To be the Queen of Chaos, you have to be a little warped.

For the past 6 months or so, parenting Jasmine has been like living on Sesame Street.  Everywhere I turn, I’m surrounded by letters.  EI (Early Intervention), OT (occupational therapy), SLP (speech language pathologist), and so on.  Next on the list will be ABA (Applied Behavior Analysis), which I’m still learning to fully understand.

Friday, Jasmine got the letters I was expecting, and yet dreading, to hear.  PDD – Pervasive Developmental Disorder.  It’s basically an umbrella term under which a variety of social/communication problems are grouped.  Autism, Asperger’s, Rett Syndrome; they are all part of the group.  Then there is the nebulous PDD-NOS.  The last bit stands for Not Otherwise Specified.  I can’t help but think of that as, “Your child doesn’t fit these other conditions perfectly, but she still ain’t quite right.”

The PDD diagnosis isn’t always a bad thing.  It qualifies Jazzy for more therapies and services (our insurance company is going to hate us) and should smooth her transition out of EI and into the school system when that time comes.  But… fuck, you know?  No matter how perfect she is to me, to the rest of the world she’ll be imperfect as long as this diagnosis and its symptoms stand.

She may always have to work harder to do things I take for granted.  She may struggle to form friendships, whereas my older two girls have always socialized with ease.  She may not be able to realistically “be anything she wants to be”, like we all tell our kids.  I hate that possibility.

I’m trying hard to stay in the present, but once in a while the future pounces on me when I’m vulnerable and leaves me clenching my fists and frustrated that I am powerless against this diagnosis.  Actually, it’s not the diagnosis I want to protect her from, it’s the ignorant, inflexible world she’ll have to live in.

There is so much to say about going through this process with her, but it is overwhelming for me to try and articulate it all at once.  My emotions are all over the place.  My one consistent thought is, “I just want her to feel as blessed to be her as I am to be her Mama.”

Maybe it would soften the blow if I had a neighborhood full of Muppets to sing to me.  “One of these kids is not like the others…”

Advertisements

Beautiful, individual, and human, just like you. (From V Magazine)

I know, I’ve been getting all fat up in your face recently – but it’s been on my mind a lot, and it’s my blog, so nyah!  In all seriousness, I’ve been exposed to a number of troubling situations lately regarding body acceptance and the treatment of plus-size people in general, so I feel a certain social obligation as a fat chick to throw some truth out there to counterbalance all the bullshit.  Here’s a small list of myths perpetuated about fat women (because that is my personal experience and what I feel most comfortable speaking of, but that is not to suggest all genders aren’t subject to similar falsities) :

Myth #1 : Fat women never exercise and always overeat.  All fat women could be thin if they only “behaved”.

Speaking from my own and others’ experiences, this is not a universal truth.  Fat women engage in all manner of lifestyles – assuming they all act the same is no different than assuming that all thin women eat only high-nutrition, low-calorie foods and exercise regularly in an aggressive manner.  Puh-lease.  We all know women who can eat anything and never work out (as is their right to do) and stay as slender as ever.  There’s something to be said for biology, folks.  Just as no two humans are exactly alike, no two lifestyles will produce the exact same results in different people.

Myth #2 : Fat women have given up on their appearances – they are slovenly and unclean and don’t care.

While I still believe that people are free to treat and present their bodies any way they choose, I don’t know any women of any size who deliberately choose to be dirty or unkempt.  All women are at some point forced to brave the public eye with minimal preparation – think running out for infant fever meds in your pajamas or popping into the grocery store on the way home from the gym, still in your sweaty sweats – but that’s different than saying, I’m just not going to care for myself or my garments regularly.  I think fat women are subject to more intolerance by society when they dare to venture out without being carefully styled and coiffed.  I also think that fat women wear what is available and affordable to them, which can be VASTLY different than similar clothing options for straight-sized women.  For example, as of today there are 59 skirts pictured on Old Navy’s website in the Women’s section.  In the Women’s Plus section, 21.  Now think about this – numerous statistics have show that 50% or more of American women wear a size 14 or larger.  So a major retailer’s response is to provide less than 1/3 the number of buying options for half their potential shoppers?  Huh?

Myth #3 : Fat women are always on a diet/hate their bodies/are pleased to engage in conversation that centers on weight loss, body shaming, or food policing.

Um – NO!  We don’t all want to engage with the society-driven bullshit that says we’re supposed to loathe our “problem areas” while in search of a “lifestyle change” that will help us resist “bad foods”.  Naturally, many fat women do participate in these activities – mostly because they have been brainwashed into believing that they are unworthy and subhuman because they are fat – but at the end of the day it makes for really superficial and boring conversation to rattle on about Weight Watchers points, the horrors of back fat, and the self-flagellation you have planned for later because you dared to eat a fucking corn dog.

In fact, you may well be hurting people you care about by engaging in that behavior while in company.  Raging about the size of your ass when it’s equal to one of my cheeks?  Yeah, that is insulting ME too.  Do whatever you want with your body – feel free to look however you want to and hold yourself to no one’s standards but your own.  Just leave me the hell out of it.  You’re so disgusting because you gained 10 pounds over the holidays, huh?  AHEM… I weigh 100 pounds more than you!  Am I somehow NOT supposed to feel offended by your commentary?  Would you rant about how horrible your blonde hair is, and how you can’t wait to dye it red because blonde is just gross, in my (blonde) presence?  I rest my case.

Myth #4 : Fat women are bad mothers.

This one really chaps my fat ass, ya’ll.  There are numerous versions of this myth – fat women have disastrous pregnancies and/or deliveries, fat mothers don’t play with their children, fat mothers don’t provide good nutrition for their kids, fat women are bad role models, fat women are destined to raise fat (and therefore unhealthy and unhappy) children, and fat women are embarrassments to their kids are just a few.

Fuck. That.  I don’t have access to every living room and backyard in America, of course, but the world is full of fat mothers (and mothers of all races and ability levels, btw) who do right by their children.  Fat women play soccer in the backyard and board games on the floor.  We provide balanced food choices for our kids (and some of us work extremely hard to avoid passing food and body related prejudices to our impressionable little ones) and encourage them to listen to their body’s cues for hunger, thirst, and activity.  Fat women engage in numerous pursuits that positively influence their kids, from enjoying active lifestyles, to being creative and learned, to demonstrating good citizenship and community involvement; you name it.  Fat women have loving relationships with their children.  In special, precious moments, fat women can even influence the next generation to be tolerant and embrace diversity despite society telling them otherwise.  And this fat woman had three physically healthy pregnancies and three natural deliveries of beautiful, thriving babies.  Go on with my bad self, I know.

These myths are only the tip of the iceberg, but I don’t want your eyeballs to fall out from reading, so I’ll reign myself in for now.  Let me just say this: be nice to a fat woman today.  You’ll probably surprise the shit out of her.

Mother and Child 1995 by Fernando Botero

K.I.S.S.

Last summer sucked.  I was embroiled in anxiety, overwhelmed by life in general, and so unable to enjoy most of the things we all think of a summer pleasures.  I have the good fortune now to be much happier and more comfortable in my skin, and hence have promised myself that this will be the Summer of Reclamation.

I have always been a summer person – born in July and raised on summers of drippy popsicles, backyard barbeques, and swimming until my eyes were red and my lips were blue.  It genuinely irks me to think of last year as a summer wasted, so here are my goals to ensure that this summer makes up for the last.

1. When in doubt, do it.  When you’re trying to avoid stress, it is easy to think that staying in a predictable comfort zone all the time is the safest option.  It is also the most boring and least enlightening choice, and it’s not even foolproof.  Just as much stress can be had at home with three kids as anywhere else.  So when I have the chance to go somewhere or participate in something this summer, I plan to do it if at all possible.

2. The caveat to number one – don’t do anything you don’t WANT to do.  This is different than avoiding possibilities based on fear; this is taking ownership of the fact that my life is mine to do with as I wish.  Which means I have no obligation to participate in something that I know full well will make me miserable or be an utter waste of my time and energy.

3. Get one productive thing done each day, then go play.  As long as my house is sanitary and our basic household management needs are met, I’m not sweating the Martha Stewart routine this summer.  If, at the end of the day, I can say I did a load of laundry or picked up a birthday gift, that’s good enough for me.

4. Detoxify my relationships.  This one is already in motion, with at least two “friends” who are no longer good for me psychologically put out to pasture.  That’s hard for me to do, since I don’t like confrontation and I am hopelessly sappy, but it has become a matter of good self-care.  Hurtful words, thoughtless actions, and incompatible priorities create stress for me, and stress can lead me down a path I don’t ever want to travel again if I can help it.  If minor issues come up in otherwise healthy relationships, I am determined to advocate calmly for myself.

5. Unapologetically be myself and like myself.  That means going about my day with a confident attitude, not caring about the opinions of others.  I’m going to do what I feel like doing, without worrying about looking foolish or ugly or censoring my actions for the benefit of others.  In other words, I don’t care if you don’t want to see my fat body in a bathing suit – it’s a free country and I’m going swimming, asshat!  I’m going to try and avoid self-deprecation as well, and talk and think about myself the way I’d talk about my best friend or my daughter.

The title of this post is in reference to the popular corporate saying, “Keep It Simple, Stupid.”  This probably doesn’t sound like a very simple plan of action, but it really boils down to the sole concept of increasing fun and decreasing stress.

In the spirit of my fifth goal, however, I think I shall change the acronym’s meaning to, “Keep It Simple, Superstar!”  If anyone doesn’t like it – well, you know what they can K.I.S.S.  *wink*

SO much going on in the past couple of weeks that I’ve had little time to sit down and type out my thoughts.  Not until I became a parent did I appreciate how completely insane the month of June can be!

Today was my older girls’ Last Day Of School.  (Capitalized because it might as well be a national holiday, judging by the number of times I’ve been asked, “When is it?” over the past two months.)  They had a great year with fabulous teachers, so we decided to join a group of parents who were picking up their kids and meeting downtown to get sugared up at a cupcake shop and an ice cream place.

Part of the fun was decorating our cars with window markers, streamers, and such so the kids could drive past the waiting school staff, parade style, hollering and waving and starting off the summer with a bang.  The girls loved driving past their teachers and into town in our SUV emblazoned with “Have A Great Summer!”, “Thanks Mrs. H!” etc.  We were certainly a spectacle as we drove through the main streets, one car behind the other, all decorated and beeping our horns, blasting tunes like “What Time Is It” from High School Musical 2.

If I had to guess, I’d say about 75% of the people we passed (whose reactions were visible to me) looked indifferent, sometimes irritated or scornful, and occasionally confused.  (Odd, considering that our purpose was basically written all over our cars…)

The other 25% smiled, laughed, waved, honked their horns – we even had a traffic cop do a little dance as we passed.  I couldn’t help but find that kind of disillusioning.  To think that the majority of people would react to a bunch of children and families sharing a joyful moment with apathy, even disdain… well, that’s just kind of sad to me.  What the hell is happening to us?

As someone who has been through depression and anxiety – had my body and brain create lousy feelings and reactions against my will – I cannot begin to understand why the average healthy person would choose negativity.  I would have given anything for the ability to turn off my blah switch and embrace all the good things in life when I was in my darkest days.  To think that there are people out there who have that amazing power and don’t use it… it boggles my mind.

Yes, life and the people in it suck sometimes.  A lot.  But there is so much beauty if you allow it to be your primary focus instead of the bullshit.  There is gorgeous weather and the natural wonders of the outdoors – birds, animals, flowers, water.  There are hobbies and interests that can bring fun, learning, and accomplishment.  There are amazing moments with the people we love; snuggling with our partners, laughing with friends, playing with our children, even cuddling with a pet.  There are new adventures to be had at the first opportunity, however simple or inexpensive they may have to be.  There is the incredible freedom you’ve been blessed with if your daily responsibilities still allow you the time and resources to enjoy anything I’ve just mentioned, or anything else that brings you happiness.

Choose joy.  Embrace it and savor it in each moment.  Honor your blessings by enjoying them, making them a priority.  Laugh at other people’s kids acting goofy on the last day of school.

If you can’t, try as you might, look within.  If changes need to be made, start making them.  If you need help, ask for it.  I know what it’s like to look back and realize that a chunk of my life was stolen from me, and that I can never get it back.  I am thankful that it only took me a couple of years to get to a place where I feel like the master of my life again.  Take back control as soon as you can.  You won’t regret it.

I used to listen to this a lot, and sing along good and loud.  Now I mean it.  I won’t worry my life away.

The short story is this: I have been dealing with anxiety for years, and had a terrible flare-up of anxiety and panic during and after my third pregnancy.  After much healing and probably more hemming and hawing, I made the choice to submit my story to Postpartum Progress, an award-winning website devoted to maternal mental health.  I wrote the essay in response to PPP’s creator, warrior mom Katherine Stone, reaching out through Facebook to say that there weren’t enough personal stories of postpartum panic disorder on her incredibly informative site.

It struck me to think what an opportunity it might be to help another woman by sharing my experience.  It’s not a paid gig or anything, but I ultimately decided it was my way of paying back the powers that be for getting me as far from that terrible place as I am now.

It wasn’t easy to put my experiences out there, but I think it would have been helpful had I read a similar account when I was in the thick of it, Googling desperately into the night trying to figure out what the hell was wrong with me.  In some ways, the stigma is as bad as the illness itself.  It took me ages to admit my feelings to some of my closest friends, and there are still far more people in my life who don’t know about it than who do.  Not that I really owe an explanation to anyone as it’s not their business, but honestly, that’s not why I haven’t told them.  I don’t want to be the person people wonder about, that they aren’t sure they can trust with their kids, or that they make assumptions about based on whatever their limited experience with mental illness might be.

This is as far as I can reach out right now, but I’m ok with that. It’s still pretty far.

Here’s the article.

I know that sounds really snotty and self-important, but I don’t mean it in that sense.  I mean it can be hard for me to accept that the Important Stuff in my little corner of the universe is pretty insignificant to everyone else.  I wish the situations that matter most to me would always go my way.

Hmm… that still sounds a bit Veruca Salt-ish.  I’d better cite an example.

My youngest child has a speech delay.  Her whole story is for another post, but for the past 3 months we have been doing everything possible to help her catch up while understanding her limitations and their causes.  This has included numerous visits to multiple specialists, many of whom have full calendars that are booked out weeks in advance.

Today was supposed to be our first visit with a recommended developmental pediatrician.  An hour before Jasmine’s scheduled time, the office called to say the doctor had a family emergency and would have to cancel his appointments for the day.

I know emergencies happen.  I know doctors are people too.  I know people can’t be in two places at once.  I know family comes first.  Still… why the hell did this have to happen on MY kid’s day?  Every developmental expert will testify that early, expeditious intervention is a key component in successful treatment of delays in young children.  Therefore, my (admittedly irrational) gut response to this situation was,

“YOU ARE FUCKING WITH MY PLAN, PEOPLE!  AND CONSEQUENTLY FUCKING WITH MY DAUGHTER’S DEVELOPMENT!”

Logic tells me that this minor delay should not impact Jasmine at all.  It also tells me that this doctor did not intentionally try to ruin my day, nor is he likely to have reason to want to disrupt my daughter’s care.  That’s the concept I was alluding to earlier – my little Jazzy isn’t even on his radar in the grand scheme of things.  It’s not because of cold indifference; it just isn’t his life, so it isn’t his priority.

It’s like home videos.  We could all watch videos of our own kids for hours, couldn’t we?  Reliving those precious moments, getting to see those cherubic faces that have since changed with age – ah, bliss.  Other people’s home movies on the other hand… not so much.  Maybe a really funny one, or a few minutes of their vacation footage, just to be polite.  After a while, though?  Yawn – right?  Not my family, not my kids, not my vacation = not nearly as interesting to me as it is to you.

Sometimes it’s a good thing.  It helps to remind myself of that when I’m having a bad self-image day and I have to go to the mall or my daughter’s dance class.  Chances are, no one is paying nearly as much attention to me, my clothes, my hair, my ass, etc. as I think they are.  Most people do not notice random minute details like I tend to do.  Nobody will remember that I wore the same shirt yesterday because I’m behind on laundry.

When it comes to my children, however, all rational thought seems to escape me.  I have to work hard to stay calm and remember that this, too, shall pass.  Because what am I going to do, storm into some poor unsuspecting doctor’s office and scream, “I WANT IT NOOOOW, DADDY!!!!”?

Don't care how, I want it now.

I reserve the right to do that if it happens again, though.  Just sayin’.

 

Bitch-Free Beach

Now that bathing suit season is officially upon us, I’ve been thinking about self-esteem in the face of summer fashion.  We probably all know someone (or are someone) who suffers through 90 degree days in long pants because they feel their legs are not fit for public viewing.  Then there is the refusal to “bare arms” that so many women fall prey to, and of course the swimmer who is too self-conscious to remove her oversize t-shirt in the water for fear of people judging her bathing suit-clad body.

It pisses me off when I hear people talking smack about other people’s bodies.  Hey, everyone has a right to their own opinion of what constitutes attractiveness, and I don’t expect everyone to like or appreciate the visage of every human who crosses their path.  But at the end of the day, my body is my business.  So is yours.  No one has the right to offer commentary on it, and you have the right to not give a flying fuck what anyone else thinks about you.

The following passage is quoted from a great book I read recently:

“At some point in your adult life, you’ve probably walked into a party and felt a frisson of relief upon discovering at least one woman there who was fatter, uglier, and/or dressed more inappropriately than you. We sure have. But if you want to have any hope of making peace with your own body, you need to knock that shit off.

We’re not even telling you to stop just because it’s nasty, petty, and beneath you to judge other women so harshly; it is, but you’re not a saint, and neither are we. We’re telling you to stop because it’s actually in your own self-interest to stop being such a bitch. ‘Cause you know what happens when you quit saying that crap about other women? You magically stop saying it about yourself so much, too.

Judging other women negatively creates a constant stream of nasty thoughts in your head. It is inevitable that you will end up applying those same standards to yourself. We think we’re building ourselves up when we do this but, really, we’re just tearing other people down to our level. And we hate to go all Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood on you, but tearing other people down isn’t really productive. It leaves you in the same place you started, which is full of loathing for your own body.”

~Kate Harding and Marianne Kirby, “Lessons From The Fat-o-sphere”

http://fatosphere.com/

I really hope to impart this lesson to my girls through my words and actions.  I hope other parents will do the same, for their kids and for themselves.  So grab that tank top, shorts, bikini or whatever you love and feel good in, and work it!  And if the haters start hatin’…