Love Thursday

Clueless Woman, Angry Mob

So, that whole Maura Kelly thing.

For those who haven’t seen it, basically the editors of Marie Claire asked one of their bloggers to write an article addressing the question of whether viewers feel uncomfortable watching overweight people making out on tv.

The blogger, Maura Kelly, proceeded to write an epically insensitive article implying that the mere existence of obese people is offensive, moreso because apparently they choose to be that way and could all be in perfect shape if they just exerted a little effort. Truly an unfortunate piece of writing.

Everyone’s blogging about how shocked and horrified they were when they read that post. And here I must confess that I wasn’t shocked. I grew up in a family that placed an unhealthy importance on physical and behavioral “perfection,” and any perceived flaw was treated as something deeply shameful. Seriously, everything: acne, crooked teeth, the shape of everyone’s noses, freckles, moles, the color of our eyes, the color and length and texture of our hair, the length of our legs, the slightest ounce of superfluous weight, any trace of the aging process, it was all stuff to be obsessed over and criticized, and that’s not even counting all the internal “imperfections” that supposedly lowered our value as human beings. When my children were born I was treated to earnest recitals of all their flaws, and as they grew older it was explained to me, repeatedly, why it would be unfair of me to ever expect them to amount to much of anything. About the time they started to understand sentences, I began seriously limiting their exposure to these toxic messages. I never wanted them to think that way about themselves or anyone else. I didn’t want it to be part of the air they breathed.

What I’m saying is, I wasn’t shocked by Maura Kelly’s article because I get that she was raised breathing that kind of air. And as insensitive and icky as her post was, I honestly don’t think that she was trying to hurt anyone. She was like, “Fat people, amiright?” assuming that everyone would agree with her because that’s the kind of world she moves in. And when the outrage began pouring in, she very quickly realized that she had, in fact, deeply offended a whole lot of folks, and she appended an apology to her article.

The apology just seemed to make people angrier. And meaner. As I write this there are currently 2140 comments on her blog, the vast majority screaming for her blood and her resignation. They’re calling her a bully, a mean-spirited subhuman, and a hundred other vicious things. The sheer unrestrained vitriol in almost every comment has disturbed me a lot more than the original article did. There is some very deep anger on this subject, obviously, and instead of a discussion she got a ravening mob armed with torches and pitchforks and cancelled subscriptions.

People are saying that it’s the most horrifically insulting and degrading thing they’ve ever read. Seriously? Because…are we reading the same Internet, people? There’s stuff out there that makes this sad little article look like Mother Teresa wrote it. I’m not trying to be flippant with people’s legitimate pain, but where did all this rage come from? People are saying that Maura Kelly needs to seek psychological help, and maybe that’s true, but I think it’s also true of at least half of the people who wrote those terrible comments. There’s no mercy in their words, no humanity, no sympathy for her ignorance. Just hate and hate and more hate.

This thing has been eating at my brain for a few days now. I don’t know how to think about it. Should I feel the same righteous outrage toward this misguided woman? I don’t. I think she was living in a certain kind of environment, and this experience was as much a shock to her as it was to her readers. Am I defending bigotry? I hope not. I don’t like bigotry. I just think…that a little more compassion might be in order here on both sides of this issue.

It’s Love Thursday. Today, let’s try to do a better job of showing people what love is supposed to look like.

Categories: Family, Health, Life, Love Thursday | Leave a comment

These Small Hours

This one is dedicated to two of my fellow bloggers, who are having (separate and unrelated) rough times right now and are looking for some happy.

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The first time I ever heard Rob Thomas’ song “Little Wonders” was shortly after Steve and I separated. I immediately downloaded it from iTunes and played it over and over for weeks. It seemed to be speaking directly to the tangled knot of pain and hope that had taken up residence in my chest, and I wanted the knot to hear and believe, and maybe loosen its grip a little.

For a long time (like, until just the past couple of months), it was difficult for me to look at photos taken during that first year or so after the split. You could see the hope and the growing glimmers of peace and joy in those images, but my memories of the raw underlying pain were still too fresh. I looked at those pictures and remembered just putting one foot in front of the other in a determined effort to get through the tunnel and into the light.

I’ve been out of the tunnel for a while now, but I still love that song. It’s full of truth and light and strength, and if you’re ever going through a difficult time you should add it to your favorite playlists and listen to it until the sunshine comes back.

All of this is to explain that today’s Love Thursday post is in video form, and also to express my gratefulness that even the first half of the video makes me smile now instead of making my stomach hurt. Always a bonus. I’m hoping it can bring a smile or two to anyone else who needs one today.

So now, without further ado:

Happy Love Thursday everyone, and special virtual hugs go out to Jenny and Mir. Things will get better. You are loved by so many.

Categories: Birthdays, Christmas, Family, Friends, kids, Life, Love, Love Thursday, Marriage, Music | 4 Comments

Good Days, Bad Days

‘Tis the season when mail-order catalogues start overflowing mailboxes; at our house they progress from a trickle to a deluge between mid-September and Christmas Day. Luke and I were talking the other day about how the universal message of every magazine ad, tv commercial and catalogue seems to be, “this is the toy/gadget/car/pair of jeans/piece of jewelry/whatever that will bring joy and meaning to your life!” Luke asked why that was, and I told him that it was because their target audience of modern-day consumers tend to lead such stressful, unfulfilled lives that they’ll grab at almost anything that promises to make them feel happy and successful. “That’s a big part of why there are so many maxed-out credit cards in America these days,” I said, “and why nearly everyone worries about not having enough money no matter high their income is.”

Luke shook his head. “I don’t get it. If people are so unhappy, why don’t they just start loving each other instead of buying a bunch of stupid stuff they can’t afford?”

If Luke had lived in fairytale days, he totally would have been the kid who pointed out that the Emperor was, in fact, not wearing any clothes. How I love my boy.

That conversation was on Monday. Yesterday was not so idyllic; Luke fussed and whined about not getting “enough” computer playtime between homework time and storytime. The argument escalated, Elizabeth joined in, and it all ended with me taking away their afterschool computer privileges completely for the next week and then sending them both to bed (at 7:30).

Part of me really misses the simplicity of not having a computer at all, and wonders if I made a mistake in getting it fixed. Another part of me worries that I’m being unfair and overly strict. I don’t want to treat them as if they were toddlers, but I don’t particularly enjoy being yelled at either. On the other hand, I don’t want them to feel like they aren’t allowed to express their feelings to me, negative or otherwise…

It’s a freaking tightrope, this parenting thing. Luke’s words come back to me: “If people are so unhappy, why don’t they just start loving each other?” Truly words to live by, but I don’t always know the best way to love my children. It’s a fine line between discipline and tyranny sometimes, and an even finer line between understanding and overindulgence. I get that my kids are still just kids and that it’s my job to be the responsible role model. Most of the time I’m very happy and comfortable in that position. Sometimes I really wish that at some point I could have had a healthy, responsible parental role model in my own life so I could know what it’s supposed to look like. I wish all of my old friends didn’t live in other towns and/or states; there are times when I feel like I’d give almost anything just to spend a few hours hanging out among my own kind.

Our family ratio of good days to bad days is very high in favor of the good days, thank goodness, and I really think that leaving the computer off while the kids are home and awake this week will restore balance. It’s a temporary solution though, and the decision of whether or not to make it permanent isn’t an easy one. I mean, children have thrived for thousands of years without any computer time at all, right? But now here we are in the 21st Century and times have, to put it mildly, changed, and maybe Luke really is entitled to play endless rounds of “Puke the Pirate” and “Castle Calamity.” And surely Elizabeth’s creativity and talent are being fostered when she’s Photoshopping pictures of Espio into our Disneyland pics to make it look like he was there with us, while playing the Leekspin song on an infinite loop in the background?

Btw, don’t click on that Leekspin link unless you’re prepared to have that tune in your head for the rest of your life. It’s Earwormzilla.

Where was I? Love Thursday, right. Love as the cure for unhappiness.

I believe it, I truly do. And about 85% of the time we are nothing but happy around here. It’s just when I come up against a parenting dilemma that I don’t know how to respond to, and all the logic and reasoning in the world doesn’t point to any particular right answer, and I think to myself, “this, this is why people are supposed to partner up and do this together,” that I start feeling a little sorry for myself. Last night I was positively wallowing in my parental insecurities.

This morning I woke up feeling much better, and so did the kids. Luke was his usual chatty, affectionate self; Elizabeth was her usual quiet-but-friendly self. They talked about the thunderstorm (rain today, hurray!) and told me about the dreams they’d had last night, and there was no trace of any lingering bad feelings over yesterday’s mutual blowup. It was just us again, a family that loves each other and appreciates the value of having each other in our lives.

Luke’s words of wisdom ring truer the longer I think about them. Just love each other; do that and the rest will work itself out.

Happy Love Thursday, everyone. Love someone extra well today.

Categories: Family, frugality, kids, Life, Love, Love Thursday | 2 Comments

Luke’s Belated Birthday Post

Luke hit the Big One-Oh in August. He’d told me way back last winter that for his tenth birthday he wanted to do what we’d done when Elizabeth turned eleven: a two-day trip to Disneyland and California Adventure. I told him that sounded like a grand idea, and when I was working at the Census job I set aside a chunk of cash to cover the expenses, basing my estimate on what we’d spent for Elizabeth’s trip.

A few weeks before his birthday, I started looking into the details and realized that the only SoCal discount the resort is offering this year is a 3-day pass. It was a great deal, but even so, the money I’d set aside wasn’t even going to cover the cost of the passes to get in. Never mind the two-night hotel stay, the food, the gas…yarg.

Now, this was a complication, not a catastrophe — except for the fact that my hard drive had just crashed, it was going to cost upwards of $300 for a new one, and if I went ahead with the Disneyland plans there was no telling when I might be able to afford the repairs. Part of me felt like the only reasonable thing to do was to cancel Luke’s birthday trip, or shorten it to a single day at Disneyland. And in fact that probably would have been the “reasonable” course of action.

The funny thing is, I never gave any serious thought to going that route. The kids wanted three days at the parks, I wanted three days at the parks, it wasn’t going to kill us to be computerless for a while, and a kid only goes from single-digits to double-digits once in his life. I bought the 3-day passes.

It was TOTALLY the right choice. Three days is exactly the right amount of time to spend at the Happy Place. We went to Disneyland the first day…

…California Adventure the second day…

…and back to Disneyland on the third day:

It was definitely the highlight of the kids’ year. (I had a blast too, but the highlight of my year was getting new wall siding to replace the tinfoil stuff that used to let in the wind and cold and bugs and stuff. But that’s another post.) I know that from a strictly logical point of view it doesn’t really make sense, on our budget, to spend all the money we spend on these birthday outings. But someday when Luke and Elizabeth have grown up and moved on and they look back at their childhood years, it’s not the home improvements or the size of the savings account that they’re going to remember with a warm glow of nostalgia. It’s these times we spend enjoying each another’s company, sharing our laughter and ourselves with one another. And maybe someday when they have kids of their own, they’ll instinctively know how create a life of true joy and love and laughter for their own families, instead of buying into the world’s relentless message that More Stuff is the key to happiness.

Happy Love Thursday, everyone. May your Happy Place always be shared with the ones you love!

Categories: Birthdays, Family, kids, Life, Love, Love Thursday, Travel, Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Love Remembers

It’s been a while since I last wrote a Love Thursday post; I’d say we’re overdue for one.

I was a teenager when I got my first horse. She wasn’t really a “horse” yet, just a wild 13-month-old filly who needed a new home. She came from a show-horse breeding facility whose owners were going through a divorce and had to sell off their stock; they hadn’t even gotten around to giving her a real name. Her mother had died, presumably from foaling complications, when “Little Bit” was only eight days old. As a foal she was bottle-fed, halter-broken, and then put into a small pen and basically went unhandled until a year later when she was given to me. Even in that tiny pen she was too wild to catch, so they had to rope her. It took hours to load her into a trailer, and when she arrived at the stables in Riverside where I worked she was banged up and bloody. At some point during the trip over she had panicked and climbed halfway into the manger. We unloaded her into a stall and left her alone to settle down. It was my nineteenth birthday.

I registered her with a fancy name that referenced her pedigree — “McCoy’s Stormshadow” — but around the stables she was just Stormy. And boy was she ever!

For the first couple of weeks she wanted nothing to do with me or anyone else. After a few days we moved her from the barn stall to an outdoor pipe corral, and she liked that better, but she was as untouchable as ever. Finally we decided that she would have to take the first few bites of every meal from my hands, or not get fed at all. She got really hungry for awhile, but eventually gave in and started coming to me for food. After that things warmed up between us, and within a few months we were best buds.

After standing in pens her whole young life, she craved freedom. I let her run in big circles on a longe line a few times a week, but her favorite thing was when we went for walks together. The stable where I worked and she lived were bordered on one side by the Santa Ana riverbed and on the other by Fairmount Park, so we had plenty of room to wander.

When she was two-and-a-half years old I broke her to ride. By then we were living in Perris, and had lots of dirt roads and fields to run around on. It was really the blind leading the blind, since I barely new how to ride myself, and all Stormy wanted to do was run like the wind. I fell off, often, so we learned to stick to plowed fields for the most part. She couldn’t run as fast in the deep soft soil, and my landings were softer too. Whenever I fell she would immediately hit the brakes, turn around and trot back to me. I would climb back on and off we’d go again at full speed.

I could fill pages with all the adventures we had together. I was 22 when we moved up to Anza, and she was four. We wandered far and wide, exploring mountains and canyons and roads and long stretches of the Pacific Crest Trail. She always wanted to run, always…until we headed back toward her corral. Then she’d start dragging her feet. She loved freedom, and hated being penned up.

When Steve and I moved in together at Bailey Ranch, I was 26 and Stormy was eight. That was a turning point in our relationship. For the first time in her life she was moved into a big pasture with all the grass she could eat, acres and acres to run around in, and another horse for equine company. She spent the first couple of weeks just running. Up the pasture, down the pasture, day after day. It was Stormy Heaven. It worked out well for both of us, since I was busy with caretaking stuff and then baby stuff and didn’t get to ride as much as I used to. When I did saddle her up, I noticed that she didn’t have quite the same enthusiasm for it as she used to. We were still close, of course, but she didn’t NEED me anymore for food or freedom or companionship. It made a difference. But she was so much happier, and I was so busy with my own things, that I didn’t mind so much the way our bond was loosening.

Stormy will turn 23 years old next month. She is Elizabeth’s mount now, and I have Mahogany, though we seldom go riding these days. Against all genetic probability, neither of my kids are all that much into horses. Stormy likes it that way. She’s in a different pasture now, but there’s still plenty of room for her to kick up a gallop when she feels like it, and other horses to talk to. She likes retirement.

Last night I was feeding the horses and I stopped to stroke Stormy. She pinned her ears back and shifted out of reach. When I followed her she snapped at me.

I knew part of that was feeding-time aggressiveness, but the truth is that my friend has grown old and cranky. I wondered wistfully if she remembered our glory days together at all.

This morning dawned sunny and mild, so after the horses had eaten their breakfast I caught Stormy and brought her out to groom her. Her winter coat was thick and woolly and caked with mud, and her mane and tail were snarled messes, but I set to work with rubber curries and stiff brushes and a tail comb, and she closed her eyes and seemed to enjoy the attention. It took me over an hour, and she looked as woolly as ever when it was all done, but I felt like we were back on friendlier terms again. I hopped on her back for the first time in literally years, and we spent a few quiet minutes riding around the property. I didn’t bother with a saddle or even a bridle, I just used her old halter. We didn’t need that stuff anyway; she was tuned to me and I was tuned to her. We communicated through body language and telepathy, just like the old days when we were young and only needed each other to be content. Back when I was her freedom and she was mine.

Last night I wondered, but I shouldn’t have. Deep down where love lives, Stormy remembers.

Happy Love Thursday, everyone. May the ties that bind last a lifetime.

Categories: Animals, Family, Friends, Horses, Life, Love, Love Thursday, Winter | 4 Comments

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