn’t have to when all the major networks were climbing all over themselves for the chance to be his preferred network.

Oh, sure, you would mention other candidates sometimes. Sometimes, you would even interview them. But you never got over your first love.

I once got so sick of hearing about him, I turned onto the local channel. They were talking about a car being on fire, but I remember feeling so relieved because for once, no one was talking about him.

Now, I am not a journalist.My experience only extends to being the editor of my high school newspaper (which has been well over 20 years ago), but even I remember that a few basic tenets of journalism were to be honest, unbiased, and fearless.

I don’t know what your play was. Did you have a meeting and decide you were going to see if you could sway the election to whichever candidate you thought brought in better ratings? Is this what the owner of your network wanted? Do you even know that what your anchors do barely passes for journalism? Did they know they gave up the mantle for being our truth bearers so they could be entertainers instead?

At the end of the day, what’s done is done. We, as a country, will live with the fallout for the next four years. Maybe more. I can only apologize to my daughter for the mess that is left for her, and hope her generation has the tools to clean it up. But that is for another blog post.

So, this is adieu, CNN. I’m sure you understand. While we don’t have someone else we’re going to start seeing right away, we’ve decided to date around. You know, to see what’s out there. Today, you can find a news site that caters to whatever news fits your narrative, so it may take us a while to weed through it all to find that diamond in the rough. That source that reminds us of all the good things journalism used to be, and gives us hope that it can be again. Meanwhile, we’ve replaced your coveted saved space on our t.v. remote with the local news channel. Sure, it may be about car fires and chili cook-offs, but after a couple of years of lost airplanes and fear mongers, it will be a nice break.

Beating the Bullet-Riddled Horse

Among my many memories of my Dad, was him and his gun collection (which is ironic considering that’s how he died, but I digress). He had 5-7 of them, and sometimes he would pull them out and clean them. My brothers and I would sit and watch.He would take them apart, put them back together. Sometimes, he would sand down a stock and refinish it. My father’s guns were beautiful. Pristine. He built one shotgun, made from three different guns. It was a showpiece for certain, and he built it for me. Cherry stock, copper in the middle, and a black barrel. The first time I got to use it was for rabbit hunting.

Through life events, my mother ended up with a majority of Dad’s guns, including the one he made for me. My stepfather loaned my gun to his grown son to go hunting. It was never returned. His son would claim that he “lost”it. Later, we would learn that he pawned the gun for money. My gun was lost forever. I own nothing that was once my father’s. And when I think about it, that there is this thing out in the world that my father built just for me, and I don’t have it, my heart aches.

In light of the shooting in Orlando, I don’t want to get on a soapbox and argue the case for gun control. Firstly, the box is already crowded with much louder voices than mine. Secondly, we lost the argument for control long ago when Second Amendment Fanatics decided that dead children were a price they were okay to pay for their right to own assault rifles. (Apparently, AR-15 are not technically “assault rifles” because that label is  meant for military use guns that are automatic or semi-automatic, but for $299, you can easily convert it to one!)hello-kitty-ar-15-rifle1

There’s so much about this country to be proud of, and we celebrate it often. Yet we have so much to be ashamed of and too full of hubris to know we should be. That we live in a society where mass shootings are common, and the best we can do is blame extremist views that are not Christian and hold candlelight vigils. I look at Sandy Hook. I look at Orlando. I hear the rhetoric of the gun nuts whose only defense of resisting common sense gun laws is, “Bad guys are going to get guns no matter what we do, so we just won’t do anything and keep waiting for that good guy with a gun to come and fix everything.”It breaks my heart, and it makes me ashamed to be an American.

I’m a gun owner. I have a beautiful shotgun my husband gave me for Christmas. My little brother refinished it for me, just like Dad would have done. We also own a handgun. I still lament the loss of the gun my father made for me, and I wish I could have it. But you know, I would gladly give it all up if it meant that I could send my daughter to school, or to the movie theater, or anywhere else and never have to worry if she will be gunned down that day.

Hooray for Last Place!

Per Wikipedia, Papua New Guinea is one-half of an island north of Australia. Home to around 7 million people, with 18% of those people living in urban areas. The rest lives in villages, away from other villages, sometimes not being aware of each other. There are literally hundreds of languages spoken in this country, owing to the different villages, each with their own unique traditions and cultures. Less than 4% of the population is over the age of 65, which should tell you something about their healthcare. And speaking of health, malaria is the main cause of illness and death. A large portion of the population is illiterate. Papua New Guinea is not really a tourist destination, so there really isn’t a wealth of information out there about it.


Coming of age ceremony for the George Jefferson village?

You might be wondering why the brief history lesson? Well, I will tell you. This small, poor country ties with the richest country in LAST PLACE for maternity benefits. Us. We can put a man on the moon. Send a robot to Mars that continues to send us pictures to this day. We can make people untalented people famous. We can make the racist village idiot a candidate for president. But we cannot, or will not, make an effort to provide any kind of benefit for women who just pushed out a brand new human.

This post isn’t going to be a rant about the shitty lack of mandated maternity leave for new moms. I don’t have anything new to add to the argument that hundreds, if not thousands, of people have said before me. We suck. We know we suck. And unless government decides to give a shit (or people wise up and start electing people do), we will continue to suck. Go last place!!!

Anyway, I guess you could say I was incredibly fortunate. I got 12 whole weeks off. Sure, compared to Denmark (whose moms get 52 weeks off, 100% paid) it’s paltry, but some women had to return to work mere days after delivery. Thanks to FMLA, every woman is guaranteed 12 weeks of time off to do the things that new moms do postpartum. More on that later.

At any rate, of my 12 weeks, I bought short-term disability insurance which said it covers 6 weeks, and only 60% of your salary…but only if I upgraded to the 60% benefit. (Had I not elected to do so, the standard would have been 30%.) Even that is a misnomer, because they only pay you for 5 weeks, citing the 6th week is for paperwork processing and you don’t actually get a paycheck. The remaining weeks you have, you have to burn through whatever PTO you have saved up. Which means that prior to going on leave, you have to save every single minute of PTO and use none of it for doctor visits, sick days, or days you can’t come in because you feel like absolute shit your 9th month of pregnancy. Even then, it’s only applicable if your employer even offers vacation time, because the U.S. is one of the few countries that do not mandate paid vacation time. (I think the last statistic was 1 in 4 workers do not get PTO.) Any bills introduced to guarantee PTO fail. Just when you think we can’t suck any harder…we do.

I had managed to accrue enough PTO to cover all but the last 2 weeks of my maternity leave. But because I have an amazeballs husband (who didn’t get diddly squat for any kind of paternity leave, btw), and the survival of our household did not hinge on my paycheck, I was able to take the entire 12 weeks off, and not get any type of paycheck for those last two weeks. But because of FMLA, my job was secure. However, when I returned to work, I basically worked for free for the first month because short-term disability does not pay for insurance premiums, and all my paychecks had to cover those missed premiums.

But what is maternity leave anyway? I can’t speak for the other moms, but for me, it was about a lot of things. It was getting right with how my body changed. Breastfeeding, pumping, trying to sneeze without peeing myself. Healing from pushing a baby out, who ripped Mommy a new one as a parting gift. It’s about trying to figure out childcare for when you do go back to work. It’s also about getting to know the newcomer. Figuring out how this new mom thing worked, worrying yourself into wrinkles because you’re convinced you’re not doing it correctly because everything on the internet tells you that you are a horrible mother, and how could you possibly even bring a baby into the world when you notorious for letting plants die?? Maternity leave is for falling in love with the newcomer, and flexing those maternal instincts when they decide to appear one night as your husband almost rolls over the baby. It’s for thinking about the kind of parent you want to be. The kind of person you would like to raise your child to become. It’s for sleep, for lack of sleep. For tears and giggles. Snuggles and blow-outs. It’s for Moms and Dads and Babies to start (or build upon) the foundation of their family.

What isn’t Maternity Leave? It’s not for selfish, childless lackwits who think that time off is one great big spa retreat where they can sit and think about a better mission statement for their job. I’m not even going to link her article, or mention her name, because I don’t care to add any more traffic to her asinine quest or possible sales to her shitty book. You know, before I ever had a baby, I never begrudged the women who did. I never envied their maternity leaves, and when they returned, I never saw women who were refreshed with a new outlook on their job. I saw women returning with abject sadness of having to leave their babies too soon, the constant worrying if they were okay, bitterness that we live in a country that is perfectly complacent to tie for DEAD LAST with a country where the typical residential dwelling is a hut, and resentment that their employers refuse to go above and beyond what is legally required of them to do right by their new mothers. The only time I ever saw those new moms happy was when it was time to leave, and only because they were going home to their babies.

You want a Meternity Leave? They already exist. It’s called a Sabbatical.