Batter my heart, I guess.

by renegademama

I don’t want this to be our new reality. I do not want to continue in a world in which each of my four children grow up with the reality that their great-grandmother was killed by a beloved family member after eating Chinese take-out.

I do not want this unfairness. I do not want this deletion. I do not want the crumbling of safety and innocence this all contains.

I do not want them to know 86 years of life culminated in terror and suffering, and I do not want my mom to hurt, and I do not want these tears.

I feel myself yearning for before, before I knew this as a reality, before my family clung to one another to stand, and our fists fought our tears, and Arlo begs, “Mama don’t make that face,” and Georgia asks while crying in her bed, “Is God with grandma, and will he fix her?”

I yearn for before it steam-rolled our tiny card-house, leaving us here flattened.

I know it was a false safety, but shit it was ours. And I know the way to peace is acceptance, but I do not fucking want this truth. I do not want to accept it.

I fear I talk about it too much. I fear I’m exhausting people. I fear I’m whining, being dramatic, oversensitive. Other people have suffered more. I am not the only one to go through this. Come on, Janelle, knock it off, you are not a delicate flower.

The other day I read a Facebook post with a joke about “at least I didn’t get stabbed today.”

My heart raced at the word as if it flashed in neon and hit my face with a quick cold slap. My blood ran in fear, rage, sadness. Goddamnit Janelle. I am not a delicate flower. I am a raw nerve and it’s not the world’s fault, but they keep fucking with me.

I think a cave would be better for a while.

I fear my kids will get hit by cars. I say “no” when they want to ride their bikes. I fear Mac will not make it home. I fear my mom driving. I fear it all and I panic and my brain tries to soothe me, “Janelle, it’s okay. It’s okay.” But my body and heart don’t believe it.

It’s only been 3 weeks. I have time. I have time. You tell me I have time.

But right now, I do not want this in my heart or mind or body.

I’m afraid if I let it in, I will be destroyed. I’m afraid if I let this pain, this reality, this truth to sink in to my bones, I will be altered and I do not know how. I know I will be leveled, split open, broken up and rebuilt, but I can’t see how, and it’s hard to jump when you can’t see the bottom. I feel myself on the edge. I rock, I hide, I cringe.
But I trust it will be love.

A poem keeps coming to mind. It’s a weird sonnet by John Donne, and I don’t know why I keep thinking of it because honestly it’s kind of a rapey Jesus poem (no seriously, he’s asking to be “ravished” by God), but the beginning has been lodged in my brain for days:

“Batter my heart, three-personed God, for you

As yet but knock, breathe, shine, and seek to mend;

That I may rise, and stand, o’erthrow me, and bend

Your force to break, blow, burn, and make me new.”

I am being broken. I am being burned and overthrown, and I must believe it is for love. It is for compassion. It is to become more in love with you, the world, this life. It is to feel more of your pain, and open my heart to more of the wild rawness of being a human, so I can give and live a little more, a little better.

Not to be good. Not to be a martyr. Not to be all glowing in my goodness. But because I cannot take this destruction without beauty at the end. I cannot withstand the sadness without some meaning at the end. I cannot think of my little family getting broken, blown and burned only to end up angry, lost, and afraid.

No, I trust there is more.

Batter my heart, I guess.

And so I tell my babies we loved her, and we loved her hard, and we love our sick cousin who hurt her, and we will love harder for both those people and for ourselves and our pain, and in that, our lives will be more full.

And I have to believe that is enough. I have to believe my little family will be bathed in a greater love, a light that makes us new.

 

we've got you

we’ve got you 

47 Comments | Posted in despair | December 5, 2016

I did not know it felt like this.

by renegademama

Three days before my grandmother was killed by her mentally ill grandson, we stood together in Costco, perusing books.

“Tell me if we’re in a hurry, because I’m just hanging out,” she said.

“We are in no hurry, grandma. No hurry at all.”

No hurry at all.

If I could do it again, I would stand alongside her rather than two aisles away, and I would watch her 86-year-old hands touch each book, opening and closing covers. I would watch the way her fingers moved over the letters and I would hold her purse. I would ask what she was looking for.

“Does Mac like books about World War II?”

“I don’t think so. He’s more into those weird adult fantasy books.” I answered honestly. It made her laugh.

“But maybe,” I added. I didn’t want her to feel bad.

As we drove to my house, I offered to drive her to my mom’s around the corner, where she was staying, but when we pulled into my driveway, Georgia and Arlo came running out yelling “Grandma!” and she said, “I think I’ll stay.”

I think I’ll stay.

So she sat at my kitchen table with a glass of water, which I looked for the day after she died but could not find, with Arlo on her lap, and the two of them talked. When they didn’t talk, he sat with her, looking out from her lap, watching me make dinner. Ava and Rocket argued about whose turn it was to feed the dog. George was tired, and possibly yelled. Mac and I got annoyed at the kids.

If I could do it again, I would do it exactly like that, with her simply there, with us, a part of the raucous family.

last week

last week

When my mom came to get her, I am sure I said goodbye. I am sure I said goodbye and hugged her even though I do not quite remember, because that is what we always do, and I’m sure I said, “Have fun in Utah,” because the next morning she was going to visit another grandchild, and then she was going to come back to us.

 

She was going to come back to us.

That was her plan now that grandpa has passed: She was going to visit each grandchild and spend time with each of her 45 great-grandchildren and “really get to know them.” She told us all about it as she sat at my table, with Arlo on her lap. Mac leaned over and said, “Arlo REALLY loves her.”

I smiled. It was true. I thought of all the things we would do together. I thought I would take her to the B Street Theater, to the Nutcracker, to movies and the Mondavi Center and to San Francisco. Now that grandpa was gone, we could fill her time with a million things. My grandfather had been gone 5 weeks.

Three days after I am sure I said goodbye, at 7:30pm on Wednesday, November 9, my cousin came downstairs with a knife and stabbed her, and she died in the arms of her daughter.

 

Did you know grief moves through you like a freight train? Did you know it tears through you like a thousand shards of glass on rails and forces your chest to release a sound you never knew you could make? Did you know air moving in feels like fire? Air moving out feels like drowning.

I did not know this.

I did not know my body could make that sound. I did not know my knees would buckle and I did not know my mother would crumble against a wall, her legs too weak to support the truth.

I did not know pain like this existed. Too much for the body to contain. It rumbles and shakes in your blood, racing and slamming the walls of your body, your skin and bones, to get out and run, but it cannot, and only releases in broken wails and sad, wild rage.

I hear her now. My mother’s screaming. I will not forget the sound.

That night, I slept with her, as I did when I was a little girl, and when I looked over, she had tucked the blankets up over her face and under her chin and I thought I would give anything to remove even one sliver of her pain and make it mine.

I could not. She lost her mother. Killed. My nightmare as a child, my mama is living.

I touched her hair and tucked it behind her ears and prayed to god for morning.

 

I suppose I should say something helpful about mental illness, and how we need to support sick people better, and educate their families, and not be ashamed or minimize it or turn away, and I suppose some day I will say those things, but today, two days before we bury my grandmother, I sit with my mom at the ocean, because it’s where we’ve always gone when things are hard, to watch the wild beautiful rage of the water as it sings its roar against the rocks of my heart, and we wait to be filled again.

 

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146 Comments | Posted in despair | November 16, 2016

Male birth control. Or, stop being a whiney-ass baby.

by renegademama

I have a little story for the men who couldn’t handle the side effects of a new, effective male birth control shot, and the researchers who canceled the study citing “safety/adverse effects” – the very side effects 30%  – that’s THIRTY FUCKING PERCENT – of women taking birth control experience daily.

 

The story is called: IF YOU FUCK THIS UP YOU WILL RUIN YOUR LIFE. AKA: Birth control. AKA: Pretend you are us. 

From the time we are teenagers, or choose to become sexually active with men, it becomes “locker room” talk for damn near every straight woman with a vagina (and yes, I know the definition of “woman” is broader than this. I am referring here to the aforementioned identity). In every bathroom, bedroom, hallway, and yes, locker room, the giant, glaring question: HOW DO I AVOID UNWANTED PREGNANCY?

Welp let’s go over the options.

Abstinence: okay, okay. Okay. Okay. But then not okay for most of us. This is the form of birth control that will be thrown in your face if you end up pregnant, or birth control fails. You will be told that you should have stayed abstinent if you weren’t ready to accept the possibility of failed contraception. Yes, even if that risk is 1%. And yes, even though you were 18 and the dude who also trusted that condom has since left you for your roommate.

You should have thought of that! Abstinence is the only safe way!

Condoms: Absolutely excellent except you have to have them all the time and sometimes men refuse to wear them, or whine and whine about it and after a few (hundred) beers, whine so long and hard (see what I did there) that you’re like FINE because you’re 19 and drunk too and then. Well, pregnancy.

YOU SHOULD HAVE STAYED ABSTINENT YOU WHORE. He’s just a boy being a boy stop having unrealistic expectations. 

The pill: You realize condoms are too unreliable. You need something more secure and consistent and less reliant on a partner’s dick going in it. The pill! Perfect! You make an appointment at the clinic. You get there and they stick a scope in your vagina before they can give you the pill. Standard procedure. It’s a cold, hard, metal thing about 12 inches in diameter. You stare at the florescent lights. You remind yourself why you’re doing this.

After they stick that in, they swab your insides with a small, splintering piece of wood that they call a “Q-tip.” For the grand finale, doc sticks her hand in you and pokes and prod while you watch the interns gaze at your pubic hair.

But you get the pill! Whew. Sweet relief.

Then you take it. You notice your weight goes up. You notice you are getting a little irritable. A little sad. You notice you’re yelling a lot. You’re crying more. Now, you’re screaming, and now you’re lying in your bed, eating, and you don’t know why. Things that used to interest you don’t. You are legitimately depressed. Your friend says, “Oh, you went on the pill? Oh yeah. That’s what happens.”

What now come again, you think. I have to LIVE like this? I guess if it’s normal. And you hang in there.

You try for a few more months until the migraines come. This can’t happen. You go back to the doctor. They tell you, “Yes, the pill is triggering your headaches. We can put you on the lightest pill since you aren’t responding well to this one, but you have to use a second form of contraception, like CONDOMS.”

And here you are RIGHT BACK WHERE YOU STARTED. “But are there any other options, doc?”

She tells you: “They all have hormones, sorry. The shot. The IUD. It’s all the same. Hormones. If you don’t respond well to the pill, you won’t respond well to those.”

You survive for a few years on the lightest pill, using condoms, enduring the problems and countless pregnancy scares, but then they come out with the NON-HORMONAL IUD and you’re like OMG THANK YOU BABY JESUS and you go back to the clinic and they stick in the scope and hand and splintering wood while a couple interns watch as usual and then they stick in your uterus a little T-shaped device that feels like a tiny fish hook being dragged through your insides.

And then the cramping starts. But you have reliable birth control and no hormones! It’s worth it! Years of security!

You ignore the stories of the way they get implanted in the uterus and cause scar tissue and thus infertility (because you know how important it is to not fuck up your baby-making capacity – you must keep it all working! Do not mess this up!). You ignore it because you have to accept this risk so you don’t get pregnant, and it’s the only thing that’s worked, and truly, you are out of options.

Then your period comes, and you remember that if it seems to good to be true, it probably is. Your formerly chill 3-day period has been transformed into an upside down volcanic explosion of what must be 60 % of the blood in your body. You change your tampon once an hour, twice an hour. Do I just LIVE in the bathroom now?

It doesn’t end. It’s coupled with waves of cramping that move like fire down your body. Your low back. Your stomach. Your guts.

Here it is: The cost of non-hormonal, not-man-reliant birth control. Fuck my life and my uterus.

The following week, your boyfriend tells you he can feel the IUD with his penis while you’re having sex, so could you please figure out some other form of birth control?

The end.

 

Check it out: IT IS TIME FOR MEN TO JOIN THE CLUB WE’VE BEEN FREQUENTING SINCE THE BEGINNING OF HUMANKIND.

(40 years, people. 40 years of no real progress in male contraception.)

What kind of 9th-circle-of-hell bullshit is this?

Women suffer for years at the mercy of their uteri, and then at the mercy of birth control methods that work but fuck us up, fail and fuck us up, and we keep working and working and trying to get it right, and a good portion of our lives are centered around avoiding pregnancy, getting pregnant, staying pregnant, all the things about pregnant, and NONE OF IT IS PRETTY and NOW YOU ARE TELLING ME THERE IS POTENTIAL FOR SOME HELP AND RELIEF AND WE ARE TOO CONCERNED ABOUT MEN HAVING TO ENDURE WHAT WE DO?

What the hell is this, “Man Cold, Side Effect Style?”

You know, we with female anatomy endure a lot of bullshit to provide certain things, such as, oh I don’t know, new life. (Or, even worse, to get it to function the way it “should” if it refuses.)

And either way, we endure it our whole lives. Hiding it. Protecting it. Defining it. Mourning it. Medicating it. Fixing it. Figuring out how to orgasm it.

It’s taken a long time for us to get to the point when we have some agency over our bodies, the course of our lives, but still, the birth control situation remains complex and unclear for many of us, and we have no choice but to figure it out.

Are dudes too delicate to endure the exact discomfort we’ve been facing for years?

Once again, society is cool with the suffering of women. We think twice for men. Once again, society kisses the ass of man – or shall I say “penis” – while telling women Well if you didn’t want to deal with birth control, why were you born with a vagina? 

(Ummmmmm hey there. Didn’t choose this. Shouldn’t be punished for it.)

Yeah, I’m angry.

This one hits below the belt (I can’t stop myself).

Figure it out.

HORMONE UP, motherfuckers.

It’s your turn.

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61 Comments | Posted in I'm going to get unfriended for this | November 1, 2016

Dear children: Please stop tormenting baby animals and the rest of the humans, thanks.

by renegademama

One of the main reasons I started this blog is because every time I go anywhere with the standard human population, I feel at times like an alien, particularly among other parents and their kids. Parents seem way more into this than I am, and their kids kind of seem like dicks. In general.

Sorry, but true.

Look, I don’t looooove being called a “breeder,” because surely there is little more to parenthood than fucking and birthing and nursing like a goddamn border collie, and I think the phrase “child-free” is rather hilarious in its connotation that kids are some sort of unpleasant condition to avoid, like lice or debt or termites.

On the other hand, the term is a reaction to “child-LESS,” which implies a lacking, which reflects the way society looks at people without kids as less than and deficient, which is also clearly bullshit.

As an optimist, I feel we could find some middle ground between KIDS ARE THE MEANING OF LIFE and KIDS ARE HEAD LICE.

But whatever. I’ve always been a dreamer.

 

Honestly, I get why a portion of the child-free crew hates us though.

I would too.

In fact, I already do, and I am firmly planted in “breeder” status.

Because on the whole, parents can be pretty obnoxious and we often do it with an air of pretense, running around sure we have more fulfilling lives while our kids ruin your dinner (which we already discussed).

I often think, my god, if I were judging all parents by this sight, I WOULD NEVER HAVE KIDS. 

Take the other day, for example. I went to a petting zoo at a pumpkin patch with my kid’s first-grade class, where I saw a few kids in a pen with a baby cow.

Um, calf. It’s called a calf. I’m so country.

Anyway, I’m chaperoning along with 75% of the rest of the kids’ parents, and I’m standing outside the pen watching these kids with the calf. There are five kids in a small enclosure with the animal, and three of them are tormenting the shit out of the poor thing.

They’re squealing and tapping his head and darting this way and that, running in circles, and you can see the poor calf getting confused and agitated with no escape from the little bastards.

I look around and see at least three parents watching this and doing nothing.

I immediately remember why I hate people.

HOW THE HELL CAN YOU WATCH THIS AND NOT DO ANYTHING? WHY HUMANS WHY.

To make it worse, I realize the worst two offending kids’ parents are standing right there, and I think, well I shouldn’t say anything because thou shalt not parent other people’s children, but then I realized NOPE this is bullshit. I’m not going to watch this happen.

I’m not the police. I give very few fucks about what other people do. But this is an innocent animal. This ain’t right.

So I tell the kids, “Hey you all need to stop running around. You need to stand there and gently pet the cow or get out of the pen. You are tormenting him.”

Kids: “What does that mean?”

Me: “It means you are teasing him in a mean way. You are hurting him. “

And as an aside to the lady next to me, I say, “They’re like fucking bull-fighters in Madrid right now.” She didn’t think I was funny. As usual.

The kids stop. The parents do nothing. One kind of glared at me.

I walk away.

From across the barn, I see them immediately doing it again, and again the parents say nothing. I walk over to really lay it down because now I’m fucking angry. But luckily, my friend saw it too and actually went INTO the pen and physically stopped the kids and was showing them how to not be evil. She renewed my faith.

Oh thank god. We’re not all crazy.

And we aren’t.

And I guess there are people in every corner who are self-centered and ignorant, kids or no kids, but I truly don’t understand how parents don’t think it’s their job to teach their kids not to harm others.

Is that not basic decency?

Do they think it’s cute? Do they truly not notice? I’m no genius, but one thing that’s clearer to me than anything is when my kids are being annoying. Because they are annoying ME first and foremost, I can only imagine what they’re doing to innocent bystanders.

And an animal? Fuck.

Sorry, animals. And humans.

In conclusion. Dear parents: Please teach your kids not to torment adorable fuzzy baby animals who have no escape and never asked to be subjected to your kid in the first place.

I should write a parenting advice column.

I could call it, “Captain Fucking Obvious.”

Or, “You would know this if you’d pull your head out of your ass.”

But only you people would read it, and you already get it, so never mind.

Thanks for being an alien with me, with or without kids.

Thanks for your total dedication to not raising kids who fuck with the rest of us.

We can do this, America! I am a dreamer!

 

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Hey look! It’s a kid not being mean to an animal at a petting zoo! Wheeeeee!

Family vacations are bullshit and I can’t wait until the next one.

by renegademama

There is a point in every family vacation when I begin referring to my children as “Poor Life Choice Number 1, 2, 3, and 4.”

Not to their faces, obviously. That would be mean. I did however refer to my older kids and nieces and nephews as “SLAs,” which stands for “slightly less annoying” (than the younger kids). But that is 100% the truth and I’m standing by it. And they wore it like a badge of honor.

Seriously, taking kids on family vacations is bullshit. I would like a family vacation without my family, please. Is that too much to ask?

“Family vacation” almost immediately moves from excitement, anticipation and all the beautiful mental pictures of “how great” it will be to throwing away a shit-filled pair of shorts in a Taco Bell bathroom.

Sorry, Taco Bell.

On the plus side, they weren’t my shorts.

I am the picture of positivity.

Also, sorry, hotel staff, for the puke on the bed you had to clean up at 4pm on a Friday because I played with my toddler too long and he LAUGHED TOO HARD I GUESS after drinking milk, and puked. So gross.

More proof one should always limit engagement with offspring.

I’m kidding. All I want to do in every waking moment of my life is engage with my special snowflakes on a level so exciting they vomit.

Literally four of the six of us puked at different times for different reasons WHY WHY WHY WHY.

 At least twice a day on every family “vacation,” my husband and I look at each other and say with our mouths or eyes, “We’re never doing this again,” “What the fuck is wrong with our kids?” and WHY ARE WE PAYING ACTUAL MONEY FOR THIS. It feels like tossing $20s into the air while chasing a sugar-fueled toddler into a Lego store.

To illustrate the level of bullshit, I made a Family Vacation BINGO card. Every one of these things happened during our recent trip to Disneyland.

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I think I ended the trip more tired than when we left. Pretty sure the last hour of the car ride had every single one of us screaming at equal volume and with equal maturity. And we won’t be unpacked for a month. And holy shit is that place expensive. WE WILL BE HAVING A VERY SMALL CHRISTMAS, kids.

(Disneyland prices are some nonsense, and yet, it’s so oddly horribly fun. I mean, I think it is. I hate crowds. Fuck crowds. And yet, it’s a small world! What is wrong with me. WHY DO I LOVE DISNEYLAND with its corporate princess capitalist patriarchal systems of oppression? The rides are so fun, people. And it’s so clean! I want to hate it and yet I do not hate it. I think it’s like adult acid without the regret.)

BUT, the trip was amazing. We went to Disneyland for fuck’s sake. As a family. We are so lucky. I know all this, and yet, I got frustrated and lost my patience and thought WHY ARE WE HERE and kept thinking Janelle! You are ruining the family memories! Stop! Be grateful! You’re acting like an asshole!

And I gotta tell ya, these feelings were especially intense because just one week before I left for this trip, I sat in a hospital room with my grandfather and grandmother, mom, brother, and cousins as my grandpa passed his final hours on earth. I watched him pressed to the furthest right side of his bed so he could be as close as possible to my grandmother, the woman with whom he spent 70 of his 87 years, with whom he raised 4 daughters and shared 20 grandchildren and 44 great-grandchildren. I watched their hands never let go as they played and replayed with their eyes the story of their lives together.

 And I realized, they were replaying what I am living now.

I watched them travel a lifetime in a few hours, tracing cracked fingers over paths of kids, jobs, grief and joy, and a few times I stole a glance at my husband across the room of beeping machinery and nearly palpable love, and I observed his face, the barely perceptible lines when he smiles, the black hair with just a few gray hairs, the strong, square shoulders and quickness of the way he moves.

We are so young.

We are, so young.

My heart ached. My eyes were on fire. This is it, Janelle. These are the years. This is life. What the fuck are we waiting for.

It all felt small. It all felt unimportant. These days that race by in frantic monotony. The shit-filled shorts. The puke. The bickering over the front seat. The pure exhaustion. The whining.

I thought, “I’ll never forget this! I’ll never get worked up about stupid shit again!”

Two weeks later, I’m making a Family Vacation Bullshit BINGO card.

I guess that’s the luxury of being here, and not being a spiritual giant.

Still, I want to remember. We are a family. We are together. We go on trips. Wfullsizerender-2e
walk hand-in-hand and hold our babies and make them laugh so hard they puke. We watch bigger cousins holding younger cousins as our teenager races to a ride, as if she were seven, and we run to CVS at 2am because the toddler has a random, inexplicable fever. I see my son and daughter dressed up with Goofy. I nearly cry it’s so damn precious. I love them so much I almost have to look away.

We take pictures. We try to remember.

Someday, we will try even harder.

I feel altered by my grandfather’s death. My grandparents were always there. They seemed immovable, fixed. Their home, where we played in the basement and now our kids play, and them, in love, inseparable. I knew in my brain it couldn’t last forever. I didn’t know it in my heart.

fullsizerenderI guess we can’t. It’s too hard.

But what if we could? What if we could live our lives in the knowing that someday, at the very best, at the very luckiest, we will think of the days of racing around after slightly less annoying children and puking babies as the memories that fill a room with so much love and warm light that it can almost be held, by me, by you, in the last breath of a man who had this once.

Or a hundred times.

Still, it would never be enough.

It feels it will never end. It feels relentless and pounding. It feels so sacred it takes my breath away. And one day, it will.

So fuck it. Let’s live this. Let’s hate it and love it. Let’s scream and laugh and let our babies fall asleep against our arms and with their hands on our faces and let’s stay up late and be bad parents and great ones on occasion but let’s not under any circumstances miss this.

It’s a BINGO game of bullshit, but it’s ours, and it’s the best we’ll ever have.

Until next time, kids.

And thanks for making me wear a tutu.

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35 Comments | Posted in bitching about the kids I chose to have. | October 19, 2016