So, Charlie Did A Weird Thing The Other Day…

Charlie is my 13-year-old stepson. He’s autistic, which for him means he’s non-verbal and developmentally delayed (like he’s developmentally a toddler in many ways). He’s loves water, pepperoni, and his iPad and music. He’s a big kid, 5’5” and about 170lbs of solid energy. He’s got the prettiest curly blond hair. He can get violent, usually self-injuring, but I always have some scratch marks and bruises from some meltdown or another, nbd. He is the lovey-est kid I know, loves hugs and kisses and can be just the sweetest. He’s also really smell oriented and likes sniffing things.  So, those are Charlie facts that are relevant to this story.

I do most of my family grocery shopping at Wal-Mart, because it is cheap and sells 1 ½ pound packs of pepperoni and giant jugs of bubble bath for $3. I usually go on the weekends and take the boys because they like going to the store and Charlie is usually well-behaved and it gives Scott a quiet hour (which I then trade in for glorious naps). So, this past Saturday, I pack up the boys, head to the store and have a not so great trip; Charlie was a little agitated and I was in no mood to deal.

We finish our shopping and are headed for the parking lot, me pushing our very full cart. Cal is telling me about videogames or Captain Underpants or Beauty and the Beast, something. Charlie’s walking next to the cart like he’s supposed to be. There’s an old couple in front of us, because it’s Wal-Mart.

Out of the blue, Charlie let’s go of the cart, gently places one hand on the waist of the man in front of us, goes up on his tiptoes and sniffs the man’s neck behind his ear before the man can turn around, then drops his hand back to the cart. This all happened in the space of 2 seconds, but it felt like a year. I speed us up and get the fuck outta there, before the man can figure out what just happened and laughed all the way to the car.

Things like this happen with Charlie. He sniffs randos and touches other people’s carts. He is also very popular at our Food Lion and collects high fives from the cashiers, who all know his name. He hoots loudly and jumps up and down and doesn’t always respect personal space. Sometimes he stops in the middle of an aisle to bite himself. I get looks and hear mutters, although most people can tell Charlie is different and I have perfected my “He’s autistic what’s your excuse for being an a-hole today?” stare.

Y’all, there’s no point to this story other than my life is really weird sometimes. I mean, that guy could have gotten mad, I saw it on his face as he was turning around and could have caused a whole scene. One day it’s not going to turn out so well and I’m going to have to actually yell at someone, or get yelled at, neither of which I particularly want to happen. But until that time comes, I’m just going to say sorry, beat feet, and laugh all the way home.

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Ten Blocks from Lee

I haven’t had a lot of original content to deliver re: Charlottesville. I’m happy to say that it’s because I am finding my friends more and more outspoken themselves, and it’s heartening to read their perspectives. I’m sad to say it’s because it’s been hard for me to process that some people I love are still not quite there.  Although I have a thousand words to give regarding the violence that happened Saturday, they’re still really angry. I’d like to talk about the object in the center instead, where things are starting to solidify for me.
I was born in Landsthul and then later returned to come of age in Heidelberg, Germany. I have spent the last eleven years of my life living within a three block radius in Richmond, Virginia, ten blocks from the Robert E. Lee monument at the Allen roundabout. I work from home and I don’t take that route often, but I probably drive past it a few times a week. The first time anyone gave me directions on how to leave the Fan, the first week I lived in Richmond, they used Lee as a marker.
Over the past year I’ve been a pretty vocal opponent of these monuments, and as such opposition’s become more and more prevalent, the arguments I’ve heard for keeping them in place can be easily distilled into two parts: the first about the preservation of history, and the second, regarding the financial aspect of moving the monuments.
To address the first – you don’t need statues of people to remember things. I reposted an excellent NPR piece earlier today, but I’ll link to it here as well: The View of Charlottesville From Berlin. This isn’t made up – I lived there and this IS the way the German people have ensured they remember their history. We could do the same. For those of you so concerned that we’ll forget the Civil War, please seriously ask yourselves which part of the war it is that you want so badly to remember. If it’s the sheer concept of rebellion against the government that’s such an attractive reminder of the American spirit, then perhaps we could replace these monuments with ones that commemorate the truly brave folks of the Underground Railroad instead. They were the real rebels — and they won.
There’s also a very useful infographic circulating that highlights when the bulk of these monuments were built. It’s worth calling out that the building of these monuments spiked three decades after the war’s end, spiking during Jim Crow shortly after the passing of the Supreme Court’s “separate but equal” verdict in Plessy v. Ferguson, and again during the Civil Rights movement shortly after Brown v. Board of Education reversed that same ruling. Please ask yourselves why we wanted to erect reminders of the Confederacy in those moments in America. Do you earnestly think that as the recently freed men and women of this country were challenging the chains of the new forms of slavery built for them when chattel slavery was no longer legal, we wanted to memorialize these Confederate leaders for any other reason than as a tool of oppression and intimidation? Seriously, think critically about why they were built within the context of when they were built.
The compromise offered up to ease the outcry against demolishing the monuments lest we forget history is to place them in a museum. We bend to this: you don’t have to destroy them (although I wouldn’t be upset if you did), but we shouldn’t have to look at them. I don’t think they earned the right to be present in the lives of every American who happens to live ten blocks from the Allen roundabout (or several others on Monument Ave, for that matter). Although I’d still ask you to think critically about why you romanticize these generals and presidents of the Confederacy, I concede your wish not to destroy this “art”, but place it indoors where those who wish to see it can choose to visit. There are no Third Reich statues. There are no Hitler statues. Auschwitz stands – but you can choose to go there or not. Give the statues a home in a museum with honest context about the reasons for the war, who won, and the wars we are still fighting for equality today and trust people to visit – or abstain. It’s their right.
It’s inevitable that when I get to this point, someone brings up cost. “I don’t want to spend my tax money moving monuments to museums.” It’s useless to discuss that public infrastructure is the responsibility of the public. It’s probably silly to bring up that public spaces also belong to the public, and if the majority of people are inconvenienced by a pothole, everyone in the area pays for it. Silly to then draw the line that if the majority of people dislike a statue that champions men who fought to retain the right to own other people, everyone in the area should pay for that.
Everyone wants so much for those of us disgusted with our representation to trust them to represent their electorate and sit down and shut up while they vote away our health care, our children’s education, and our air on the Senate and House floor. Here in the South, I repeatedly heard folks robustly decry the popular vote after the recent Presidential election with statements like “I don’t want New York and California picking our President!” But if you’re so confident that our elected officials know what’s best, why the outcry when our Mayors put the location of these monuments up for discussion? Either you didn’t vote in the Mayoral election, you don’t live in our cities, or you weren’t actually in the majority. If you don’t live in my city, then you don’t get to say what I have to look at and your money wouldn’t go to removing and relocating the statues anyway (isn’t that the small government/states rights model that you love?). If you didn’t vote, then next time perhaps you will. And if I’m wrong, then I offer this: we’ll pay for it ourselves.
If you don’t want to spend your cash doing the right thing, that’s on you. But I’ll spend mine. We have no savings account and every time a little money piles up something in our hundred year old house breaks, but I don’t think I’m alone in my willingness to throw some of the little cash I have at this. I have a feeling that if our local government set up a voluntary municipal fund, there would be plenty of people like me who would contribute $5 to the cause. I think those $5 increments would add up pretty quickly. I pledge $5 for each member of my family – that’s $20 total. Let all of us who don’t want them standing publicly toss our $5 down the well, and when it doesn’t get us far enough, you can laugh away.
I want to close with this. It’s not really a part of anything, but it is a powerful image, and to me, a beautiful one. This is what my friend Jennie, who lives in Baltimore, captured this morning in Wyman park where the Lee/Jackson memorial stood until the middle of the night last night. It gives me hope that we can move forward together. This park belongs to all of the people of Baltimore. Not just the white ones. This isn’t intended to gloss over the vast inequality that still exists, whether the monument stands or not — but it sure looks better than it did yesterday, and we can keep fighting for things to *be* better tomorrow.Image may contain: one or more people, tree, plant, outdoor and nature

Just Do the Damn Thing and Leave

In my line of work, I get a ton of desperate calls from people who have broken dishwashers or, gasp, ice makers in their pool houses that have stopped working and there is a lot of huffing and puffing because now they have to use the OTHER ice maker in their MAIN house and can you even imagine suffering such an indignity? Surely, you cannot. [puts hand over eyes and faints]

But I have never, until today, received a desperate phone call for a very simple, very minor,  cosmetic issue from someone who wasn’t selling a house. (People selling houses are ABSOLUTELY BATSHIT INSANE over minor appliance issues.) The woman had left a voicemail describing a minor cosmetic issue, but requesting a full-on, major, expensive repair. She sounded kind of desperate, but I’ve had people get angry with me that we would have to wait a few days to repair their pool house ice makers, so I didn’t think much of it. Within 20 minutes, while I was on the phone with other customers, she called back twice. I was definitely annoyed at this point because her appliance was FINE, just had a SMALL DENT GIMME A MINUTE LADY. Continue reading

Alzheimer’s

I’m sitting in a loose circle of chairs in a small classroom. This classroom is in one of the largest churches I’ve ever seen. It took me five minutes to find the front entrance and I had to ask someone for directions to the room. Around me sit a group of men and women, all of them older than me. They each take a turn introducing themselves and saying a little bit about why they are there. The circle gets to me and everyone turns. I take a deep breath.

“Hi. Um. My name is Erin, and my dad was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s. We are placing him in a memory care facility next week and, well, I’m not doing well.” With this, my chin quivers and suddenly I am sobbing in this room of strangers, all of whom know exactly what I’m feeling. They’ve all been there in some form or another. I am not alone.

Alzheimer’s is one of those diseases that people primarily associate with the very old. It’s referred to as “Old-Timer’s” for a reason. Lately though, people are being diagnosed earlier and earlier. Most likely, it’s because science has come pretty far and the signs are clearer much earlier. It’s not dismissed as “Grandma’s just getting senile.” anymore. The problem (for me at least) is that with this earlier diagnoses, people (again, like me) are dealing with the fallout from the disease earlier in life than ever expected.

The disease is progressive and insidious. It steals away your past at the same time it’s stealing your future. It takes away your ability to walk, to talk, to chew. It takes your memories, your ability to remember to eat, your balance, and your ability to be rational. At the same time that I am losing my father in the present, I am losing any memories he has of my mother, of my childhood, of a large chunk of my life.

When I was in the group, one of the women said “I feel like I’m grieving for someone who’s still alive.” This shook me. I didn’t have words for how I felt until she described that. I’ve been going through the stages of grief, but continuously for six years. Each time the disease progresses, I start over again. I will grieve every time something changes until I grieve for the final time. I spend a lot of time in the denial stage. I’m excellent at denial. I’m working through anger right now. I won’t bother with bargaining.

                              ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

I’m sitting in the memory care facility where we will be leaving my dad, shortly. His room is moved in, his recliner and his TV are set up. His walls are covered in family pictures, plaques from his time in the Navy and University of Georgia Bulldogs swag. His clothes are in the closet.

We’ve met the director, the staff and taken the tour. We’ve had lunch in the dining room and seen their grounds and the way their security works. Right now, the residents and my family are gathered in one of the sitting areas listening to one of the staff members give a presentation on Naval Submarines and bi-planes because a lot of the residents are retired military. Because this is a fairly new facility, there is only a small amount of residents currently. This makes me feel better somehow, like the less residents, the more the staff will be involved with them.

 
I’m terrified to leave. I don’t know if he will understand what’s happening or why we’re leaving. I keep having flashbacks to when my dad dropped me off at boarding school as a freshman. I was scared, angry and felt abandoned, even though, deep down I knew that boarding school was the best place for me to be. I hope he understands that we’re not abandoning him. I hope he’s not scared when he goes to sleep tonight. I hope he knows we still love him.

Cognitive Dissonance is a Powerful Thing, or It Starts With You, Dummies

Over the summer, I caused a Facebook kerfluffle when I had the audacity to complain publicly about a man who sexually harassed me at a restaurant. Many people supported me, but the ones who thought I was being “unfair” were also vocal. What he said had to do with my boobs, and not even the worst thing that a near-stranger (or otherwise) has ever said to me. But I was at a place I’d previously felt safe because I knew the owner and pre-pregnancy, I’d been a regular. But now this asshole was the regular, and no one there claimed to have heard what he said to me, because he says shit like he said to me to women around the city all the time. Or maybe they did hear what he said to me, and chose to ignore it. Either way, he gleefully admitted, and expanded on, his comments to me via Facebook message, which I screenshot and posted in the then-growing comment thread for all to see (and some to blatantly ignore.) Continue reading

Grasping for Gratitude

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving and I’ve been floundering trying to figure out my gratitude list. I think we’re all in agreement that 2016 has just been a complete shitshow of heartbreaking celebrity deaths, the rise of White Nationalism, terrorism and shootings, school bus accidents and personal struggles. I’ve spent most of this year in an anxiety spiral, bursting into tears at the drop of a hat, not sleeping and hoping that today isn’t the day I die from a ragestroke.

But I love Thanksgiving! I love cooking all of the foods. I love staying home on Thursday and maybe visiting family on Saturday. I even like going shopping on Friday. Most of all, I like reflecting on the year that has passed and finding my joys. It is an accounting we all do far too infrequently and that’s what makes this holiday special to me, even during terrible times. And in that spirit, here are the things that I’m grateful for right now.

Continue reading

Feminist Friday (Special Sunday Edition): What Do I Do NOW?

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I’ve also blown up my Amazon credit card with feminist/social justice books, both as a #treatyoself and to further the fight.

I think we’ve been pretty open about our feelings on this election. I spent Wednesday crying and eating my feelings. I wallowed for twenty-four hours and have been trying to process since. As a bisexual Hispanic woman and the mother of two autistic children who rely on social services – and as a person who decided in her mid-thirties to take on a bunch of debt to become a social worker – this result terrified me. I’ve never felt so uncertain about my future, and so frustrated by how to fix the world.

I’m well informed. I read widely and diversely. I am an armchair activist, flinging wokeness into the social media void! I have too much anxiety to deal with crowds and protests and lots of stranger interaction, so I do what I can from my home. I teach my children as much as I can, talk to my guy, my family, my coworkers, my friends. I pride myself on my progressivism. I voted for Hillary and encouraged everyone I know to do so as well.

None of that changes anything. We have a President-Elect who scares me. My privileged life, in the sense that I look white and straight and have been sheltered in a liberal echo chamber of awareness, has been shaken. My faith in humanity and the progress we’ve made as a country faltered on Tuesday, and that makes  me so very sad.

Continue reading

Walk of Shame

As a cis/white straight-presenting hetero-partnered mother of two, it is a privilege for me to feel the outrage and horror I feel today.

As a rape and sexual assault survivor, well-meaning ally, and marginal member of the queer community (as a bi girl who fell in love with and married a dude), and someone trying to work daily to check my own privilege, I am human, and I am just plain scared.  As a mother trying my hardest to raise two intersectional feminist men conscious of their privilege (& appreciative of consent) so that they can actually impact the world for the better from day one and don’t have to massively fall apart reading “Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack” later in life to start making themselves useful – I am a messy heap of mess.

Yesterday my mother watched our toddler while we voted, and told him all about the great civic duty we were participating in.  A few times last night he asked “did you have fun voting, Mom?”  But this morning I pulled my three year old up on my lap and told him that Mommy and Daddy did not get the President that we voted for.  That instead our country has elected a president who is a Bad Man.  I told him that this means that we might start to hear people say more things that we know are wrong.  His dad explained that this President only thinks that people like himself are important.  I reminded him that we know that everyone is important, no matter what they look like, or where they come from, or what they believe in, or who they love.  He told me he thinks we should send the Bad President to jail.  I told him he’s right.

And then I looked at my baby, who is too young to explain anything to at all, and I sobbed. Continue reading

In Case There Was Any Doubt Where I Stand…

Oh hey guys. We are living in an actual nightmare dumpster fire right now. Here are some thoughts about it.

The people of America did not elect him, our bullshit electoral college system did.

Electing this man to the highest office in our nation has given credence to every boss I’ve ever had who stared at my boobs, “accidentally” touched my boobs, called me a bitch for expecting them to do their jobs. It’s given every man who harasses me every single day I leave my house feel even more like they have the right to tell me I’ve got a great rack or where they want to stick their cocks. It legitimizes every sexual assault, black eye, and attempted murder I and millions of other women have fucking LIVED THROUGH. And those women who weren’t so lucky. Continue reading

Put Your Damn PANTSUIT On!

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It should come as no surprise that most of us here plan on voting for Hillary Rodham Clinton tomorrow. We wanted to share our enthusiasm. 

Erin:

Recently, someone on Facebook (because of course it was on Facebook) declared that the only reason women are voting for HRC is because they have vaginas and she has a vagina and women are blindly voting for a vagina with their vaginas. (That may be the most vaginas in one sentence). This was so incredibly offensive because A: We aren’t heathens, we obviously use our hands to vote and B: reducing women and their intellect down to their reproductive organs (YET AGAIN) is boring, lazy and completely false. Luckily, I can and did use my lady brain during this election cycle to inform and educate myself.

I would love to vote Barack Obama into the presidential office in perpetuity. Since that’s not a thing, I’m with her. Not just because I have a vagina. I know plenty of people without vaginas who are voting for her. I’m voting for her because she is standing with Planned Parenthood, and as someone who’s had an abortion, protecting a woman’s right to choose for herself is so incredibly important to me. I’m voting for her because she is standing up for the rights of LGBTQ+ people everywhere, ensuring their right to marry, adopt children, and be treated fairly at work and at school. I’m voting for her because she plans to implement a solid plan for parental leave, not just maternity leave, when a new child becomes part of a family, in addition to a fair amount of medical leave. I’m with her because her stances on incredibly important topics like racial justice, gun control, healthcare, education and so much more align with my values. Her being a woman is just a perk. I’m so proud that my son was born into the years that we’ve had our first African-American president and that he will grow up in the historic time of the first female president. We’ve come a long way, but we have so far to go. I can’t wait to see what we accomplish with HRC at the helm.

**I would like to point out that no one has accused any men of voting with their dicks, and we all know there’s at least one or two who’ve thought they were hilarious and done just that.**

Liz:

When it comes to voting for an elected official, whether it be local or national, I look at who I believe will be able to lead the best.  When weighing the options for president, there is only one person in the running I believe will be able to lead our country, and I’m with her!  I know as far as social issues go, she will be able to keep our country moving forward, rather than regressing.  I know she has the leadership skills necessary to interact appropriately with other heads of state.  It’s bigger than just being excited to vote for our first female president (but come on, I’m super stoked about this aspect too):  it’s being excited for the future of the United States and its residents.  It’s time.

Lauren:

I could write a novel longer than War & Peace regarding why I am not (and you should not) be voting for Trump. But instead, I’ll talk about why I am voting FOR Hillary Clinton. She isn’t the “lesser of 2 evils,” she is a legit decent politician who stands and fights for the things that are important to me. She does not believe that healthcare should be something only available to the wealthy. She believes that women should be paid the same amount as men. NARAL gives her a 100% approval rating which means regardless of how YOU feel about abortion, she puts women’s health FIRST. Childcare is, in case you didn’t know, insanely expensive and Hillary Clinton wants to fight for you to lessen that expense. Hillary Clinton believes that LGBTQ community is full of, you know, people. People who have rights and interests just like those who don’t identify as LGBTQ. Her experience has taught her COUNTLESS lessons in foreign policy and negotiations.

I’ve been pretty stoked on Obama’s presidency. I have not agreed with everything he’s done, and I definitely am beyond angry that our healthcare plans are being cockblocked by bitter Republicans who are clearly benefiting from a private, non-universal system (and benefiting from blaming it ALL on President Obama.) But I think Hillary Clinton has the capacity to change this, and to lead our country into the future, instead of 100 years back. Fuck yes I’m voting for Hillary Clinton, and I’m fucking stoked to do it!

Alyssa:

I’m voting because this a privilege so many people don’t take advantage of. This was not always a right for women to vote and still to this day our voices have not been fully heard. I vote so MY voice can be heard. I vote so that my daughter can be proud of me. I vote because I only get one body and I need to take care of it! I vote because I’m the breadwinner in my family and I need to continue to break through the oh-so-high glass ceiling.

I vote because I’m proud to be an American!

Elizabeth:

I’ve always liked HRC. She’s the First Lady I really remember from my childhood; I remember her proclaiming “Women’s rights are human rights” in China and her not giving a shit about her headbands and I remember her having the goddamn audacity to try to create universal healthcare. I remember discovering feminism beyond the suffragette mom in Mary Poppins while HRC fucking showed me how to walk the walk. That woman is nearly always the smartest woman in the room – can you imagine the amount of shit she has taken over the years for being strong and smart and unapologetic and having a loud laugh and RBF and all the shit that most of us get in small doses every day but, like, times a bajillion?? Like, my shoulders hurt thinking about it. And she has gladly, enthusiastically, boldly put herself out there over and over and over again because she believes in herself and this country.

Do I agree with her on everything? Nope. That would be terrible because I have some very uninformed opinions and I’m kinda ridiculous. Was there another nominee I vocally supported because his progressive stances are more in line with mine? Yup. But he lost and she’s still a REALLY GOOD FUCKING CHOICE. Is there a chance I would have voted for a Republican in this election, no matter the nominees? Not in hell. But, the fact that they did nominate a racist, sexist, idiotic, epitome of just about everything I loathe who has triggered more rape nightmares for me, a not-rape-survivor so I can’t imagine what people with sexual assault PTSD must be going through just seeing his dumb orange face…does that make me even happier that we’re going to have a Madame President for the next 4 years? HAHAHAHAHAYES.

(Also, she has plaaaaans. I know how much an organized, driven woman can accomplish and I can’t wait. Like, she has a legit plan for the autistic community. Please check out her website and go nerdcrazy.)