11 February, 2015

Holy wow. I almost missed it.

It is rare for me to read words written by a stranger and be triggered into a flood of emotion and thought.  It happened to me last night.  A friend posted something that had gone viral on the topic of vaccinations.  It's about a baby named Griffin (love that name, by the way) who might have been exposed to measles.  I read it, and I shouldn't have.  It took me to a place I don't like to be.  Spiritual friends would tell me that being uncomfortable doesn't make the space unnecessary.  Screw that.  I have stuff to do, and I don't see "defend my ability to think and make decisions as an adult" on my to-do list today.  Apparently it was written in with invisible ink because here I am, doing exactly that.  The Wii behind me is making the "choose an activity" sound because I had intended on watching another episode of Arrow this morning before the afternoon sneaks up on me.  I even considered folding some laundry while I watch.  But here I am, blogging about a topic I don't want to cover, in response to a woman who I don't know, whose words did something to me.

I have many years of non-vaccinating under my belt.  I've approached the subject in a variety of ways with a myriad of people all coming from different places, different ideals, different opinions on the subject.  I have used all of the tricks to navigate this topic.  I've defended myself, armed with research and information I felt was credible.  I've used the "I don't have to defend myself to you" approach.  I've flat-out lied so that the subject didn't come between me and a friend who felt very strongly for the other side of the issue.  I've changed the subject, made excuses to leave the conversation, sought out only those who felt similarly.  Every trick.  Nothing fricking works.  There is no correct way to be me it seems.  No matter what I do, undies get bunched, whether it be mine or theirs.

I was tired, sleep deprived, attempting to get a few moments of quiet time (it's a constant balance isn't it?  Do I get some sleep or take some time for myself?).  I did something I wish I would stop doing, and clicked on the facebook app on my phone.  I knew not to read the article, but the friend who posted it is someone I respect, so I figured "how bad can it be".  I should have played Panda Pop instead.  I even had 5 shiny new lives!  I knew from others that the topic was a shit storm of controversy.  I felt almost self righteous about it not having touched my life yet.  I thought "hot damn!  Maybe I've finally arrived at a place where people respect me enough to just not go there".  But alas, I clicked the link.

Initially I wanted to shout back at this woman.  How dare she label me, put me so hatefully into this group of people she clearly knows NOTHING about.  She says she doesn't blame the person who brought measles into the office, but then goes on to blame non vaccinating for her struggles.  The liklihood is that the individual in question is vaccinated.  (Actually, it is likely this person has a cold, and the fear and anger that is permeating every pore of our lives right now has driven somebody into super-freak-out mode without thought for the consequences of that panic incitement, but whatever.  We'll talk about real risk later.)  The science this woman so vehemently supports actually states that there is a percentage of folks for whom the vaccine does not work.  I am instantly transported to the time 2 summers ago when my husband brought home Pertussis from his small office of vaccinated adults with vaccinated kids.  The illness turned this house on its head.  We were isolated for MONTHS (7 days, bitch please!  7 days is a blessing to spend with your beautiful baby watching Netflix and eating takeout!), all due to a vaccine that is ineffective and fear from a society that puts way too much faith in the government's ability to keep their best interests at the forefront.  It was my choice to keep us out of society.  I was told by our physician that we should resume normal lives after 10 days, since the gestation period would be LONG past at that point.  I didn't do that because I didn't want to hear it.  I didn't want the fear and the anger to affect my kids, and I didn't want a common cold to set us back even more time.  We canceled a vacation, visits to grandparents, 4 summer camps, sleepovers, trips for snow cones.  We sacrificed, and it sucked.  But nobody was hospitalized, nobody died, and nobody had any long lasting effects.

But I digress...  Her words made me think back to that and want to scream back at her that her week at home with her new baby is a fucking BLESSING if she would just see it that way.  Instead she chose to berate me and the hundreds of thousands of healthy, happy, conscious, intelligent, exhausted, responsible, etc etc individuals who fall into her category of evil.  I almost quit reading.  I couldn't take it.  It was 11pm, I should have been asleep at least an hour before that.  The clock was ticking and now I was irritated, my head going a mile a minute trying to formulate a response that the thousands of people thinking "non vaxers should go die on a deserted island" might actually read.  The misinformation, the flat out fear-mongering lies were just too much.  It would take weeks to make sense of it all, and I'd only just read the first little bit.

I don't know what made me do what I did next, but I did it.  I reopened the link, determined to see this through.  After a night of processing I realize I was hoping this was one of those posts that looks awful, but wraps up nicely.  Some neat life lesson, tied with a pretty bow, meant to get the readers attention and then impart some amazing, thought provoking wisdom.  I kept reading.  And there, in the middle of the spew of hatred and fear, IT was.  Even at midnight, in my heightened emotional state, forcing myself to power through and find the lesson (I'd gotten myself into this, I'd sure as hell get myself out!), I saw the reason for the intensity.  And it all made sense.  There, in the middle, was a tiny paragraph about how, if she could have, this mama would have given her babies all of the vaccines in the world if it would have saved her beautiful daughter.  WHAM.  Now THAT is a reason to be angry, fearful, in a full on panic.  Losing a child and the helplessness that must accompany that event would push any of us, when faced with a startling new fear, over the edge.  And just like that, I forgave her.  I still feel the sting of her words.  I am human, and I am doing the best I can.  But I forgive her for her misplaced rage.

I even sent a message to the friend that posted the link in the first place.  I was hoping she knew her personally (she doesn't).  My instincts (I also have a trauma studies certificate attached to my bachelors degree and have training working with grief and crisis on a hotline level) lead me to believe this mama is in real danger.  Her pain is tangible, and it has nothing to do with measles.  I likened it to a "rain wrapped tornado".  If you are not in the midwest and don't know that term, let me explain.  A rain wrapped tornado is one that is just as potentially deadly as the kind you see in glorious photos taken by crazy storm chasers in the middle of nowhere, except that you can't see it coming.  It's surrounded by vertigo and rain and low clouds and it's invisible, even to trained spotters.  You know it is there when it's on top of you.  This mama's grief over losing her daughter is the tornado.  This measles scare (plus newborn baby hormones and all that goes along with that) is the rain wrapping the real issue up in invisibility.  There were thousands of comments, some clearly from people who know this mama personally.  Based on that limited snapshot I think I have a good chance about being right about this, and this mama is in danger.  Now I wish I knew her.  I hope she has support, counseling, a large circle of people who can help her navigate this pain.

Overall, after not-enough-but-better-than-nothing sleep, 2 cups of coffee and this blog post I feel like I can move on.  I don't feel the need to defend myself against the insanity that is this measles "outbreak".   I don't need to.  I am safe and secure in my choices, grateful for the opportunity to reaffirm that to myself in the face of all of this new drama.  I am confident that measles are the least of my worries.  Maybe in my next post I will just make a list of things that freak me out more than measles (or just about any of the "preventable" illnesses).

27 November, 2014

Thankfulness. Or something like it.

What a year, man.  So thankful for the things we have, but mostly thankful for what's to come, even though it is largely unknown.  I know your feeds and inboxes are filled with this kind of thing so pardon another one, but this year is particularly deep for my family.  The energy of this city (very murky, for those of you who can feel emotion like I can) is challenging.  Wading through to thankfulness is, if I am being honest, difficult.

My mother-in-law is dying, which is not so much the reason for the sadness.  Her imminent death is not a surprise and I am actually looking forward to knowing she is whole and well again.  Her body has failed her, experiencing constant pain.  Her brain is confused, her thoughts jumbled, her memories mixed up.  She would have hated that, were she able to know what she was experiencing.  So death for her is a blessing to me.  I have to be careful who I say that to, but if you know me well, you understand.  No, the real distress is in the way interactions with those who love her have to be.  Blurring my boundaries, set originally to protect myself and my family, has been a real challenge.  It feels uncomfortably selfish to say "we can't do this, not like this".   So I sacrifice myself to accommodate the needs of others, only to regret that decision, resent it, later.  I feel duped, swindled, tricked, unappreciated, misunderstood, alone.  But this was supposed to be about being thankful, so I try to see the lessons learned in these feelings, feel them and move on.

There is much guilt being thrown around.  We should be in Ohio with my family, celebrating, enjoying the company of those who love us, drinking coffee around the pellet stove because my dad thinks 55 degrees is a reasonable temperature to let the house fall to at night :).  In our absence from those interactions I have seen so clearly what is missing in my life.  It was guilt that kept us here this holiday, instead of traveling.  In hindsight, we should have just gone.  Our presence here has done nobody any good, and has created stress where there should be none.  I feel guilt, myself, for not being able to be what the rest of the extended family thinks they need.  We should have given them an easy out, gone out of town.  It would have been best for us all.  But they tried pretending (though I am starting to think they genuinely don't realize that they are not acting on their own needs, but their perceptions of what others think they should need) and WE tried pretending and what a damn mess.  Now we sit, just the 6 of us, eating turkey casserole, eating the pie for breakfast instead of dessert (seriously a new tradition in the making here, thankful for that), and learning.  Always learning.  And wishing.  Always wishing.

I am thankful for the ability to reset those boundaries, as clear in thought, as honest in intent as I can possibly be.  I identify as Pagan and try always to be mindful of my actions because they ripple out like a pebble thrown into a pond.  These family decisions are more reminiscent of a boulder being thrown and thus I am even more concerned with the consequences.  Don't get me wrong, I make plenty of impulsive decisions, feel things and respond emotionally, perhaps nowhere more drastically than in dealings with this family unit.  But I always try to do better next time.  This is taking forever though, and I constantly feel like I am missing something, or not asking for guidance the right way, or  maybe this is just a really, really BIG task for me to accomplish.

I am thankful for the opportunity to hear the messages that say "Go", even though I am not yet sure how to make that happen.  I asked "what should we do", and got an answer, but I made the mistake of saying "but, are you sure, because that sounds hard, no, IMPOSSIBLE".  Ever supportive, but super philosophical husband makes these lessons even more challenging.  He needs details, data, charts and graphs and a PLAN.  Whatever happens, at least he and I will be together to balance each other out.  If it were up to me we'd just load the van and go.  He wants to plan it to the finest detail.  Somewhere in between those 2 extremes is our reality, and for that I am thankful.  We'll find it.

And so, in some weird way I am thankful for the challenges, the family that just doesn't get me, death, guilt, misdirection, straying paths, and the knowledge that I get more time to get this right, especially if right looks wrong to everyone else.  Of course, this is all in addition to the usual thankfulnesses, food on the table, friends and family, etc.  Those things are what I try to be thankful for every day, so perhaps the challenges get a special spot today because they need it.  Much love.

26 November, 2014

Family drama, and how it helped me understand the Ferguson situation

I am so tired of having my feelings dismissed, my needs invalidated, my family put into a position of low priority.  It feels bad to give and give and give, to see what you think is a light, only to find out that the light was actually an out-of-control train.  So far I've managed to step aside, dragging my family with me, at the very last second before the train smashes us to bits, but this week I'm not sure if I have the strength to face another train.  

I am frustrated with myself for putting us back on these tracks.  You see, my mother-in-law is dying.  She's been given a couple of days to live.  It was worth canceling our plans to visit MY family to be able to say our last goodbyes to a woman who, for the final years of her life, chose to let us go.  But then the goodbyes were said and I took a side track.  I thought how nice it was to have family smiling at me, to have cousins to occupy children who are missing those interactions as well.  I sipped margarita and giggled at family jokes and enjoyed not being the center of my child's universe.  Clearly something is missing and it hit me really hard how very large that hole was.  2 days of visits were spent filling that hole.  I got 2 days.  And then the train came around a bend in the track.  I wish you all could share the image in my mind.  It's a slow-motion snapshot of all hell breaking loose.  The expression on my face is surprise mixed with the realization that I might be too late.  The margarita goes flying, salt sprinkling, ice cubes mid air, a wedge of lime floating.  In my panic I am frantically trying to locate the people who mean the most to me, my kids and my husband.  It's an everyone for themselves sort of panic.  I realize a split second later that the train exists only to my family.  The extended family is so used to navigating these oncoming locomotives and pits of emptiness that they hardly notice anymore.  But I, I ran 3 years ago.  I had tucked my guard away and I didn't even see this one coming.  And now I am fighting, absolutely insane with the desire to run like hell.  

Thought detour:  It took me many years to learn just how sensitive I was to the energies of others.  It's taken me even longer to recognize that I need to learn more about this, to learn how to protect myself. I did fairly well as a young woman, wearing charms, centering my thoughts, grounding myself in ritual, supporting myself with herbs and essential oils.  When I had children I let some of the more involved parts of that routine go.  I was busy being mom, and the instinct to protect my babies was strong enough to protect myself as well.  Enter the now 9 year old girl child who is incredibly sensitive.  I did not grow up in a household that knew about this.  I don't remember feeling abnormal or weird as a child, but when I look back I see some of the signs that I didn't come into this as an adult.  Z has been in my world her whole life.  She is so intuitive, sensitive, vulnerable, that my knowledge is far inferior to hers.  The underbelly of this beautiful gift she has is that I can't help her navigate it.  She and I get each other.  She creates altars when she feels overwhelmed, she is fascinated by potions and spells, she writes and draws and the drama (oh the drama!) is just part of who she is.  

Back again to my point:  So as much as all of this affects me, Z feels many many times more sensitively.  So this train, wow, it's a doozie, and it caught me off guard, and I didn't prepare to help her, and I am not even sure how to help myself, and there are 3 other kids and don't forget the most important person in my life, my husband, whose mother is dying before our very eyes.  And then, THEN, the city exploded in a shit-storm (pardon the language, but it is really the best way to describe it) of energy.  So very much of it is negative, or intensely angry, rage and frustration, to the point of blindness to all else.  In hindsight we should have gotten the hell out of dodge.  We knew the Grand Jury decision was going to create some very intense issues.  I should have seen that we weren't going to be able to handle it all together, but my mother-in-law is dying and we didn't have enough time to resolve any of the issues that caused our estrangement, and those issues are worse today than they ever were and it felt important to try.  

So here we are, days (maybe even hours) away from losing the woman who brought my amazing husband into the world, in the heart of a ball of energy the likes of which I could not even imagine before this week. (My brain portrays this as a nuclear explosion contained in a dome.  Dramatic but that's how I see it.)  I recognize that this is deeply affecting our extended family.  They are distraught about losing this woman (their views on death are much different than mine and even my husband's), and feeling the energy of the city (though I do not think they realize it).  But I can't fricking help them.  I am barely keeping myself and my sensitive kiddo coherent.  My husband needs me.  My other kids need me.  DAMMIT I cannot carry them all.  I just can't.  And they are angry at me because of it, though I don't think they realize that either.  They think this is about my brother-in-law and his drug addiction, but it's so not, and I can't even explain it to them because they don't fricking want to hear it.  They think that if I can just let it all go that they will feel better, but I know they won't.  They think they would be ok if I could just fake it convincingly, that they will feel better about mom dying, but they won't.  "I think you're going to regret this in a couple of years" is really "I feel regret that I can't express".  

So Ferguson folks, and those around the world who feel connected to that situation:  My personal struggles have helped me to understand the struggles you are facing.  They're not the same.  I am not saying that we are a cliche, that we are fighting similar battles.  I'm saying that we all struggle, we all feel overwhelmed, we all feel like this time we may not get out of the way in time.  I'm saying that your lives, your feelings, your needs, your wants, and your frustrations are valid.  You don't need me to validate you, but it sure is nice to have that off your shoulders, if only for a moment, to know that you aren't the only one carrying a burden.  You matter.  We all matter.  I know it isn't enough, but it's from the depths of my soul, and right now it is all I can give.

29 September, 2014

The difference between a CLC and an IBCLC.

As a newly certified CLC I am coming up against some unexpected bias against my qualifications and I feel the need to process via blogging.  Hopefully this will reach others who are confused and help them to make the decisions they need to make regarding who to ask for help.  

For those who are totally unfamiliar, a CLC is a Certified Lactation Counselor.  There are also individuals who are IBCLC's, or International Board Certified Lactation Consultant.  To confuse things even more, there are also Lactation Counselors thrown into the mix.  Let's start with them.

Lactation Counselors have sought out and gained training in the area of human lactation through an organization called The Healthy Children's Center for Breastfeeding.  Lactation Counselors attend a 20 hour course that covers the basics of breastfeeding.  There is no test, no certification, no demonstration of skill.  These individuals are the front line in breastfeeding education.  Often they are  labor/delivery nurses, midwives, doulas, postpartum doulas, WIC employees, nurse assistants, LaLeche League leaders, etc.  They are a very important part of the breastfeeding support system and I cannot imagine a world without them.  These individuals are the first ones to support new moms in their breastfeeding journey, and thus often the first ones to spot a potential problem.

Certified Lactation Counselors are part of the same organization as a Lactation Counselor, but with more.  CLC's become certified after attending a 45 hour course, passing an exam, and demonstrating proficiency in practice.  Certification is through the Academy of Lactation Policy and Practice.  "CLC certification means that a person has received training and competency verification in breastfeeding and human lactation support including assessing the latching and feeding process, providing corrective interventions, counseling mothers, understanding and applying knowledge of milk production including in special circumstances and other commonly encountered situations." (http://www.healthychildren.cc/clc.htm)  In a nutshell, CLC's are qualified to help mommies and babies, even if there are some early challenges.  Often CLC's are  labor/delivery nurses, midwives, doulas, postpartum doulas, WIC employees, nurse assistants, LaLeche League leaders, etc. (see a theme?)

International Board Certified Lactation Consultants are certified through the IBLCE (International Board of Lactation Certification Examiners).  Many IBCLC's are, you guessed it, labor/delivery nurses, midwives, doulas, postpartum doulas, WIC employees, nurse assistants, LaLeche League leaders, etc.  IBCLC certification does require some higher education in the sciences.  IBCLC's are also required to attend supervision under another IBCLC.  IBCLC's are also required to pass an exam, but do not have to demonstrate proficiency in their scope.  

At the heart of each of these paths is the desire to help mamas and babies to do the work they were designed to do, breastfeed.  In all 3 disciplines evidence based practice is essential and each are expected to follow the code of ethics presented by their governing organization.  Being an IBCLC is not an implication of more experience, greater knowledge, or larger scope of practice.  

I was part of a social network group related to tongue and lip ties in babies.  I left that group after a few days when the general consensus was that CLC's were not good enough to provide support, suggestions for corrective intervention, or counseling.  This is personally disheartening, but more important, this is a dangerous myth to perpetuate.  Mothers in some communities may have only a small smattering of experts to consult if they are facing challenges.  Just like with teachers, doctors, lawyers, counselors or any other professional, not all are created equal.  The alphabet soup after a person's name should only be a guide, not seen as an absolute testament to skill and ability.  A CLC with 10 years of experience might be better equipped to solve a challenging problem than an IBCLC just coming out of supervision.  The letters mean almost nothing (a tough pill to swallow since I am so proud of my CLC achievement!).  

Here's the real kicker:  ALL of these professionals (LC, CLC, IBCLC) ARE MORE QUALIFIED TO ASSIST WITH BREASTFEEDING CHALLENGES THAN YOUR PEDIATRICIAN, MD, ENT, PEDIATRIC DENTIST.  I will let that soak in for a few minutes.  Even LC's, with their basic education in breastfeeding, are MORE QUALIFIED than your DOCTOR, to provide education, support, correction, referral to new moms who are facing nursing challenges.  

To me, this is so very important to explain to new moms.  If you are having challenges, find a professional with professional level knowledge and skills of breastfeeding.  If you don't like the person you consult with first, ask another one, and another one after that if you need to. We all bring different experiences, expertiese, knowledge, skills to our profession.  

27 June, 2014

How many ways?

It seems like my life revolves around taking a stand, drawing a line in the sand, choosing a side, us -vs- them.  I don't like it.  I can't have a comment, an opinion, a bit of information to pass along, genuine concern, advice (even solicited) about anything without finding myself in conflict.  I don't like it.  Did I mention that already?

Maybe I'm just getting old (ha!).  Or maybe it's just a sign of the times (now I sound old!).  It's an age where each one of us is swirling in an individual sea of definitions and stances.  I can't think of one thing I feel passionate about that isn't controversial and it is exhausting.  It's passion-killing, really.  Somebody on the other side of the thought is willing to be more passionate than I am, which just makes me recoil in frustration, and in the interest of protection.

Breastfeeding.  Boom.  Instant conflict, even though I am an educator and really just want to help the women who WANT help.  You want to bottle feed, breastfeeding is gross, and you didn't make any milk.  Whatever.  Good for you for feeding your baby.  If you want information or assistance, I'm your girl (or not, I know other girls, too, if you don't like me).  If not, that's cool too.

Gay marriage.  Boom.  Instant conflict.  Yay for those who are in love and want the world to know it! Why is that a controversial statement?  Because somebody who is more passionate than I am wants it to be.

Non-vaccinating.  Boom.  Instant conflict.  You are free to make your own decisions.  You asked me why I don't.  I told you.  Why must I defend myself?  I shouldn't need to (and you don't either, by the way, vax away my friend, I truly do not care!).

Homeschooling.  Boom.  Instant conflict.  You're free to make whatever schooling choices you wish to make, as am I.  I don't sit up worrying at night about all of the kids in public school.  That would be the job of the parents.  I worry a crap-ton about my own.  I'm happy to share our experiences, if you ask.  Why is that an invitation to argue?

Religion.  BOOM.  Instant conflict.  This one is all-encompasing because ANYTHING can be turned to a religious argument.  A.  NY.  THING.  What really throws me on this one is that many folks KNOW ME.  They know I am Pagan, that I am not Christian, that I do not, generally, agree with the way they conduct business.  This is particularly frustrating because not agreeing doesn't mean I give a flip how you live your life.  I really do NOT care, 99% of the time.  Seriously.  I don't.  Go to church 3 times a day, stand on a corner with a bible, whatever floats your boat.  Just afford me the same courtesy, please.  I don't mean to single out Christians, either.  It's just that I've never been challenged on my beliefs by a person of Jewish faith.  Or Buddhist.  Or Hindu.  Or any of the other who-knows-how-many religions that are out there.  I live in the bible belt, so I get the Christian perspective thrown at me A LOT.  Sorry.  And in Pagan circles, it's just as bad as the conflict between Christians who believe X and Christians who believe Y.  There is no truth, people.  There is only belief, and each of us is entitled to such things.

Healthy Eating.  Boom.  Instant conflict.  Seriously.  If I buy vegetables people seem to think I'm judging them for buying candy.  I'm not.  I probably bought candy yesterday, forgetting I also needed carrots.  We choose not to drink soda (it is expensive, these kids can blow through it super fast, and with no value other than the experience on special occasions).  Our son cannot have nitrates or nitrites.  No idea if it really makes a health difference, but he did his own research and decided he'd like to try it as a means of controlling his ADD symptoms.  Our desire to bring our own hot dogs to your cookout isn't an affront to you, I promise.  Next up, artificial colors.  That one is a doozy, and one that likely WILL make a difference for us all, but wow is that a pain in the arse to put into place.  Hello doubling the grocery bill.  Kraft Mac and Cheese (a super health food, ranks right up there with veggies, doesn't it?) is CHEAP, yo.  The "all natural" alternative costs 3x more.  And it doesn't taste good.  This is one area I get crap from both sides.  I'm buying corn.  My health nut acquaintance says "but is it GMO corn?" and... Boom.  Conflict.  All I did was buy corn.  Jeez.  This is why I buy candy.

Politics.  BOOM.  Instant conflict.  See "religion" above.  Seriously, does it all have to be a political debate?  It really doesn't.  I truly don't know enough about any one issue to argue it effectively.  I'm lazy and tired and busy and have a quadrillion other things to worry about.  Politics, whatever your definition, isn't on my list, with very, VERY rare exceptions.  If I support a cause (or appear to support a cause), it is because I feel something in my very personal being that propels me to a show of support.  It's personal.  I recognize that you likely have a similar reaction, except that I feel like many folks do not have any personal thought or belief driving their reactions.  There tend to be a lot of knee-jerk, regurgitation of others' thoughts kinds of arguments started with me, and that'll shut me down quicker than anything.  You really cannot argue with that.  These folks have an answer for anything, and there is no limit to the absurdity.  I'd prefer not to even go there.

I could continue on and on, but these are the conflicts I've encountered TODAY, already.  It's not even "mid morning" and here I am, swirling in conflict.  WTF?  I blame social media, and this is causing me to seriously reconsider my attachment to technology, except that I use it every day to make my life better, so balance is the key.  Apparently life has just shifted too far into the conflict side.  With that in mind I'll go douse myself in "protection" and "grounding" oils from my favorite "alternative" store Herbs and Arts (on Colfax in Denver, CO), and get myself ready to go to work with breastfeeding moms who need me.

Peace and love my friends.  If you take anything away from this blog post (other than "wow, she's a nutter"), let it be that we could all afford to be a little more gentle with each other (and ourselves) in our interactions.  I'll do if you will ;).

02 September, 2013

Stormy Seas

I seem to be a woman of many cliche's lately.  I think my brain is just so overloaded and sluggish and tired that I need people to get me, like now, instead of having to explain stuff.  Enter the cliche's, lol.  So that stormy sea, tropical island analogy I spoke about it my last blog post is turning out to be eerily appropriate.  We did spend a tiny bit of time on the island we last landed on, but it was small and without enough good resources so we were chased off of it quickly.  It wasn't until we were in the middle of a deep and treacherous part of our lives (home remodeling, :shudder:) that the storm hit.  I wish I could say I didn't see this storm coming, but I had a glimpse of it so I was somewhat prepared.

Months ago I had this horrid thought that our decision to take our children out of what we feel is an unhealthy and dysfunctional environment might be met with a drastic effort to force us to maintain contact.  I did some googling and contacted a few friends who have legal experience in an effort to find out who, besides my husband and myself, might have some kind of legal claim to my children.  I discovered that, at least in Missouri, nobody does.  I breathed a sigh of relief.

Last week my husband got a text-via-email from a particular family member who should be pretty desparate to see my kids right about now.  Unfortunately this desperation doesn't seem to be driving anyone to actually fix anything, but I digress.  He got a text/email stating that I had told somebody something that was TOTALLY untrue, followed by a statement indicating that a lawyer had been contacted.  It seemed random and our first response was "uh, ok???", but then it dawned on me.  This person was insinuating that they were going to try to use the family courts to force us to allow our children to visit.  I cannot even tell you the speed and force with which 1000 emotions went through me.  There was a bit of sadness that this seemed like a good idea to people who claim to love us, followed by anger that they are being controlled so thoroughly, and every single imaginable emotion in between.  Fear was in there as well, but I quickly recovered from that and pulled the links that I had tagged months ago back up for reassurance.

In Missouri (Dear family member, read this and save your money.  Or better yet, use it to get counseling.) there are very, VERY strict guidelines to dictate when somebody other than a parent has legal rights over a child.  In this particular case hubby and I would have to be divorced and I would have to be keeping the kids from his family out of spite.  There also might be a case if hubby were dead  and, again, I was keeping the kids out of spite.  Another scenario dictates that if my children had lived full time with this other family member for most of the last 24 months, then there also may be a case.

Unfortunately for our misguided loved-one, having the desire to openly communicate would be much more effective, and cheaper, than threatening lawsuits.  Sadly, there has been a whole year to do so and we seem to be stuck in this cycle of tumultuous seas, followed by our family finding peace on our tropical islands while the rest of the family churns the water with speculation and misinformation and a general desire to continue to reside in dysfunction rather than work a little bit at healthy resolution.

06 August, 2013

What can I say? I've got a lot on my mind.

It seems like I'm only blogging when I have something to say that I can't post on Facebook.  I really wish I could change that attitude.  I find a catharsis to writing and I think I do well at it.  Maybe people would even read if I posted often.  Anyhoo, there is this little nagging issue that keeps popping up in my life and I find myself, once again, struggling to let it go.  A good old-fashioned blog post may be just the trick.  I love talking, even if it is just to myself.  I am a bit of an emotional mess sometimes, particularly when it comes to this issue, so I am even more inclined to talk it out.  Again.  For the 3rd time.  Since midnight.

Long story short, my husband has family that has made some questionable choices about his life in recent history.  The aftermath of these choices is vast.  My immediate family is estranged from this side of the extended family, and the estrangement encompasses more and more people as time goes on.  This is unfortunate and often surprising.  People who I thought were in agreement with us have now jumped ship, and others who I assumed would stand on the OTHER side of the line in the sand are actually standing here with us.  It's not really about who is on what side though, as long as my better half and I are next to each other, nothing else is really important.  But it is interesting to note who landed where.  I think like a social worker, so this is interesting to me :shrug:.  The "main event" happened over a year ago, although the dysfunction in this family was occurring long before I was in the picture.

When the big bang was occurring we spent a considerable amount of energy and emotion figuring out where we landed.  It was a bit of a complicated mess and it took some time to sort out which emotion went where.  Some emotions were acknowledged and then summarily dismissed, others stuck around to simmer for a bit.  Still others keep popping back up.  In case you were wondering, cutting ties with an extensive family is maddening, satisfying, painful, time consuming, emotionally exhausting, and a number of other descriptors too numerous to list.  It feels like, after a year of navigating this uncharted water, that we should be at another shore.  Instead I am realizing we have just been landing on a series of stable islands only to be launched back to sea again.  As long as I can see that we are making progress I guess that will have to do.

Last night we were launched back to sea after feeling quite content on our little island for months.  My oldest brother in law, who fancies himself as the family's voice of reason, the success story, had a bad accident.  His life isn't threatened and he is home recovering so I don't have to feel guilty about talking about this.  I can only assume he is on some seriously good pain medication that has stripped him of the filters he normally hides behind.  I say those words with great intent because I feel he does, indeed, HIDE behind his mask of civility.  I have said since the beginning that if this family would just REACT, any genuine reaction would do, then this whole mess would have been over in a month or 2.  Of everyone involved, I had the only reaction I feel was genuine.  The old "if we all just stuff our emotional baggage we can go back to 'normal' sooner" ideal is very much at work with this family, and my ability and willingness, lack of shame, in expressing my emotions definitely influenced events.  So when my husband texted his brother to say something along the lines of "get well soon", the response was, shall we say, uncharacteristic.  I haven't seen the texts myself but there was an interaction that prompted my husband to call me from work, where we proceeded to rehash and reassess all of our decisions to this point.

In a nutshell, we are the bad guys.  Our decision to remove ourselves from this family were unjustified. Our emotional reactions were inappropriate.  The information we based our decisions on was fabricated.  We have torn this family apart.  On and on, ad nauseum.  Nothing new here.  It was clear that my brother-in-law had recently spent time with key members from this side of the family because the arguments they use to support their misguided opinion of our decisions is based on fiction created by those few key players.  Normally, he at least pretends to be making an effort to be neutral and caring.  These text messages were downright aggressive, and it was interesting to see the switch (social work brain, remember?).  In one conversation they can both assert that we have been wrong all along, and admit that we are right, and still somehow manage to blame us for the confusion.  An example:  This whole mess started with our belief that one person was engaging in illegal behavior, possibly with our kids nearby, definitely with other kids nearby.  The family insists that this is not possible.  Except that I only knew about it because they told me.  So last night, after a string of "you are all evil" kinds of messages to my husband, my brother in law says "He's doing really well, and there doesn't seem to be any indication that he'll fall off the wagon again".  Does anyone else see the contradiction here?  Aside from the fact that my minor in psychology taught me enough about drug addiction and codependency to know that codependent folks don't make good assessors of how well somebody is doing with addiction,  it should be easy for any outsider to see how illogical this argument method is.  You accuse me of being wrong, admit that I am right, and then expect ME to apologize for your inability to admit that the problem is not on my side of the line.  I told my husband "this is way above my pay grade".  I am interested in how this is all shaking out, but I have absolutely no idea who would be qualified enough to make sense of this mess.  Of course, professional help is out of the question because I am the only one who will admit there is a problem, so around we go.

The end result of all of this was a 2-hour long, regularly interrupted, re-hashing that we must go through periodically until the end of time.  Did we do the right thing?  Could we have done more?  Have the negative effects of this decision caused irreparable damage to our kids?  What have been the unforeseen consequences?  Can we live with this decision?  Last time we took stock of the situation it took a few days.  I am obviously still working this all out, but I don't feel the anxiety I felt last time.  I count that as a victory.  Our children are safe.  All of the work I did to become a social worker (still lots to go but progress is progress) is safe.  Our family has identified benefits to removing ourselves from the situation, and the negatives have been overcome with surprising ease.  We are happy.  We navigated months of Whooping Cough (another post, lol) without a shred of "family" helping us out.  We go to work and school and on vacation and care for each other.  The laundry and the dishes are sometimes done, the animals get fed, the world turns.  We COULD have reacted differently, kept emotions to ourselves, changed how we worded things or how we reacted, but the end is still the end.  We may have had a slow burn instead of a flash bang, but there is still an explosion.

I can already see the shore of our next stable island.  I think it's a small island though because eventually my pain-medicated brother-in-law will read his messages with a clear head.  I cannot guess how that follow-up conversation will play out, I just know it will eventually get to us.  Until then, I'm digging my toes in the sand and pouring myself an island fru-fru drink ;).