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A Time for Renewal

24 May

In the past month, as Spring has come to the land again, we’ve been out and about celebrating with friends and family.

I attended my first Seder dinner, which might have been my single most moving religious experience yet. A new friend couple who live in Inman Park had us over for their first time hosting Seder at their house.

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It was a beautiful dinner with great friends.

The next day we drove up to Chattanooga to celebrate Easter with my in-laws. The rituals of Christianity are always interesting to witness.

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And it’s a great excuse to dress up to celebrate the rebirth of earth (well, in this hemisphere)!

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A couple weeks later we went to A Perfect Circle concert. Finally. It was my first time seeing this band live, although I’ve seen Tool seven (nine?) times and Puscifer three times. All three bands are led by Maynard James Keenan: vocalist, poet, musician, and guru. Seeing him perform is usually like “church” for me.

He started his show with giant black and white shadows of the band, then turned the primary colors to red and yellow (the first colors we supposedly see as infants after black and white), and then spent most of the rest of the show in purple light, which I imagine as a very complex and enlightened color.

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Keep it coming, world! This is fun!

 

Trumpcare, Obamacare, Whatever

5 May

It’s all the same mess to me. As a health care consumer (do I consume health care?), I am thoroughly disgruntled by the entire scam.

I am a relatively healthy person, and so is my family, thank goodness. Yet what we pay for health care and insurance is outrageous. Dealing with fertility testing, treatment, pregnancy, and birth recently just solidified my feelings regarding the health care industry in this country.

One thing I will never understand is why there are not menus at doctor’s offices where you can see, upfront, how much a procedure will cost. When hit two years ago with a surprise $1,200 bill for a test that included saline water, a plastic syringe, 30 minutes of my doctor’s time, and my fallopian tubes (not fun), the billing department literally could not even explain the charges to me. But I owed it to them anyway.

When I gave birth, the hospital charged me $3,000 just to use a “private” doctor (whom they almost failed to get into the room before my baby was born). They charged me $1,000 for cold packs I never even touched. I spent less than three hours in the labor and delivery room and a day and a half practically being tortured with inedible food, constant wakeups, and needle pricks in my recovery room, only to be charged around $13,000 for the whole shebang. I shudder to think what the cost would be if I had used any anesthesia.

The question I wonder is, am I truly paying solely for my care? Or is this some kind of crowdfunding?

We need to be a cash system. There needs to be transparency and competition between doctor’s price points — and the ability to negotiate cash costs with your doctor. We should have catastrophic coverage only (which would include long-term illnesses no matter how old you are). We need to be encouraged to save the premiums we are charged every month, building up equity for any problems that should arise. We should be able to keep someone on our plan no matter who they are or how old they are, as long as we’re willing to pay for them.

My guess is that our income is high compared to much of the country (and low compared to others — hello middle class!), and I find health care costs to be overwhelming. It didn’t get better for us during Obamacare, and I don’t see any change in the future with Trumpcare. I can only hope I’m wrong and that someone in power will see the light.

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Marriages Aren’t Easy: The Fable of the Incense Burner

10 Sep

But if you’re lucky — and you work hard, yada yada yada — they’re good anyway.

The weekend of July 4th we got in a huge fight. It was one of the more difficult times in our marriage, with me being so sick and blaming David (I don’t get mad during labor, I get mad during first trimester!), David working all day and then going to work on the new house every night, us living with various parents and a 3 year old, all our stuff in boxes scattered around the house, and suddenly switching from battling 2-year infertility to dealing with medical bills and un-Godly nausea… Let’s just say it all came to a head that holiday weekend. Why is it that vacations are often good times to get sick or in a fight?

While we weren’t speaking to each other, and we had just moved back in to the house for the second time, I went to buy incense to try to get rid of the horrible, poisonous smell of the house that apparently no one else could smell (thank you first trimester). I came back home and mentioned to Dave that I didn’t have any way to burn it, and without comment he then went and made an incense burner for me.

This is how I know I married a good man.

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I had no idea what he was sawing in the basement — I rarely force myself to go down there because it is very messy and dirty — prepping that 1,700 sq ft space for habitation will certainly be another fun, multi-weekend project! The loud noise made me curious (obviously), but I was patient (which is unlike me). He then came upstairs with a piece of wood with a hole cut at just the right angle and a groove for all the ash. It was hard not to feel loved, even if the fight wasn’t resolved yet.

Walter loves burning incense too since that’s one of the many fun things he learned to do at his Nini’s house. He also made me a burner later with this play-doh-like toy he has. Like father, like son, and I’m glad about that!

One Planet, One Experiment

21 Aug

I just finished a remarkably good book, Bill Bryson’s A Short History of Nearly Everything. It is a book that is going to stick with me a long time and continually keep me thinking. It changed my world-view. There was so much provocative information that he shared that I’m sure I will need to read it several more times.

The book seemingly got more intriguing and expansive the smaller he focused, when he was talking about living cells and how crazy lucky it is to be “alive,” and how reckless humans are in taking care of what we are surrounded with (including ourselves, which he didn’t talk about but my mind immediately went there). His last page really hit home.

“I mention all this to make the point that if you were designing an organism to look after life in our lonely cosmos, to monitor where it is going and keep a record of where it has been, you wouldn’t choose human beings for the job.

But here’s an extremely salient point: we have been chosen, by fate or Providence or whatever you wish to call it. As far as we can tell, we are the best there is. We may be all there is. It’s an unnerving thought that we may be the living universe’s supreme achievement and its worst nightmare simultaneously.

Because we are so remarkably careless about looking after things, both when alive and when not, we have no idea – really none at all – about how many things have died off permanently, or may soon, or may never, and what role we have played in any part of the process….

The fact is, we don’t know [about extinction figures]. Don’t have any idea. We don’t know when we started doing many of the things we’ve done. We don’t know what we are doing right now or how our present actions will affect the future. What we do know is that there is only one planet to do it on, and only one species of being capable of making a considered difference. Edward O. Wilson expressed it with unimprovable brevity in The Diversity of Life: ‘One planet, one experiment.’

If this book has a lesson, it is that we are awfully lucky to be here – and by ‘we’ I mean every living thing. To attain any kind of life in this universe of ours appears to be quite an achievement. As humans we are doubly lucky, of course: We enjoy not only the privilege of existence but also the singular ability to appreciate it and even, in a multitude of ways, to make it better: It is a talent we have only barely begun to grasp.

We have arrived at this position of eminence in a stunningly short time. Behaviorally modern human beings – that is, people who can speak and make art and organize complex activities – have existed for only about 0.0001 percent of Earth’s history. But surviving for even that little while has required a nearly endless string of good fortune.

We really are at the beginning of it all. The trick, of course, is to make sure we never find the end. And that, almost certainly, will require a good deal more than lucky breaks” (477-8).

The book reinforced my theory of humans being just another “germ” on planet earth, just easier to see than, say, the invisible bacteria that exists in multitudes everywhere (which Bryson does talk about). The question is, are we going to be a cognizant, helpful type of invasion, or will the earth eventually kill us off in favor of other species?

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Thinking about Brexit, and Happy Independence Day, btw

4 Jul

Because I’ve deleted all news apps from my phone, have no cable, and rarely search out the news, I had no idea what was going in Britain until my Facebook newsfeed popped up with all sorts of Brexit and I can’t believe the vote passed memes.

What I find interesting as I reflect upon the anniversary of our Independence Day, is how many of my FB friends were against Brexit.

They want their independence, y’all. Their freedom!

Isn’t that what we want most here in the United States after all? What we fought a war over?

And here the EU and GB get to part ways (for whatever their reasons) without the bloodshed of war, and y’all decry their right to do that? There is talk of overturning the vote, that somehow it didn’t count? Well guess what, that is democracy. And when you take away the power of the vote, things get tricky and usually pretty bad.

It’s reasonable to be scared of change (folks who regret their “Leave” vote and Americans worried about the economic impact), but there are people much older than you, who want change, who are sick of being told by other countries what to do with their land and money.

The world has enough strife. Let’s accept and support our brothers and sisters in their quest for Independence, just like we celebrate and support ours every year.

Cheers, folks, and don’t get blown up by fireworks today.

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Photo taken from Atlanta History Center’s FB page. Photograph ca. 1955

Not Everyone is a Fertile Myrtle

17 Jun

Sometimes we’re just Moaning Myrtles.

I fluctuate moment by moment on whether it is a blessing or curse that there is no baby #2 yet. Walter himself, who screams and cries all the time when I hold every friend’s new baby, said to me recently, completely unprompted, “I want a little brother or sister.” And what am I supposed to say to that?

This month I swore we would stop “trying.” But since I’ve started charting, I can see things on paper that are happening inside my body. I thought for sure this was the month. I was calm. I was silently excited. And then, broken inside, yet again. What can I do but wait, month after month, trying every piece of advice, trying not to care, trying too hard, not trying enough… It is overwhelming in its solitude. I don’t want to talk too much about it, but I don’t want to be silent either. I want to enjoy life and enjoy what I do have.

I have changed, though. I am sensitive to other mothers-to-be, and that’s not like me, or how I really feel. I like to be especially supportive of pregnant women and new mothers, as that is my passion. But when I hear a friend complain about something related to pregnancy, it makes me want to scream. Seeing a pregnant belly either makes me envious or want to cry. But this isn’t about other people. It is not a comparison. Other people aren’t more lucky than I am, and I am not more lucky than other people. That’s not the point.

Whatever is, is meant to be. It will lead me to where I am meant to be in the future too. Maybe I still will get my four babies (oh please not all at once!). If anything, it has made me appreciate even more the crazy miracle that is procreation. I have loved Walter since the moment I knew he was coming — since the moment I knew I was ready for him to come! — and yet this has still made me love him more. I don’t want to spend my life wanting something else. I want him to know that he is more than enough for me, whether he ever has any siblings or not, though I know he will make an excellent older brother. Once he gets over letting me hold another child of course!

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I am so beyond thankful for this one it is unbelievable.

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My handsome boy with his handsome haircut.

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But I like the hippie hair too! Too hot for these Atlanta summers!

I watched Labor Day while on vacation, and Kate Winslet brought to life the struggle so many women have with fertility — though I don’t want to fall apart so completely like she did. It seems everything I read or watch lately reminds me that it’s not easy for everyone to have lots of babies. I almost think it would be better to never get pregnant again than have miscarriage after miscarriage or a stillbirth. But women live through that. We live through a lot. Those who have large families get judged for having lots of babies. Women with one child (or none) get nagged to have more. Though part of me does want to ask if they wanted more and couldn’t have them. I love hearing everyone’s stories. There are billions of them out there.

And mine is just one more to add to the collection.

The Show

16 Apr

A couple weeks ago I decided last minute to go to the Hozier concert at Variety Playhouse in Little Five Points, which is a $7 Uber ride from our house. I asked Dave if he wouldn’t mind watching Walt and looked on Stub Hub. It felt good to be a little wild. Reminded me of what I was like in ’08, working and going out (to a lot of concerts) and, to be honest, the sense of freedom I’ve missed since I became a mom.

In 2008 I opened up my world. I wasn’t afraid to go somewhere by myself, whether it be around Atlanta or on a trip out of state. I knew I could count on myself to have a good time. I’d find the good time, or at least bring it with me.

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Dave convinced me to get there early enough to see the opening act — Variety Playhouse always starts their shows on time! — and I’m sure glad he did. George Ezra was playing, and he was phenomenal. For thirty minutes I was about 20 feet from him, and the music and show enveloped me.

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One of the really cool things in this place is the giant fan on the ceiling. It’s a really, really big fan.

I used intermission to buy a beer and a t-shirt, which I actually ended up exchanging during the Hozier show, because they stunk. They stood there on stage like soulless singers, unmoving, no visible emotion, and with no stage show either. The lead singer didn’t speak for the first four songs, and when he did, he was insulting to the audience, pointing out how badly they/we smelled. Um, thanks? So glad we paid to see you live?

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I sat in the balcony for a bit, sipping my beer, and texting Dave. Then I hung out with the merchandise guy who was much more entertaining than the band. I was honestly surprised, because their music is so awesome and the video to their hit “Take Me to Church” is pretty incredible too. But, the last minute price tag was totally worth it just to see Ezra. I would absolutely do it again.

It was great to be able to count on Uber to make this night happen in a safe way, even though I didn’t get drunk, but the door to door service is good. Especially since a couple guys got murdered in Little Five Points a few days later. It was in the middle of the night though, not 9pm like when I left the show.

I’m going to keep it up. Just because I’m a married mom doesn’t mean that “life is over as I know it”, am I right, ladies?

The Truth

9 Apr

This is what it is like living in Southeast Atlanta in the year 2015:

I am a 30 year old female who is married, white, and has a young child. My family and I are in constant fear of crime. Well, not Walter, since he is 2 and fears nothing.

Dave and I don’t like sleeping on the main floor where the “master” bedroom is, and walking the dog at night always brings a little bit of what was that? and is he good or bad? when you see someone else on the street. I usually don’t fear women, only men, of all varieties. Especially the scrawny, drug-addict looking ones.

Our next door neighbor got robbed at gunpoint in her driveway at 9:15pm on Halloween (thank god we have a garage. I don’t always shut the door right away but I know where I can quickly grab a machete). The usual small stuff happens like mailbox and front porch thieves, car break-ins, the occasional home or business break in, and the weekly gunfire from Trestletree section 8 housing.

I love our neighborhood, but I am tired of living in “the ghetto” where there are more pawn shops and tattoo parlors than Home Goods and Whole Foods. I’ve recently decided, however, that I want to commit to this neighborhood, my neighborhood, where every day I meet more people that I like, and I know enough people that I frequently run in to friends at the grocery store. I want to connect with everyone.

I want to put South Woodland Hills on the map, at least for an Atlanta neighborhood. I want to start a newspaper. I want to volunteer at schools and churches in our district. I want to farm on some land nearby and ride bikes around town and show my son that an urban neighborhood, while filled with more people, does not have to mean more crime.

Any in-town neighborhood is going to have crime, but we have to stop this. We have to make people want to stop being violent and scary and unjust. I am tired of seeing all the green space being developed into low-income apartments (is there no sacred space left these days?). The ghettos and the slums need to go. Not the people in them, however.

We need to focus not on building up other countries but seeing the people in our own country prosper. We need to show everyone that we have respect for them by not subjecting them to poor housing, lack of education, and the burden of being given too much. We need education of all trades, not just your typical college, and universal childcare. The way we treat our children is the key to our future.

Soon enough they will become us. And we will become the old people.

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Saw this on a friend’s fridge and loved it.

The Vote

8 Apr

I recently left my church as an official member. I needed a break from them specifically, but I have also decided that I do not want to be a member of any church. Possibly ever again.

It is hard to be frank about the subject without being offensive, I think, or at least on the verge of hurting someone’s feelings. Religion is a very touchy subject to most people, and with good reason. It talks about the very depth of our souls. The whole scale, from atheism to fundamentalism, relates to the core of humanity.

Are we good people doing bad things?
Or bad people doing good things?

It is the yin and yang of this life, a life lived on a swirling ball of fire and water and really, really good luck — for us. So far, at least.

When I told the pastors I was going to pull myself off the membership roster, and that I was quitting my deacon duties (really, what more could I have done anyway, and they picked really good people this year to be on the board), they told me that the session would have to vote on my release. It was very Giver-esque. Maybe they didn’t use those words, exactly, but they did both mention my “discernment process”.

The past four years have been some of the most moving and instrumental in my life. I am so much happier and evolved than I was at 26. Unmarried. Childless. That was a long time ago.

I said from the very beginning that I loved Morningside Presbyterian Church. I asked people to come with me all the time and sang its glowing praises. It is a beautiful, simple building. It is filled with wonderful people. I love the congregation. The music is uplifting. And the message, one of extreme welcome (Come one, come all!) is great. I liked the scholarly pursuit of the Bible that was spoken about on Sundays. And that at other times we would have fun together in simple fellowship (and usually with a glass of wine!).

When Dave and I joined Morningside, it was still pretty small. There were the older people, the married gays, the older young adults that had already formed their own clique, and established families that had come in through the preschool. We didn’t really fit in anywhere, but we liked it. Everyone was smart and nice and welcoming. We probably became closest to Leslie and Lloyd at that time, and Jack and Jill, both remarkable couples. A new pastor had just started at the church, and we joined during his first New Member Class. We ushered sometimes, attended church every Sunday, and helped Jack organize baseball games.

Then I was the social activities coordinator, Clifton Ministries shepherd, wedding helper, deacon, deacon moderator, part-time photographer, commitment committee volunteer, season of service committee volunteer, communications committee volunteer… All things I like, all things I wanted to do. But when the need is that great for your time, it becomes work. And the problem is, there is great need there. And I want to help, I really do. But personally (I know others feel differently about volunteering their time), I cannot afford, any more, to give my time away like that. Because to be brutally honest, at times, by some people, I felt un-thanked, excluded, and treated with hostility.

The funny thing is, I believe more than ever in God. Or “God,” if that sounds better. It happened while watching Naked and Afraid with Dave one night. I thought to myself, “How on earth could we have gotten where we are today without someone or something helping us???”

I plan on visiting the churches in my neighborhood. I strongly believe that churches should be the foundation of community ministry. Their main purpose should be to help those in need (which can vary from mental health to finding a good repair guy for your house to homelessness). And everyone who lives in the neighborhood should have to pay a subscription for these purposes. And possibly attend meetings so that we are aware of what is going on in our immediate worlds. We are so focused on our smart phones these days that sometimes it is hard to even meet our neighbors. If my husband wasn’t already booked Thursday night then I would go to our town meeting in Grant Park. I’ve been watching Gilmore Girls recently, and their town meetings always look like fun.

There is a lot going on with me right now, but I’m excited about all of it.

The Hour

10 Mar

7:30am is supposed to note the gentle hour as the sun rises. By 8 or 8:30 your day should (or at least could) be in full swing.

But no, DST dictates otherwise for an archaic reason that now seems more like the government exerting time control over hundreds of millions of people. I’m sorry, government, but you can’t dictate when the sun rises, no matter how much you mess with my clocks. And now that we are so technological and interconnected, most of my clocks change for me. Even the cheap plug in alarm clock we have.

But I will find a way to protest this, to boycott. Maybe not this year, since I have a feeling it will involve some kind of preparation to let everyone know that I won’t be following the man’s rules, but look out 2016.

This is just one more small notch on the belt of massive change that needs to happen.

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