Wednesday, April 22, 2015

10 Year Old Man in the Mirror

Today’s Facebook pages were oozing with depressing stories.

A father in Texas, while playing with his AR-15 last weekend, shot his three year old to death.

A video gone viral of a homeless man in Los Angeles, trying to give away money, shined a spotlight on man’s basest vanity, pride and willingness to insult and humiliate strangers.

I was feeling a little icky as the day began, to say the least.

Slightly irritated, mentally piecing together a blog that would call out ugliness, I took a few minutes to clean out some texts. Thank God.

I text myself sometimes (actually pretty often) when I want to freeze frame a statement or an incident. I have a horrid memory; even when I do remember, it typically isn’t accurate (curse of being a double Gemini). As a way to combat this problem, I’ve taken to using technology to capture important moments.

I recommend doing this folks. Freeze frame the best moments, the best random comments, the best feelings. Capture them and use them as sustenance when you need a lift.

Because when you do, this is the type of story you might come across.

I was heading to Target with Brody, our ten year old. He had earned a reward, a $10 item, but what it really meant was that I got the chance to spend some one-on-one time with him. This doesn’t happen often; between schedules and my own flawed distractions, I miss out on far too many opportunities to remain “in the moment” with my youngest.

I started a discussion in the car with him about the Tooth Fairy. He had lost a tooth recently and I was curious about whether or not he had found any money under his pillow (gads, I actually remembered this time). Inevitably, this led to the much feared “do you believe in the Tooth Fairy” question being asked by me.

Seriously. There isn’t a handbook telling you WHEN to ask this question. Somehow, I just felt that it was right. One thing I do trust is a mother’s instinct. Mine is typically on target (ask me next year when our oldest is finishing up her first year of high school; you’ll possibly get a different answer regarding the infallibility of my so-called “instincts”).

He pondered the question, quite intently, and finally said he really wasn’t too sure. In fact, he didn’t necessarily believe in the Tooth Fairy…but he DOES still think maybe Santa Claus exists. And this is where things got real.

Brody then told me that he equates Santa Claus with the “Soul of Hope” in Pandora’s box.

After asking him to repeat himself, because in all honesty I had NO idea what he was talking about, I almost wept upon hearing his response.

He told me that the God Zeus was mad at another God for offering humans the gift of fire. As punishment, he created a box for Pandora. In this box, he placed things like sadness, stress and depression. Because this was before Zeus developed an exceptionally bad temper, he also added something positive to the box. He added hope.

Hence, the “Soul of Hope”.

Now, whether or not that is the academic version of the story is irrelevant. This is the version shared with me by my ten year old.

As for Santa…Brody said he believes Santa Claus is real because he represents hope.

I told him that I thought it was pretty cool that he thinks of Santa as hope. Brody simply shrugged his shoulders and said “it’s because Santa is good and just gives without wanting anything in return.”

He continued, saying “we can pay Santa back by going out into the world and being kind to each other.”

Now, I’m in the moment. I’m thinking about how I can keep this conversation going because, quite frankly, it’s pretty darn awesome. We talk about spirituality on a regular basis and I think he’s transferring; I’m loving that he understands the same messages regarding how to treat our fellow brothers and sisters, but I’ve still got those downer Facebook posts in the back of my mind. So I say to him “that’s true, although sadly many people don’t do this so all we can do is be responsible for ourselves.”

Without missing a beat, as he walked down the aisle in Target, Brody said with the wisdom of the elderly, “yep, be the man in the mirror”.

It was then that I pulled out my phone and started texting myself. I didn’t want to forget this moment.

Technology is a yin and a yang but, right then, it allowed me to record for myself a message from my ten year old; a message I’m going to preserve. Thanks Brody. You are pretty awesome buddy.

Be the man in the mirror.

Postlude: While waiting for Brody to pack up his sparring gear at Tae Kwon Do tonight, the father of another boy whom I’ve never spoken to before approached me. He said “you are Brody’s mother, right?” After I replied in the affirmative, he said “I just wanted to say that he is a really good kid.”

Man in the mirror. Living it.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Your Guns? My Children.

I received a private Facebook message a few weeks ago from the most avid, passionate and outspoken gun enthusiast I know. It contained a link to Kansas HB45, which eliminates the training requirement for conceal and carry permits, with a question: “Are they SERIOUS?”

This friend is an active NRA member. He owns multiple guns and goes to the shooting range weekly. I don’t believe it is a stretch to say he loves his guns deeply and they are his favorite hobby. That being said, he also believes that with gun ownership comes great responsibility. He understands the power they possess.

We had an opportunity to speak in person about HB45 and even though I favor more gun regulations than he does and even though I have no desire to even fire a hand gun much less possess my own we are always able to have thoughtful and open discussions. He is conscientious and as safe as one can be when it comes to hand guns. I grew up in a rural community, went through Hunters’ Safety, and respect the second amendment.

I deeply believe, at the end of the day, that American citizens actually agree on more than we disagree. Unfortunately, politics, money and lobbies typically dictate the dialogue and leave us regular folks out of the discussion. Even when they include us the manipulations and distortions of reality are monstrous.

My friend’s reasons for opposing this bill were sound, pragmatic and left me even more supportive of conceal-carry classes than I had been previously and for additional reasons.

He admitted that when he first signed up for the class he was irritated. A lifelong gun owner, he felt he understood every aspect of gun safety and that the class was just a way to take his money. After completing the course, he was grateful for the requirement.

The class instructor talked about "IT". He talked about when it is appropriate to wield a gun and when it is legal to fire the weapon. More importantly, he discussed when it is imperative to keep your gun holstered. Scenarios most gun owners never consider were presented and the fast and firm lesson was that the gun is for your safety only. In all other situations, stay out of it. The instructor talked clearly about the difference between law enforcement and personal safety; of assumptions versus reality; of impulsive action and unintended consequences.

Yesterday Governor Sam Brownback signed the bill into law.

And now my stomach is in knots.

I am as fearful as many of those who are compelled to carry a gun.

I see random comments on FB from other folks I know saying they went to the shooting range. These comments are posted in the same manner they post selfies when attending a margarita happy hour with girlfriends.

I am fearful.

I woke up last night in a panic, having dreamed that my son spent the night with a friend and was shot dead. In the dream, he had gotten up to use the restroom. In the nightmare, the friend’s mother heard a noise and in a sleep induced fog panicked, got her hand gun out of the small drawer safe, and killed my son thinking he was an intruder.

One of my friends on FB who randomly posted her excitement over having a hand gun now is someone I frankly think of as a dingbat. I would never in a million years have thought she would carry a weapon. She was recently in my home but I had no idea she had entered with a handgun in her massive blinged out purse.

I could cite incident after incident after incident that continually comes across my feed of children dying because of careless adults not securing firearms. There is always an argument from the other side. Always.

In the end, I have one responsibility. That responsibility is to protect my family.

I don’t know you well enough to trust that you are capable of safely securing and interpreting the utmost importance and infinite details related to gun safety.

I have no control over what you do.

I do not have a crystal ball alerting me to future danger when it comes to your weapons.

What I do know is that those weapons are capable of snuffing out the life of my child in the blink of an eye.

So I am giving notice.

If you are not in my tight circle of friends and you invite my children to visit your home or spend the night in your dwelling I will be asking you one important question.

Do you have guns? What kind of guns? How are they secured? What is your level of training?

The litmus test is going to be damn stiff and if your answer is yes to the first question then my answer will more than likely be no. There might be some exceptions but each situation will be considered on individual merit.

If I don’t know you well and you are getting ready to walk into my home then I will also begin asking whether or not you are carrying a handgun on your person. If you are, I most likely will not invite you inside.

You see, if the state of Kansas believes your right to freely walk around with an item that can cause death in the blink of an eye based upon your judgement and your judgement alone, with absolutely no training whatsoever, than I need to protect my kids.

Things have changed. We live in a country where I try not to make eye contact with strangers for fear they might misinterpret my look, get pissed, and shoot me. We live in a nation where I passionately preach to my children the dangers of making eye contact with other drivers on the road for fear they will take offense; if I had a dime for every time I’ve said “stop looking at them, they might have a gun” I would be a wealthy woman.

Bottom line is this: if I don’t know you well then I don’t trust you to use good judgement when it comes to having handguns around my children. Especially with absolutely no training and when you can walk around with one as freely as you do your diet Coke.

Kansas may not require a test but you can damn sure bet I will.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Let's Face It, Women Have Some Nasty Bathroom Habits!

I love women.

I love my friends. I enjoy their insight, their passion, their laughter and their support.

Women are amazing and unless you are one of us and unless you’ve experienced the enlightenment of a close friendship with a woman that resembles that of a mother or sister you cannot possibly understand how valuable such a relationship can be to the long term happiness and mental health stability of us females.

I feel certain I would wither away and shrink without my circle of lady friends.

With that being said, and I mean this in the kindest way, some of us are downright nasty.

I’ve had the horror (I don’t think that is too harsh) of experiencing three different bathroom experiences over the past few weeks that have left me wondering if some of our feminine sisters have lost their mother loving minds.

Some of us are downright disgusting.

Exhibit A: The women’s public restroom at the northwestern end of The Legends outside shopping mall. It needs to be fumigated. As in yesterday. The first thing I noticed upon entering was the stifling smell, reminding me of an elementary school kid who has been playing outside in the heat for a solid four or five hours without bothering to take a restroom break. It was that heavy, moist, crotch-like smell. With my face jammed into it.

Oh stop it, if I had to endure it then you can read about it.

I found myself wondering if any of the women who had been in there ever bother to wash their private parts. I also wondered if they know how to pick up toilet paper because it appeared as if ten litters of kittens had been set free to attack every single toilet paper roll in the bathroom. It was everywhere on the floor. I do believe a person would have to make a concerted decision to teepee a bathroom in order to make such a mess. Come ON ladies.

The smell, however, was most pressing.

Here’s my advice when you find yourself in a bathroom like that; you know, the ones that smell like the stench never quite goes away and just piles on top of itself day after day after day after day.

Use your own shirt as a makeshift gas mask. Remember, though, that strong thigh muscles can help. You don’t want to touch these toilet seats, which means you have to have strong thigh muscles to support yourself while crouching in the defensive basketball stance. This has the added bonus of taking your mind off of the smell.

If you are really lucky, and have a strong sister like my friend Kris-Ann (we mastered this act many years ago while visiting our first co-ed bathroom at a club in NYC; worked beautifully), then you can help each other by joining hands while she helps hold you up, kind of like a balancing act. This, however, could impact the next paragraph’s suggestion because it requires both hands. Life sometimes presents us with difficult choices, I know.

If you are wearing short sleeves or a tank then simply pull the neckline up to a point just over your nose and inhale deeply your own smell. Hopefully you use cologne, lotion or use those yummy smelling Downy Unstoppable scent boosters in your laundry. If you are wearing long sleeves simply hold your forearm under your nose.

In defense of fellow stinky sisters, a bathroom IS the place we are supposed to go for THOSE issues. Which means the stinky bathroom at Legends is the least of the horrors I experienced within a three day span of time.

Exhibit B: The women’s restroom at TJ Max at, again, The Legends (maybe I’m on to something here). These bathroom stalls included feminine product disposal boxes. The box was not full. Someone, mother of God, decided she didn’t want to take the time to wrap her “feminine product” in toilet paper neatly and dispose of it properly. She thought it would be appropriate to leave it lying, sticky side down (dirty side up) on the LID of said disposal box. As an aside, it is a deeply held belief of mine that we are responsible for teaching our daughters proper and clean feminine product disposal practices. My own daughter hated this “talk”, begged me to stop speaking the day we reviewed it, but I sleep better at night knowing this crime will never be committed by my offspring.

Back to the crime - what the hell????

At what point does this seem appropriate? Who thinks other women want to stare down a used maxi pad while in the thigh burning defensive stance position and gasping for air inside the neckline of their shirt?

I have faith in my sister brethren, though, because even though there was a line in this bathroom not a single woman would venture into that stall and every one of us was commenting loudly on how disgusting it was. I feel confident this could be an isolated issue?

Scratch that. After this last exhibit I don’t think anything would surprise me.

Exhibit C: A visit to the women’s restroom in the Amtrak Station in downtown St. Louis resulted in a panic inducing nightmare later that night in which I was being attacked by feces. I’m still not over it.

While waiting to return to KC after a quick two day getaway to St. Louis with my husband, I needed to use the lady’s restroom. Every stall was open so I did what I always do (don’t ask me why - why do any of us practice our unique bathroom habits?); I walked all the way to the end, just before the handicapped stall (I never use those unless it’s the only one available in case someone who needs it comes in while I’m finishing my business – I’m proud of this habit).

What I found there left me scarred for life.

A woman (it IS the women’s restroom after all) appeared to have walked in, turned around, bent over and assaulted the back of the toilet, handle and wall with excrement.

Silence.

Silence.

Silence.

That’s how long it took before I gagged.

Then, out loud and at a fairly high volume, I said something like “holy shit, what happened in here and how the HELL does a person do that? What is WRONG with people? What is wrong with the WORLD? Gag, ack, whew, breathe Marlys, breathe.”

I wanted to run out of that room and never return but we had just finished an eight block walk after consuming multiple beers while watching the NCAA basketball tournament. My eyeballs were floating.

I was faced with a conundrum.

If I went to the furthest stall could it still get me?

I decided to clench and find another bathroom (yes, I know it wasn’t reasonable to think the darkness could creep under the stalls and touch me but at this point I was experiencing a mild form of poo-trauma).

After passing Brian, who looked at me curiously when I held up my hand and tersely said “don’t ask”, I headed down the hall to the other women’s restroom.

It was closed for cleaning.

The situation was becoming dire and I knew, in that moment, that I would have to head back into the women’s feces room from hell.

I pulled the collar up over my nose, quickly walked into the first stall and set a world’s speed record for peeing.

Not taking the time to wash my hands for fear the black plague was streaming towards me (Purell is our friend), I hauled ass out the door only to run into the cleaning woman.

Noticing the panic in my eyes and fear in my face, she asked “what’s wrong honey?”

I decided to give it to her straight.

“Someone shit all over a stall in there. I’m so sorry.”

She didn’t miss a beat, instead coyly asking “It wasn’t you, was it?”

I didn’t even know how to respond to that. Was the question even necessary? Seriously. As if?

Then she laughed and, I swear to God I’m not making this up, said “it’s okay, I see it every day.”

My first thought was “and you come BACK?”

That’s when I decided I needed to write this blog.

If you are a woman and don’t clean yourself, leave soiled feminine products exposed after using a public restroom (or ANY restroom for that matter) or feel it is appropriate to relieve yourself all over the back of a toilet without cleaning it up (I can’t allow myself to imagine how that happens) then please stop it.

You are being chastised. You are being called out. I’m begging you to show some self-respect and, barring that, practice respect for your fellow sisters.

You are giving the rest of us a bad name.

Along with nightmares and poo-PTSD.

Please, I beg of you. Stop it.