Wednesday, February 26, 2014

I want someone to throw me a parade. 

Photo by George M. Groutas
I worked out two days in a row, so it should be a big one. Mandatory attendance by the whole town.

My waist and abs are sore, so someone will need to bring a big Snoopy balloon. Intentionally sore abs always call for big Snoopy balloons.

And because I kept my carbs down today despite wanting to cry, someone should definitely pelt me with candy I won't eat. I just want to smell the sugar. I'll just smell it...I promise.

I'm in the phase of weight loss where I don't see what the point is (even when I know full well what the point is). I know I have to lose weight for my own health, but my sugar addiction is still firmly in control of my world. I feel like I'm breaking up with a friend, and I hate doing that, especially a friend that brings me beautiful breads and sweets and fizzy drinks whenever I'm stressed.

I'm in that place where every little, teeny-tiny, ridiculous baby step needs a reward to keep me motivated. And since my go-to reward is usually food based (and my food is usually carb based), I'm kind of stuck.

So someone needs to throw me a parade. Yesterday. You don't even KNOW how serious I am.

I'll be camped out on Main whenever you're ready.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Confessions of a Not-So-Nurturing Mom

I don't know if you realized by the title of my blog or by my picture right there in the corner or by a message from the great beyond, but I am a) a woman and b) a mother. (I'm lots of other things too...a Weird Al superfan and a zombie lover/hater, for instance...but this post deals with those first two things.)

For some people in my culture (read: religious community and to a lesser extent, society at large), there is no difference between the word woman and the word mother. All women are seen as mothers or potential mothers, born with a supernatural ability to nurture the young, endowed with this nurturing power by their DNA, or their female spirits, or...their love of shoes and rom-coms and their inability to back up cars? I've never been very clear on where the innate nurture powers come from. But they're there! We have them! Because we are women! And women are incredible! Wheeeeeeeeeee!

I think I might be a man...

Or something...

When God was handing out "womanly" attributes, someone must have tripped me. Every talk I hear about the wonderful, innate nature of women makes me wonder what went wrong with my wiring. When womanhood is conflated with motherhood, I KNOW something's amiss.

Here are a few of my non-nurturing mommy secrets:

- I breastfed all my babies for as long as I could, but it made me anxious every time.
- I detested spoon feeding.
- I am hug and kiss deficient. Once my kids are over the age of two if they want a hug from me, they have to initiate it. (If they want a kiss, they have to use force.)
- When a child gets hurt, my first response is at least a worried, "Are you okay?" but once I know they are, I usually just scold them for whatever they were doing that got them hurt. Then I direct them to the bathroom to clean themselves up.
- When Evelyn came to me a few years ago, worried because our turtle Padme wasn't moving, I poked Padme a couple of times and said, "Oh. She's dead," and then put her in the garbage bin outside. It wasn't until I saw Richard walking up the stairs, tenderly cuddling a sobbing Ev in his arms that I thought, Oh...yeah...I should have done that...moms do that...
- Nurturing is something I watch other moms do and try to mimic. It doesn't come from anywhere inside me. When I'm successful at it, it's because I've planned it, practiced it, willed myself to do it.
- Working outside the home keeps me from going crazy and shooting up shopping malls, and I will never apologize for keeping the community safe.

Photo by Kevin Dooley.

I love being a woman and a mom, but I am NOT a nurturer.

I blame my mother.

As I mentioned in my wisdom tooth saga, my mom was never an ultra-soft, mushy gushy, kiss your boo-boos and make them better type of mom. Someone tripped her in the womanly nurturing line too. When we got hurt, her response was, "Are you bleeding? You'll live."  If we whined about some chore or injustice or perceived unfairness, her answer was usually a concise, "Tough."

Sorry, kid. You'll have to kiss your own boo-boo.

When the annual permission slip for in-school spankings (back when that was a thing) came home in our backpacks, Mom signed it without question, saying, "If you ever do anything in school that makes them want to paddle you, you'll be glad they're the ones doing it."  When my high school one-act play failed to win the regional competition and my younger sister and I mourned our loss in tears, Mom sided with the judge. When my older sister was a bride for a second time and deliriously happy to have found love again, Mom told her to settle down and stop being so excited.

Simmer down, now. Simmer down
I love my mom, but my mom is NOT a nurturer.

She blames Iowa.

In an effort to help her children better understand her complete absence of enthusiasm for "kiss it better" mothering, my mom sent each of her children a copy of Little Heathens, one woman's account of growing up poor in Depression era Iowa.  It might as well have been titled, "Why Willie Braudaway Is the Weirdo That She Is."  (Alternate title: "So Your Mom Doesn't Coddle You? Are You Bleeding? You'll Live. Tough.")

Photo by Phil Roeder

I kid.

What the book really did was help me understand the hardscrabble, pragmatic, Puritan roots that made up the Iowa culture in which she was raised, a culture that viewed childhood as a disease to be cured and overt affection as unnecessary. (In one vignette, the author's grandmother complains about a neighbor's parting declaration of, "I just love you all!" by muttering, "Well, of course we like her too, but does she have to say it?") My mom was a product of that culture, and to a slightly lesser extent, so am I. 

As I've grown and learned and experienced more of life, I've met more women like me, women who have children and love them fiercely but don't feel the innate nurturer feelings they've been told all their lives are a part of their natural make up. I've also met incredibly nurturing men that turn the idea of nurturing as innately female on its head.

When I found this one, I married him.

The more I examine the issue, the more I think the woman = nurturer thing might not actually be true. Maybe we're all just who we are regardless of gender, and maybe there's nothing wrong with acknowledging that.

I spent a lot of my life wondering why I didn't get the mom that kissed boo-boos and sang lullabies and found fulfillment in speaking baby talk to small children. (She approaches babies with a stern, "Hello. How are you today?" Not even kidding.) Spending all that time wondering why she wasn't the mother everyone said mothers are supposed to be kept me from appreciating the mother that she was...a mom who did sing with us, a mom who taught us to work, a mom who tried hard to protect our vocal cords by modeling good vocal cord behavior (this consisted of her never screaming at any sporting events, opting for a long, high, sustained operatic tone. It was gorgeous and massively embarrassing, but her pipes are in great shape.)

Yeah...that's about what it looked like...
Worrying that I'm not the nurturing mom so many assume I should naturally be keeps me from appreciating the mom I actually am...a mom who has presided over weekly "Bad Manners Night" dinners for 9 years running, a mom who blasts Weird Al from the car with the windows down and dances in the driver's seat like an idiot whenever the kids request it, a mom who looks for ways to teach her kids through embarrassment only to find her kids are more than happy to join in the fun.

To be fair, they probably get that from their aunts.

Or their uncle...

Or their mom.

If you're a woman, a mom, and you're not a natural nurturer, it's about time to stop beating yourself up and start appreciating the mom you are. We can't all be baby-talking, lullabye-singing boo-boo kissers. Some of us have other talents to contribute.

I'd say not shooting up shopping malls is a more than valuable contribution to society.

Monday, February 17, 2014

(Author's note: This is not the usual post you might see here on The Mother Load, but it's important enough to me that I wanted to share. This post is a response to a blog post I read today, warning parents away from the movie "Frozen". The post is linked below. Feel free to read and come to your own conclusions.)

I don't know Kathryn Skaggs personally. Perhaps she is as even keeled and kind and normal as the next gal. Unfortunately, I would never know it from her blog, A Well-Behaved Mormon Woman, which is often an exercise in self-righteous, hyper-Conservative, black and white scrupulosity.

Kathryn Skaggs has a large Mormon following and holds court on the internet as a leader for many looking for like-minded responses to the movements in society which may frighten them. She has been interviewed by the press as the voice of more Conservative Mormon women, providing quotes in opposition to Mormon progressives and feminists. She uses the word "we" far too often in discussing how Mormon women think and feel about issues, to the point that people outside the Mormon faith might mistakenly identify her as an official spokesperson on Mormon matters.

Kathryn Skaggs does not speak for me.

Kathryn Skaggs does not speak for Mormon women as a group.

With Skaggs's recent blog post decrying the Disney film "Frozen" as a cleverly constructed liberal indoctrination piece created to advance the gay agenda in the United States, I'm hard pressed to figure out who she could ever be speaking for at all. Certainly not thoughtful, level-headed people who believe teaching kindness and self-actualization to children is a net positive.

In her blog post on "Frozen", Skaggs spends a lot of time talking about the dangers of the media and the movie itself, using fear, shame, and othering as rhetorical methods to "challenge" readers who might have missed the evil gay undertones because they thought they were just enjoying an animated musical with their kids.

While admitting that her conclusions will seem like a pretty far reach to most people (including the vast majority of friends and family members who disagreed with her), she plows forward with her argument, dropping bits of panic and terror in nearly every paragraph. You guys! The gays! They're in your HOUSE! They're COMING FOR YOUR CHILDREN!

Of course, her post includes the requisite disclaimer that she harbors no ill will toward gay people and has no wish to force her personal religious beliefs onto them (while invoking at the same time the force of law to do just that). Surrounded by the vitriol of the rest of her post, these words represent nothing more than the usual paving stones of good intentions followed by harmful action.

Ms. Skaggs waits until she's three quarters of the way through her blog post to actually support the previous fear-mongering and explain why she thinks "Frozen" is "so gay." It's clear only that she thinks the entire story symbolizes a gay person's journey out of the closet and into freedom and that she believes "Let it Go" is an anthem written to underscore that symbolism, and she makes it clear why she thinks those things.

What she fails to clarify is why I should think those things.

Art, done well, is evocative and interactive. No two people staring into the face of the Mona Lisa will walk away having had the same impressions or experiences. True art makes us think, feel, and grow, and true art reveals much more about the participant viewing it than it does about its creator.

I watched "Frozen" and saw myself in Elsa. I saw a very real and current journey played out in her feelings of captivity and repression and subsequent freedom and empowerment. "Let it Go" has become my anthem for the year. Funnily enough, contrary to what Ms. Skaggs might think, I am not a closeted lesbian who has finally decided to come out.

How can that be, when (despite any evidence to back her up) Kathryn Skaggs KNOWS that the people who wrote the story and songs did so with the homosexual agenda and gay marriage in mind? I think the answer to that says much more about Kathryn Skaggs than anyone else. She is afraid of the progress being made in society and that fear has caused her to see in "Frozen" what she fears.

As a lover of art, I have no wish to diminish Skaggs's experience of "Frozen". That is hers. However, she crosses a line when she presumes to tell Christian families why they are raising their kids wrong, why they have erred in allowing their children to watch "Frozen" without also pointing out and refuting the gay themes she sees there.

Her shame and fear-based tactics to convince parents that a great evil has been allowed into their homes, based only on her own, admittedly non-mainstream interpretation of this film represent a new low for her blog. She is scaring good parents into feeling they've done something sinful and that their children's very salvation will be at stake if they don't right their unintended wrong.

A final word about "Let it Go": Skaggs makes a point about the lyrics of the song promoting rebellion and disobedience among children, and many will likely agree with that interpretation, especially considering the words, "No right, no wrong, no rules for me," are included. However, the song itself cannot be judged within a vacuum. Set within the story of "Frozen" in which Elsa has lived under harmful, damaging, soul-killing rules set by her parents (and in opposition to the recommendations that were given them), breaking free of those negative rules does not constitute the type of rebellion Skaggs speaks of.

It's also important to note that this song is sung at the very beginning of Elsa's transformation, not at the conclusion of it. Elsa is only half free in her isolation and must learn hard lessons before becoming truly free of her past. In learning to accept herself AND live in society as the queen (a title that likely comes with many rules she will now willingly embrace), she finds the happiness she has always wanted because she gets to live authentically and have a relationship with her sister again.

Rules are not righteous simply because they are rules, and shrugging off societal restrictions that hinder our progress or the happiness of all is not automatically sinful. Our country has a long tradition of imposing harmful rules on others and then moving past those because courageous people chose to speak up and fight the system. Being well-behaved within an oppressive culture often simply perpetuates further harm on others.

There may come a day when the makers of "Frozen" reveal they wrote the movie and music just as you say they did, in an attempt to foster understanding and kindness toward the gay community and to send a message to gay people that it's okay to be who they are.  The difference between you and I is that I see that as a good thing.  In case you didn't realize it, Kathryn Skaggs, gay teens are attempting and succeeding at suicide at alarming rates...because they don't know how to make sense of who they are within a culture that demonizes them. If gay teens and adults watch "Frozen" and find a message of hope and love, good on the makers of "Frozen." If the family members of those people watch "Frozen" and learn to relate to their gay relatives and begin to treat them more inclusively, good on the makers of "Frozen."

Because if those people read your blog, they're going to need inoculation from your divisive, shame-based views.

(Check out these other thoughtful and well written responses below.)

Thursday, February 13, 2014

I mustache you to stop!

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Mom, today I learned the mustache trend gets weirder every day.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Chillin' like a villain

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Mom, today I learned we should have named Quill "Chill" because he's all about the chillaxin'.

(And we thought we bought those chairs for the humans...)

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Too late to plead the fifth

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Mom, today I learned I don't have to look too far to find evidence of why I weigh what I weigh.

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It's all

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(In my defense, posting pictures of your food is official Facebook law.)

Monday, February 10, 2014

You could say I'm future motivated.

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Mom, today I learned that a few days of exercise will make me think I can tackle this without any problems. I can do it! I am woman! I will master those stairs!

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Fortunately, a few months of sedentary living scream louder and calm me right back down.

(I'll hit the stairs soon. I promise. By promise, I mean I'll think about it. By soon, I mean by the Zombie apocalypse for sure...)

Sunday, February 9, 2014

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Tooth pain.  It's stupid. It's a special kind of stupid hell. It's a stupid torture I've known off and on for a stupid long time.

As a student of science, I understand on a rational level that the excruciating pain of a toothache is an evolutionary adaptation that forces us to get help and take better care of our teeth and yada yada yada. This helps us avoid the early, gum disease related heart attacks that took many an ancient human and blah de blah, isn't it great we live today? Yeah, the rational me is super smart.  Who the heck cares? The emotional me frickin' hates tooth pain and doesn't give a flying caveman what the pain means.

I gave birth to five kids without pain medication. I would do it 50 more times rather than deal with tooth pain.  I had my gall bladder out and suffered painful complications which kept me in the hospital for five ugly days (for outpatient surgery). It was better than tooth pain.

I have the pain tolerance of a thick-skinned rhino being stung by a bee, but when my teeth hurt, you'll find me rolling around on my bed, crying for my mommy.  And I have a mommy who dealt with our childhood injuries by saying, "Are you bleeding? You'll live." Doesn't matter. In the delirium of tooth pain, my memory of my mommy becomes all softness and sympathy, and I WANT HER!

It's possible (not really) that I'm elevating tooth pain to a higher than deserved level (nuh uh) simply because it's the most recent pain I've experienced (you MUST be joking). Even if that's the case (it's really not), pain is painful, so products that reduce or eliminate pain? They get the awesome label of awesomeness. Because not being in pain is awesome.

I learned about today's Awesome Product, the Red Cross Toothache Kit a few days after I had my wisdom teeth out when I briefly worried I might have developed dry socket. Knowing that dry socket is a pain like no other, I hurried to the interwebs to find a pain solution and found this kit. Fortunately for me (and people in my city...because someone would have died), my problem is not dry socket. My missing wisdom tooth has left the root of an adjacent molar exposed, so my pain is not constant and my gums will heal in time.

But it is pain...tooth, you know...several times a day, I want to slam my head in a door to take my mind off of it.

Luckily, thankfully, oh-my-gosh-this-could-have-been-so-much-worsefully, the Red Cross Toothache Kit keeps me from having to do that.

The kit (which includes a disclaimer that it has no affiliation with the American Red Cross...weird) consists of a small box of tiny cotton pellets, a pair of itty bitty tweezers, and a teeny weeny bottle of clove oil (mixed with sesame oil as a carrier oil).  I mention the size of its contents not to disparage the product. A ridiculously small amount goes a long way. I just want you to know it's cute. Cute can be a surprisingly effective distraction from pain. When cute works this well, you begin to consider it one of your babies. (The cutest one.)

I found my kit at my local Walgreens where, strangely, the corners are Antelope and University, not Happy and Healthy.  I paid roughly $8 for it. Your price may vary depending on where you live. For me, $8 might as well have been $8,000. It's worth even more than that.

This stuff WORKS. I've never had anything work this well on tooth pain before. If I'd known about this before, the past energy of the universe would have been much more peaceful (and would have contained far fewer swear words). As I type this, pain free, I'm just grateful I know about it now.

A few tips and cautions: While the cotton pellet was useful the first time I used the oil, I found that a Q-tip is a little easier to work with. With a Q-tip, I can direct the oil more precisely and hold it there for the one minute the product suggests. Be aware that the oil does burn a bit at first, and it doesn't have the most pleasant taste or smell. (It's not so much a bad taste as it is a very strong one).

You'll want to avoid swallowing while you're placing the oil, and you're going to spit once your minute is up...a lot. When you think you're done spitting and you start to walk away from your sink, you will probably turn around and spit some more.  I promise you, you'll agree that all of this is well worth it once the pain relief kicks in within a few minutes. When you realize it lasts for hours, you're going to spit again and praise the burn just to pay homage to the wonder that is clove oil.

If you are one of the unfortunate people in the world who does develop dry socket after a tooth extraction, I hear that the pellets are very well suited for packing the tooth socket and relieving pain while it heals. I'm no dentist (as if I could be that evil), so I would recommend a dentist visit for any tooth pain. However, while you wait for that visit, this product is a life saver. And by life saver, I mean many people you might have strangled in your pain induced rage fest will be spared if you use this.

Tooth pain is stupid, but the Red Cross Toothache Kit is a smart solution to a stupid problem. Buy one even if your teeth aren't hurting. Someday, they will hurt, or someone in your family will experience tooth pain. You might as well have this on hand to ease the pain that much more quickly.

When your family asks you what beautiful, intelligent, fantastically wonderful person told you about this amazing product, I know you'll do the right thing and mention my name.

(If you don't, I'll probably punch you in the teeth.)

Friday, February 7, 2014

It's...a Valentine's wreath...

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Mom, today I learned that the prospect of taking this off the door, walking it into the garage, and placing it into a plastic bin is way more of a pain than having the neighbors laugh at my laziness.

(To be fair, it makes all the snow seem less depressing. I'm really doing the neighbors a favor.)

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Well, hello there.

I last posted a Mother Unload post in March of 2012 and reported that despite some kid medical issues that were stressful, I had been maintaining my weight. It was not long after this post that a kindly doctor said, "Yep...brain surgery," and that was that.  I moved from the maintaining category back into the gaining camp.

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Photo by bottle_void

I have a few coping skills in my mental health tool bag, but stress eating is the "skill" for which I have the most natural, uh, talent.  Food is comfort, safety, insulation. When emotions get the better of me, it's often food that brings me out of the tailspin. When my anxiety level rises so high I feel like I'm suffocating, it's food that gets me breathing again.

Stress eating is not a positive coping skill. It's just a very efficient and effective one.

Today, I weight 243, so just 4 pounds below what I weighed when I started writing these posts however many years ago and more than 20 above what I weighed the last time I wrote.


I'm 12 pounds lower than I was a week and a half ago, so go me. Or more accurately, go my oral surgeon who took out four of my teeth and made it impossible to eat anything but soup and smoothies for about 3 days and a lot less food than I usually consume in the days since.

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Having my wisdom teeth extracted wasn't an ideal way for me to lose weight, and weight loss certainly wasn't the goal behind the surgery. Still, lose weight I did, and it's a jump start I needed to kick a new phase of healthy eating and exercise into high gear. I learned a few things too.

1. I can live with way less food than I've been eating.  This shouldn't be a surprise, but it is.

2. You're never more mindful of what you're putting in your mouth than when the consequences for it are immediate. There are consequences to the things I eat. They're just the slow building, long term kind. I don't think about them nearly enough. Spending those days knowing, "If I eat will hurt," changed the way I ate. I was careful, thoughtful, and particular. There wasn't room for junk because every calorie needed to count.

3. I don't have to clean my plate. Growing up in the generation I did, this is still hard. I put too much food on my plate and then think I have to finish every bite because I took it.  I've been amazed at how often I'm putting food back or giving it to Richard or passing up seconds I wouldn't have thought twice about before. I still don't want to waste food, but I'm less inclined to overfill my stomach just to show I'm grateful.

The result of the above is that I put on a pair of jeans this morning that I haven't been able to wear in a few months. I'm finding my old face again. I'm feeling better.

Please, sir...may I have some more?

To avoid losing my momentum, I've decided to start a Couch to 5K program again, the same one I did several years ago.  Because of my sad knees, and because running without something funny to watch at the same time sounds about as worthwhile as stabbing my eyeballs with a rusty spork, I'll be doing all my running on my treadmill. It absorbs a lot of the impact, is never covered in ice or snow, and is conveniently located facing the TV in our family room.

Anyone want to join me? (Please, don't make me do this alone!) 

Saturday, February 1, 2014

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Mom, today I learned what the girls' closet can look like when you tell them they can't go to friends' houses until it's clean.

(I may have also said, "It seems like some of you are pretending to not know what deep clean means. Maybe I should pretend to not know what you like to eat when I go grocery shopping today...)