Posts Filed Under nothing to do with parenting.

I refuse to forgive you but I probably will

by renegademama

I’ve been thinking about forgiveness, and the way people often talk about it as this sweet, gentle thing. A delicate sort of gesture born of goodwill and high morality.

It’s never been like that for me.

I either forget about the transgression because I’m too lazy to stay angry, or I cling to my resentment like a drowning woman.

I ride that out for a while, just really milking that shit – how I was harmed, how wrong that person is, until I think I may be consumed in rage.

And then I forgive, and when I do, it’s not gentle. It’s not sweet. It’s a reckless, wild, radical thing that crashes out of me because I have no choices left.

A teacher asked me once, “Do you want to be right, or do you want to be free?” 

I forgive when I want to be free, not because I’m trying to be nice, or want goodwill, or even to be friends.

I’ve been thinking about it because a few weeks ago I sat in a courtroom with my cousin, the man who killed my grandmother, and I stared at the back of his head.

There he is.

A man I’ve known my whole life, four years younger than me. I remembered him in his baseball uniform as a little boy, his huge brown eyes and curly hair.

He was quite possibly the gentlest, sweetest child I ever met.

He looked back at me two or three times in that courtroom, while I sat shaking, cursing the inefficacy of the Ativan I had taken.

What I felt when he looked at me is that he wanted me to nod, or smile at him, give some recognition. We were always good friends.

I glared at him. I tried to hurt him with my eyes.

In softer moments, I know he was sick. He was unmedicated and delusional and he stabbed my grandmother and killed her. In softer moments, I see that, and I know it to be true.

In other moments, I glance at the lamp hanging above the left side of my bed, that used to hang over the left side of hers, and I think about the way she died, and her suffering, and what he stole from her, and us – the last years of life – how many would there have been? – her plans, her smile, her vibrancy. He stole all that.

A death with her loved ones surrounding her. A final goodbye. He took that too.

And I think I want to rip his face off. I want to beat the shit out of him. I want him to rot in jail.

And in between these prospects, these thoughts, lies the space of freedom I refuse to face just yet. The space that calls to me when I’m quiet, when I’m not looking, and I know someday I’ll go there.

I’ll take one maniacal leap into illogical forgiveness.

I will see his humanity and fucking release him, and a part of me will hate it when it happens, and I don’t know when or how or if I’ll ever stand face to face with him again, or give voice to the compassion I sometimes feel but mostly abhor, but I know somehow the day will come when I will choose forgiveness over the all-consuming rage.

It won’t look soft. It won’t pat his head. It won’t excuse him or love him or even accept him. It will be to accept the truth, the whole awful ruthless bloody truth. Of him, of the boy and the man, of the sickness and the extinguished life – and me, standing aside, ready to be free, unwilling to die for sins that aren’t mine.

 

With Arlo a few years ago. She was going to study art and visit each of her great-grandchildren.

****

My book, I’M JUST HAPPY TO BE HERE, was out on May 1. I’m doing book events right now. Austin and Washington D.C. coming soon!  Come say hello.

And check out the book at the links below. I hope you enjoy.

A Few Ground Rules for Humans in Public Spaces

by renegademama

I’m traveling for a couple of weeks to do book events and I have decided that there are a few things humans simply should not do under any circumstances. How am I equipped to make this determination?

I’m not. I just tend to hate people.

Okay, fine, I don’t hate people. I am deeply disappointed by large groups of them. Or small groups, really.

And I don’t experience them too often. You know, out in the wild.

I live in a small-ish town where I think I know 2/3 of the population. My life is largely driving kids around in circles and looking at laundry. When I go to work, I sit in an office alone, staring at a screen, my only human contact being with other people in the building as they pass by, and the occasional visitor who can’t figure out how to get to the law firm on the third floor. (Take the elevator, guys.)

I just wish there were a few motherfucking GROUND RULES.

Like as a whole, we agree not to do certain things. Maybe we could sign a contract called We Hereby Agree Not to Be Dicks in Public.

Here’s what I’ve come up with so far:

  1. We will brush our teeth.
  2. We will wear shoes in airports. Actually always. I get that you’re so spiritual you need “constant grounding with the earth against your skin,” but you’re fucking gross and definitely walking in urine.
  3. We won’t talk loudly on our cell phones about our trips to Nepal because everybody  knows we’re purposely speaking loudly to humble-brag about our financial status (e.g. “I can afford a trip to Nepal”). Nobody cares, Karen.  
  4. We won’t gather in large groups in walkways, forcing every other human to walk around us simply because we feel like standing right here, okay, not 2 feet to the left. Or the right. RIGHT FUCKING HERE.
  5. We will not be mean to customer service people. We will remember that they have to deal with Karen all day.
  6. We won’t be Loud Funny White guy on the plane “giving everyone a hard time” because somebody, at some point in his life, convinced him he was adorable.
  7. We won’t eat crunchy food in public. That includes, but is not limited to: apples, corn nuts, chips, ice, nuts, and pretzels.
  8. Maybe ignore number 7. That’s probably just me being a dick.
  9. When all the other seats are full, we will not put our purses or luggage on the seat next to us, because we realize that inanimate objects are less important than even Karen, who needs a place to sit to talk about her trip to Nepal. (Life is trash.)
  10. We won’t be the Lyft driver who tells a woman in the backseat clearly not interested in speaking that she “looks like a dirty margarita type of girl.” That way, she won’t have to respond, “I’m a 39-year-old woman and don’t drink, but when I did, it was bottom-shelf whiskey, so, fail?”
  11. We won’t let our kids jump on hotel beds and squeal at 5am. Look, I have annoying ass kids too, and my parenting is subpar, but there’s no excuse for that shit. 
  12. We won’t be the person scowling at the overwrought mother frantically trying to calm her baby during the plane landing.
  13. We won’t eat onion sandwiches or potent vinaigrette-covered salads or anything actually with onions in small spaces.
  14. Maybe ignore that last one too. I have a bit of a “situation” with public consumption of food and the sounds and smells it produces. 

You know who we will be? The dude I saw in Portland wearing short striped shorts, hiking boots, a muscle tee, handlebar mustache, dark-rimmed spectacles and a mesh cap.

He was cool.

Also all the strangers at the airport who laughed when I made eye-contact with them and mouthed “I’m going to kill him” in reference to the over-zealous dude sitting RIGHT NEXT TO ME YELLING into his cell phone with his knees apart so they almost touched mine.

And the lady on the plane who asked “Are you alright?” while I sat writhing in my seat because of back pain, then told me to “walk the aisles for a few minutes even though the seatbelt light was on because whataretheygonnado kick you out?”

Look for the helpers out in the wild, folks.

***

 

DID YOU KNOW MY BOOK CAME OUT SIX DAYS AGO?

Perhaps you haven’t heard.

You can buy it at any of the places below.

Also, as a side note, let me tell you how struck I am by the responses from readers so far. Holy shit. Thank you for the messages, emails, comments, posts. I can’t respond to them all, but I read every single one and am blown away.

Guns, church, and an unreasonable moon

by renegademama

I sat on my porch last night with my husband, Mac, and we talked about the twenty-seven people murdered during church yesterday.

“Did you hear that the pastor’s 14-year-old daughter died? Her name was Annabelle,” I said.

“No. Fuck.”

“And the dad wasn’t there. He wasn’t there to protect his child,” I said, and Mac looked away. “He wasn’t there to throw himself over his baby to take that bullet.”

His eyes brimmed with tears. I looked up at the moon with a couple fucking tears in my own eyes. Seeing him cry does me in. I suppose we were thinking of our girl about that age, fifteen, or any of our babies, really, or the eight-year-old boy who took four bullets in that church.

And being denied the chance to even try to save them.

The moon over our porch was ridiculous. An irrational brightness with barely a sliver gone, illuminating the back of a broken sheet of clouds, its face hidden in gray then bursting out between puffs of white.

Look at me, it seemed to scream. I’m the brightest shit around. 

“If you look at that moon long enough,” I said, “You can almost forget we live in a country where twenty-seven people are murdered while praying to God at church.”

You can almost forget that it happens so often we perhaps barely care anymore, that people believe the solution is to arm more people.

More guns.

Arm the grandmothers in the chapel. Arm the schoolteachers. Arm the fathers and mothers and teenagers. Get ‘em all guns.

You can almost forget the insanity of that prospect, how humans insist on methods of mass destruction even though each of us is here for 80 or 90 or 100 years at the most, if we’re lucky, and then we’re gone into the ground for the rest of the time the moon keeps shining, and still we can’t agree to try our best to let everyone live those years.

We make guns that rapid-fire so we can kill more humans. And we make shit to add to the gun to kill even more humans.

More. More. More humans.

You can almost forget that we’ve made nuclear weapons that could destroy every country on earth five or ten times over or whatever that statistic is (does it matter past once?), and this is in defense of arbitrary borders over stolen lands, stolen through the blood of people. Blood that could have run 80, 90, 100 years.

I guess we’ve always been like this.

 

I get it. I’m not a fucking pacifist. Maybe I’m a fucking pacifist. We need protection from the Hitlers and Mussolinis and manifest destinies. We need to protect our nation. Sure.

But really, if you pull way, way back, all the way back past the moon and into the void, it’s really fucking insane that humans can’t even agree on continued survival. We can’t even agree that nobody wants to die in mass bloodshed. We can’t even agree it’s a bad idea to create weapons that would destroy the entire planet in war, as if total annihilation is “winning.”

We aren’t the sharpest tools in the shed.

I grew up around guns. People very close to me are proud gun owners. I fired a shotgun for the first time when I was about twelve, off the deck at my grandparents’ house. The kickback knocked me on my rear. My dad and uncles laughed, as did I. I felt cool, like one of the guys.

I grew up with John Wayne and Clint Eastwood. I grew up with Jerry Garcia and Bob Dylan. The gun owners in my life loved all four of those men.

I lean deeply toward the latter.

When I think back, and imagine it now, the gun doesn’t feel American in my hands. It doesn’t feel patriotic. It doesn’t feel like freedom. It feels like cold metal filled with other metal that shreds muscles and stops hearts and shatters bones.

It feels like metal that kills some people and earns other people astronomical amounts of money.

But I get it. I get the “culture.”

I get the mighty power an AR-15 offers, and how “cool” we feel firing weapons. So badass. So edgy. Gun culture. Whee.

Manly as fuck, you know. Real tough broad shit. The people in my life don’t act like that. They don’t flaunt their guns. They don’t post pictures of themselves on Facebook with rifles and smirks to show how tough they are.

Even still, I only “get” gun culture in theory. I understand because I’ve seen it, but it’s never felt like freedom to me, like love or life, like something to frantically protect.

A weapon for civilians that kills fellow civilians faster.

Huh.

 

After Sandy Hook, when dozens of first graders were mowed down in their classrooms, maybe sitting on their squares on the carpet, singing a song, brushing paint across rolled up paper, or at their desks practicing the letter “B” – when dozens of first graders can huddle in a room wide-eyed and crying while teachers hush them in a last sad pathetic attempt at life, to only bleed anyway on the carpet squares beneath letters the shapes of zoo animals on the walls – when those babies can die and not a goddamn fucking thing happens, nothing will ever happen.

Mac and I talked about that too. How there’s nowhere to go from there.

Maybe we just give up.

Maybe we accept America will become some robotic zombie dystopian hell where we all carry guns and simply shoot each other at random to get our way. Like California before it was in the union, maybe.

If we take all the guns away, will it work?

Call my fucking representatives, but do they care?

I haven’t the money of the NRA.

I lived in a nation once with strict gun laws. Spain, specifically. It was lovely. I felt four-hundred-and-fifty times safer.

But maybe we have too many guns in America.

Maybe it’s too late for us.

Maybe we should try.

 

On my wall, I have a quote from Ursula K Le Guin that says, “We will need writers who can remember freedom. Poets, visionaries – the realists of a larger reality.”

I suppose she means the freedom to sing to God without dying. Freedom to dance in sweat and moonlight, to stay alive in a high school, college, or first-grade classroom.

The faces of those babies.

They say more guns.

The insanity makes my head spin.

I take to the page to remember freedom.

Maybe the moon will be less bright tonight, but it always comes back in its brilliant indifference.

It’s up to us to listen.

 

26 Comments | Posted in nothing to do with parenting. | November 6, 2017

Could the internet please figure out what “free speech” means or STFU about it?

by renegademama

Did you see what I did there? I talked about free speech then asked people not to talk so I violated their First-Amendment free speech rights.

No, I fucking did not.

BECAUSE THAT IS NOT WHAT “FREE SPEECH” MEANS.

I know this may be rough and wild in the world of “fake news” and “alternative facts,” where apparently everybody goes around inventing information at random to suit political aspirations, but outside that special vortex, people try to use words according to their actual definitions.

In fact, some of us get super frisky and use the Google to research what a word means if somebody informs us we are using it incorrectly.

But you don’t. This is what you do, Candy. (I named you Candy.)

Candy: “Milo Yiannopoulos losing his book deal is a violation of free speech! Dangerous! Sad!”

Somebody on the internet: “Hey, hi. That’s not what free speech means.”

Candy: “Hillary Clinton is a crook!”

Somebody: “Okay but that’s still not what free speech means. Please look it up.”

Candy: “Politically correct snowflake liberals love to silence people like Milo!”

Somebody: “That’s probably true, but Milo’s free speech rights are intact nonetheless. Google it.”

But you don’t. Ever. I am convinced you’re not even trying.

But no worries. I am here for you. I googled “freedom of speech” (because that’s the official terminology –I’m not trying to be sneaky), and here is what I found for its definition (incidentally, all dictionaries say the same thing, which is how definitions work):

“the right of people to express their opinions publicly without governmental interference, subject to the laws against libel, incitement to violence or rebellion, etc.” (source)

Another: “the right to speak without censorship or restraint by the government. Freedom of speech is protected by the First Amendment to the Constitution.” (source)

Okay so this is not complicated, right? The First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution protects our right to say virtually whatever the hell we want without fear of legally enacted censorship (although some speech acts are in fact illegal), meaning we can speak without fear of being thrown in prison, or killed by the government (although one may wonder what happened to some of those black Civil Rights activists of the 1960s and 70s who disappeared into thin air, but I digress.)

I can’t be thrown in jail for saying: “Our President acts like Caillou.”

Or “Gee I wish that Nazi was clocked 50 times instead of one.”

Americans get to burn flags, protest, rage, scream, sing, teach, write, and paint without getting chucked into the poky.

Melissa McCarthy gets to make fun of Spicey. Baldwin gets to mock Trump. Limbaugh gets to say women live longer because their lives are easier. Milo YiannoFuckYou gets to be the head gay spokesman for the racist, xenophobic, misogynistic “alt-right.” Bakeries get to gay-bash on Facebook.

IT DOES NOT MEAN THERE WON’T BE CONSEQUENCES FOR THOSE WORDS.

Please for the love of baby Jesus HEAR THIS:

It does not mean we won’t get fired, shunned, uninvited, criticized, kicked off Twitter, blocked, banned, dragged, mocked, and publicly ostracized. Why? Because other citizens get to exercise THEIR freedom of speech in response to ours, and those of us in the private sector get to fire or ban or drag your ass for being an asshole.

Once again just for fun: “Freedom of speech” does not mean “protection from the natural results of being a dick and/or sharing opinions the majority of Americans have progressed beyond because they result in the systematic dismantling of the civil rights of others.”

If I get mad at a coworker and yell that he’s a “washed-up piece of cow shit,” I can possibly get fired for violating a business policy of employing people with self-restraint and manners.

If I walk up to a gay bakery customer and start shouting: “You are evil in the eyes of Jesus and deserve no cake!” my boss can fire me because I am messing with business. Even beyond economics, businesses often have a mission statement, a corporate culture, and if my opinions are not in concert with that culture, I gotta go. 

It’s a condition of my employment. And whether you like it or not, if you believe gay people shouldn’t be allowed to marry, or women should stick with the kitchen gig, or all Muslims are terrorists, you are holding archaic beliefs many Americans do not support, so if you share those ideas, there may be repercussions.

This is called, “Being an adult.”

Feel free to hold and yell and cuddle those ideas like your fleece Nascar blanket, but be prepared for what follows.

Societal progress is a motherfucker, ain’t it?

 

Milo YainannaDoucheNozzleButNicePearls can say whatever the hell he wants, and indeed he was invited to UC Davis and UC Berkeley, but protestors created an environment that the university (or HE) felt was unsafe, so he left. He said all kinds of racist and xenophobic and misogynistic neo-fascist shit, and still got invited places and published.

But then it came out that he stated pedophilia isn’t pedophilia if the kid has hit puberty, which apparently is JUST TOO FAR for Simon & Schuster and that Republican rally thing and Breitbart (who knew Breitbart had standards?!).

The rest though was no big deal for those guys, so not one deserves a cookie, not even stale ones with raisins in the back of grandma’s cupboard.

In short, Milo shares a message that many American citizens believe does not deserve a platform. So they did their best to assemble, and deny him that platform. We can argue over the goodness and sanctity of that act, but his freedom of speech is intact. We know this because he’s still walking around being blathering on as a washed-up piece of cow shit.

 

Boycotts are not a violation of freedom of speech.

Protests are not a violation of freedom of speech.

Losing a book deal is not a violation of free speech.

Being uninvited from a speaking engagement is not a violation of free speech.

Milo’s career is smashed because of the choices he’s made within the context of the world he’s living in. Undoubtedly he will maintain a cult-following of alt-right worshippers, but the rest of us have no time for his bullshit, and kindly ask that you exit your unique snowflake word-definition vortex and figure out what “free speech” means, or shut the ever-loving fuck up.

Alright, not so kindly.

But this is America. Milo and I (I just threw up) and you and duck dynasty homophobe guy get to say what we want, and then, we get to deal with the consequences.

THAT IS OUR RIGHT.

 

Here. I made a handy guide the intended audience will never use.

It’s called “Is my right to free speech being violated: A STARTING POINT”

 

***

Speaking of saying whatever the hell we want,

you should join my April online writing workshop so we can

DO THAT TOGETHER.

“Write Anyway” begins April 5.

108 Comments | Posted in nothing to do with parenting., politics | February 22, 2017

Sometimes life is about becoming unstuck, and that’s it.

by renegademama

You may remember we were burglarized last September, twice. In one week. They stole my laptop and essentially every piece of jewelry Mac had ever given me during our 13 years together. They stole my grandmother’s ring, the single item I inherited from her.

It took months to “get over it,” but recently, the wound was reopened. Basically, through a rather coincidental chain of events I’d rather not elaborate on, we found out for sure who burglarized our home, and it was the person I suspected: Our former nanny’s son, a young man addicted to methamphetamines.

I knew it was him the moment I saw my jewelry box laid open, empty. I drove immediately to his home. He was in the street. I walked right up to him looked him dead in the eyes and said “Hey. I get it. I was a drug addict once too. Just give me back my things. Have them show up on my doorstep and I’ll give you $1000. No questions asked.”

Looking back, I realize he had probably already traded everything for a 20 sack, maybe two.

He went around and around about how it wasn’t him. But I knew it was. The sight of his face in my mind’s eye makes me feel sick. Lying motherfucker. I had no proof, but I knew. 100%.

And the worst part is I knew it was going to happen before it happened. I saw it in my mind. I literally saw in my mind that this person was going to burglarize our home.

I knew it the day my nanny sat in our living room and told me her son (who lived with her) was addicted to meth. A thought crossed my mind: One of these days, he’s going to find out through his mom that you’re gone for the weekend and he’s going to burglarize your home.

Three months later, that is precisely, EXACTLY what happened.

 

After my nanny left that day, I called my mom. I told her “I need to find a new nanny. I need to disconnect. Something bad is going to happen.”

But I did nothing.

I talked to Mac about it, told him my concerns. I am no stranger to drug addiction and what it causes. I am no stranger to the monsters people become.

But still I did nothing.

I did nothing against my better judgment.

I did nothing against every cell of my being screaming at me “Stop this. Get out. Bad things are going to happen.”

I did nothing because I ignored my intuition.

I did nothing until it was too late.

And that is the part I can’t get over.

That is the part that haunts me, late at night when I think about the family photos and videos that were lost in the stolen laptop and the pearl necklace gone, the one Mac gave me a couple months into our relationship, and the diamond ring I remember so clearly on my beloved grandmother’s thin, wrinkled gorgeous finger.

I did nothing because I was stuck. I was stuck in a motherfucking rut and I could not see out. I refused to see out. I would not see out.

Life gave me the signs. It gave me the chance to redirect, to move along, to do something new. The universe hinted, nudged, and at times downright pushed and shoved, but still, I did nothing.

Why? Because it was too hard. Because I preferred the comfort of my rut to the difficulty of a new course.

Our home was dark. The neighborhood was terrible. I hated it. We all hated it.  It was a dead, depressing place. We lived two houses down from a known drug house. They’d do deals in the street. They’d park in front of our house waiting for the delivery. Sometimes I’d walk up to them and knock on the car window, ask if I could help. Probably not the safest move, but it gets to the point when you don’t fucking care anymore. The neighbor on our left occasionally got drunk and poisoned animals in the neighborhood. We lived in near-constant fear of our animals getting out. One day our cat did. We found her on our driveway, poisoned the same way our two kitties died when we first moved in, two years prior, before we knew. Our street was a thoroughfare to the worst street in town, so a constant stream of addicts and drunks poured down our road like a sad parade. They left their trash on our lawn and their baggies on the sidewalk.

We needed to move a long time before, but we didn’t. We didn’t because we were stuck.  We didn’t because sometimes the misery you know is easier than the unknown, because it’s safer, or you think it is, simply because it is known.

It all starts to feel so heavy: The change. The fear surrounding it all: What will happen? What if it doesn’t work? Where will we go and do and how will it all work?

One day turns into the next and the next and the next and it’s just you and the aching intuition, the burning feeling that something needs to change. But nothing changes, because nothing changes. And fear.

The burglary ended it.

Shaken to our core, we were faced with the reality of what our life had become and how distant we had grown from that reality. Within 45 days our house was on the market and we had moved into my mom’s house. Within 90 days our house was sold and we were in escrow on another. Around 4 months from that burglary we moved into the house we live in now, a place I love so much I never want to leave (which is its own problem but one I love to have!). I had forgotten how much a miserable house can bring you down. I had forgotten what it feels like to love where you’re living, to feel “home” each day, in your home.

Action. Finally. Happened.

In a way, that burglary was the best thing to ever happen to us, but still I’m full of hatred sometimes, toward him, but mostly toward myself. Why didn’t I act? Why didn’t I do something? Why didn’t I trust my gut and heart?

I know. I already know: I was doing the best I could at the time. And really, it was just stuff gone. It’s just stuff. Means nothing.

But shit. It’s hard. You know?

Hard to face the elements of responsibility in our own lives, hard to square off with the truth about ourselves. It is not my fault that he burglarized our home. It is, however, my fault that I denied my intuition and chose comfort over change, even though that comfort was making me fucking miserable and I KNEW IT.

It is my fault that I didn’t leave a house and town and situation that was sucking the life out of me.

It is my fault I DID NOT ACT.

Life is strange, isn’t it? The way we stay in things that are killing us because at least we feel safe – hang out in the muck and dirt and mire because at least it’s the muck and dirt and mire we’re accustomed to. The way we justify the shit in our lives as if it’s other people’s faults when really it’s us – we’re the ones too chicken shit to move, paralyzed by our own indecision, cut off at the knees with terror. Of what, who knows. How could it be worse than this?

Until life slaughters us one day, to be reborn.

I’m beginning to think life is just a series of little deaths, of becoming unstuck, of seeing how fear pulses through my mind and spine and legs, moving my body for me, on nothing more than a glorified rat wheel. Around and around we call it “living.” I know the truth but I’m too scared to face it. That bullshit job, relationship, habit, whatever. The truth rests deep inside of me. I work every day to ignore it, until I cannot any longer.

I was stuck. I’m not stuck now.

I want to forgive myself, but some mental construction won’t work. “I forgive you Janelle.”

Ah, fuck off.

That shit never works. I need action. I will forgive myself by staying unstuck, by laughing at the voice that says “You can’t. It’s too hard. Stay here.”

I tried that, asshole. I went down that road and it didn’t work. I couldn’t get off  the track on my own so life did it for me, and it hurt. I was shattered into a new direction.

I’m responsible for that, too, I guess. New digs and freedom. My own failure to move – literally and figuratively – killed me. But to begin again. Unstuck, one more time.

Maybe I’ll trust better, sooner.

Myself, and life.

The real kind.

 

sometimes I feel like this.