Author: Stephanie

Be a voice for those with prisoner tongues

“Be a voice for those with prisoner tongues.”

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This phrase from Halsey’s breathtaking poem at the Women’s March keeps ringing in my ears. Be a voice for those with prisoner tongues. What a sentence. What a call to action. It’s not a new one, by any stretch, which makes it all the more aching.

I’ve been thinking on what it means to be a white woman in America right now, because we are at a crossroads in this country and women who look like me need to get it together. We white girls are raised with a kind of Stockholm Syndrome, I have been a prisoner of it my whole life.  But mine is a gilded cage. My chains are societal norms, cultural conditioning, and generations old misogyny, indoctrinated and internalized.  What I specifically needed to break out of my prison was knowledge and the confidence and belief that I could.

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Mine are not physical constrainments. Jails and schools are set up to kneecap white girls but not destroy them. It is not this way for others in this country. It is simply not. It’s far past time for us to recognize facts, let go of our defensives and shame over this and deal with it.

I can do nothing about the past. Today I can do something about. It costs me nothing to acknowledge the wrongs of the past and yes, even the part my ancestors may have played in that. (Full disclosure my family arrived in 1631 and settled North. As of now I don’t know if any of my ancestors owned slaves, but we sure didn’t treat Native Americans all that well) I cannot change that. What I can do is honor the sacrifice others made. I can loudly amplify and validate voices crying that systemic racism is real. I lose nothing by doing so. This country was, and still is built on the backs on black and brown people. This is the truth and if my saying it upsets you more than it happening, well then…well, I am gonna keep saying it until the actual events are more upsetting than the words.

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So now I personally have reached the point where I have realized I could walk about of my prison on my own (And not all white women can, but I could…and whatever we go through women of color have that plus a million more obstacles) Like Dorothy, I had the power all along. I just wasn’t aware of it. I feel a frustrated empathy for white women who aren’t there yet. Who don’t know yet. We are wasting precious time.

I am learning every day more and more and one thing I know I must learn more.

As white women we are taught to be gentle, decorative and to feel blessed that any good fortune comes our way, especially a good man. Thankful for scraps. I am done with scraps, I want a full course meal and I want EVERYONE to have a full course meal. And it starts with making sure everyone has access to all the same opportunities. What we do with those opportunities is up to us. I have squandered many a one myself. But I had them. So many don’t.

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So many have prisoner tongues. Prisoner souls. Prisoner bodies. I found my voice, and I am always testing it out, getting it right more often than not, sometimes saying it wrong. Always willing to learn more.

I will be a voice for those with prisoner tongues. Both publicly and in person one on one.

If someone had done that for me when I was a girl, if just one person had spoken up, if one person had…what might the world have looked like for me? What might it look like for a girl who has all the same problems I had plus those girls of color are born into? We can change this. We must realize that those with prisoner tongues are not less than.

Like anything else, the first step is admitting it is a problem.  It is.

Cecile Richards said “I’ve been privileged to be a troublemaker my whole life, I was raised by a troublemaker…..as Rep John Lewis said, good trouble, I hope. ”

There it is. She had the privilege to be a troublemaker. So many do not have the privilege to speak up, to speak out. She does. And I am claiming mine. I have the privilege to do so, I won’t waste it.

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I want to be a troublemaker and I want to raise trouble makers. Good troublemakers.

 

(Some of my favorite pictures I took at the 2018 DC Women’s March. )

So, let’s talk about those pink “Pussy” hats.

 

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I was recently told “Not good enough. Dig deeper” on a Facebook thread about the infamous Pussy hats. Immediately I felt confused,  defensive, and upset. But then I really thought about it. Sometime  our privilege can blind us to seeing farther than our own noses. I had stated that the hats were great last year, pink was for planned parenthood and has been the default color for girl for ages…but things take a life of their own and  while it was empowering to be in a sea of women of all skin colors (though admittedly a touch heavy on the white chicks side) But I will be wearing something else this year.  And then I snidely remarked that if anyone  thought that hat was a true representation of a vagina…well, I don’t even know.

It was a FB comment, short and not containing all I wanted to say. I thought perhaps my message was clear but it wasn’t. So I spent an hour reading op-eds and articles about the start of the pink hat movement and now. The tone has really changed.

Everything happened fast and furious and the pink hats were something that could be shared on line. They were quick and easy to mail, a way to show our upset and unity against Trump.  They made a powerful visual. A sea of pink so deep and wide we couldn’t even actually march because there were too many of us to move!

A year has passed, and while our wounds (well, mine anyway) are re-opened every day by some new fresh hell of a program being cut, or an abuser gas-lighting a nation and his ilk feeling emboldened to bring blatant racism out into the open, some things HAVE changed. One of those things is the meaning and value of the pink hat. Many people don’t feel that the pink hat is inclusive to them.  Women means ALL women. Of all colors. Of all orientations. Cis or trans. Many of them are saying these hats do not represent them. And while we may argue “it’s just a hat!” and “that’s not what we meant!” is the pink pussy hat really a hill to die on?

I sure don’t think so. The pussy hat is safely in my closet with all my other memorabilia from the march and from seeing Hillary, I’ve put it away for my daughter. Maybe she will think it’s a cool show and tell. Maybe she will roll her eyes and think I am ridiculous for saving every little thing, including but not limited to a gold press on tattoo of a uterus. I think fondly on that day, packed like sardines surrounded by a million women and more than a few men, protesting. Sometimes I look back on that moment when I feel alone and need to recharge.

This year we march again, all of us, arm in arm as we watch our democracy slip dangerously into banana republic territory and I want to make it clear I am with all women of all colors, shapes, sizes, orientations, cis or trans. I AM WITH HER.

To do this we must accept that there was racism in feminism. While white women fought for rights, women of color watched their children, cleaned houses and were not allowed to fight alongside them. and in fact were quite vocally excluded from benefits white women were hoping to reap. We cannot go back in time and fix that, it’s past. But there is much we can do now, and an easy one is listen and put away the hat. What does it cost us, as white women, what do we lose as white women to acknowledge the past and work to make our current movement inter-sectional? We lose nothing and we gain everything.  We are, ahem, stronger together.

FEMINISM MUST BE INTER-SECTIONAL OR IT IS NOT FEMINISM AT ALL.

That means so much more than a pink hat. So let go of what the hat meant last year, honor it. It really meant something to me, then but it served it’s purpose.  The resistance, the people are what matters, are what create change. Not a hat. So I will be there in DC marching, and I won’t be wearing a pink pussy hat. I ordered a Mueller Time hat. I hope it comes in time.

For many of us the Women’s March was our first protest, and it was amazing. It was inspiring and inspirational, but the pink pussy hats aren’t like the best souvenir from the best concert we ever went to. Women are in peril in this country. Starting with marginalized women. It is on us who occupy the center to pull focus to them. If they are saying loudly “these hats don’t represent us and in fact make us feel excluded” it costs me NOTHING to say. No hat, got it. I don’t take it personally, I just take off the hat and double down on plans to be vocal in my support of women and their causes. All women.

The real question is does our love for a pink hat supersede our love for our fellow women?

There is only one correct answer to that. No.

Then grab a blue wave hat, or a rainbow hat, or an RBG or whatever you want, and meet me on January 20th.

Cause we have work to do.

 

 

2017 was the year I became Fucking Furious.

2017 was the year I became fucking furious.

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I am Fucking Furious. And I left all my fucks to give about it in 2016 when defeat was snatched from the jaws of victory and we unleashed a serial sex abuser, liar, and all around evil maniac on the world at large. I’d like to say I got angry right away but it took a good long while from the time I tucked my daughter into bed telling her the world would be different in the morning and the morning when I woke her up and it sure as hell was, just not as we had hoped.

 

And I am Fucking Furious.

 

In every way, so far, my day to day life has not been practically affected. No one has come for me, my children, my friends or -and this is my son’s biggest fear- no one has come to cart away his friends. My home life is the same. I shop at the mostly same stores, I do the same things. But every day, though this hasn’t yet landed on my shore, I fight. I call. I resist. I speak out. I am petty AF and tag Susan Sarandon on twitter with “I AM SO ENERGIZED!” when one year olds are separated from their parents by ICE, when a young man adopted as a baby is sent back to a country he has never known, ripped from his family here in America and promptly commits suicide. Super energizing, right?

I know it’s not enough.

 

I am Fucking Furious at the media who still insists on publishing “Who knew it would be this bad?” op eds. WE KNEW. EVERY HILLARY VOTER KNEW. WE FUCKING KNEW AND WE TOLD YOU.

 

I am Fucking Furious that a candidate who got the second highest popular vote win margin all while fighting misinformation, lies, conspiracies and OMG HER EMAILS, is still labeled a ‘flawed candidate.” All candidates are flawed. Human beings are flawed. But even if she didn’t get to shatter that glass ceiling (adjusts tinfoil Hillbot hat and whispers “I bet she did win and it will come out eventually”) she is still not given her due. I am furious  that sexism and misogyny played such a significant role, and that fact is denied in countless ways even as male reporter after male reporter is fired for sexual harassment or abuse…including more than 10 who helped shaped the negative narrative around our first female major party nominee and popular vote winner, ignoring her policy and plans opting to shame her for emails, interrupting her at every turn all while lobbing softballs at a man who brags about grabbing women by the pussy.

 

I am Fucking Furious.

 

2017 was the first time I finally understood the urge to scream “NOT ALL….” because white women elected Trump. Finally, I understood the desire to not be in that group. Because, I worked my ass off to make sure that very thing wouldn’t happen and it wasn’t enough. I am Fucking Furious at white women for so many things. And I’m unbearably rage shaking at the way we raise girls in this country. Because I know all too well that being raised a white girl is to be raised with Stockholm syndrome, identifying with our captors, feeling grateful for scrap. Because there are large areas of this country where information is still controlled and filtered and so many women don’t even know the damage of internalized misogyny. I am Fucking Furious about that. How do we fight that?

I am Fucking Furious that Time named #MeToo the Person of the Year and didn’t have the founder of that movement Tarana Burke front and center on the cover. It’s not that fucking hard, Time.

I am Fucking Furious that making a statement like “Nazis are bad” or “White Supremacy is wrong” are controversial. They should be the baseline of existence. I am fucking furious that Black Lives Matter is compared to terrorist organizations when truly it’s more like Mother’s Against Drunk Driving. Black lives DO matter, and it needs to be said loudly and often because right now in this country black bodies are piling up at an alarming rate due to police violence, and how to we all take a breath, step back and fix this? I am Fucking FURIOUS that a Baltimore officer stepped up to speak truth about this and hey! What do you know…he was murdered before he could.

I am Fucking Furious at purists who set us back decades because progress is slow. I am speechless at what is happening in Puerto Rico and how our news cycle is a veritable Jackson Pollack of disasters and lies. I am Fucking Furious that LGBQT people are being ushered back to the sidelines while “very good people” march with tiki torches.

This year I read the quote “They didn’t burn witches to silence the ones they burned. They burned them to silence the ones who watch.” That hit me. The collective ‘they’ has been trying to burn me since I was 14 and yet here i am. Like Hillary Clinton, I won’t burn. I don’t burn. You can call me names and send me threats on twitter. That’s just like every other Tuesday if you’re a woman.

 

I am Fucking Furious, and 2018 better look the fuck out. Cause I am not the only Furious Woman.

A Life Of Yes

22089035_10154741332530876_2540192492880392141_nShe looked over her trashy magazine at me and said “I don’t want to say I’m pissed you haven’t written anything; but I’m pissed you haven’t written anything.” A few moments later she slapped my thigh, asked if I knew how to swim and challenged me to a cannonball contest. It was a hot July day in what I had declared “The Summer of Yes” and after two summers at the pool together, she has  to ask if I know how to swim. Clearly the previous summers had been a little less yes and a lot more that water is cold and I don’t like to get my hair wet.

 

She whooped me in that cannonball contest. But it was so fun. And the kids, especially my kids were absolutely delighted I was in the water. I got in the water every single pool day after that. Every single day.

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SUMMER OF YES, DULLI! She would scream at me, long after the summer had ended, whenever I hesitated, second guessed myself or was scared. Summer of YES.

 

Kristen Gorman was True North. If she said something was messed up, it was messed up. If she deemed something good, it was good. Her moral compass was impeccable, yet she was loving, forgiving, her negative judgments were not handed out easily, but she had no time for toxic people. She did, however, have infinite time for those growing and learning, whether they were 6 or 60. But man, she called it like she saw it, and she was always right.

 

I don’t remember meeting her. I remember her telling us how she saw Max at age 3 at the ELF school picnic and thought “that looks just like a guy I went to high school with! And there he is…” One of the luckiest events in my life was that Max and Riley were placed in the same class.

 

You cannot think of Kristen without thinking of family. Above everything, Kristen loved her family. Not only are they fiercely loyal to one another but they have the incredible ability to extend their family at will. We all want in on that Riley action, because there is almost no where else in this world you can feel as a part of something great, something GOOD. They opened their home, their table, their hearts to me and mine, Kristen had claimed me and so without a moments hesitation, Bill, Bridget, Shannon, Jackie and Pat let me in.

 

When we had a house fire Kristen was there the next morning with cupcakes for the kids and a fountain Diet Coke for me. There is nothing like a fountain Diet coke.

When my daughter was born she was there that evening, with steak tacos and champagne. Popping the cork work my tiny newborn baby and scared her. Kristen joked she would always be traumatized by her auntie KG.

 

Kristen had an innate ability and an endless energy to BE THERE whenever she was needed. Weakness of any kind was not her thing. Accepting help and letting us comfort her, to have us be the ones to show up with cupcakes or tacos was hard for her.

 

Wisely, Kristen told me she had cancer in a public setting. Whispered over the fire pit in her parent’s driveway. Shannon nearby, came over to help explain. As always, Kristen was positive. I laughed as they cracked jokes, because she said she didn’t want me to fall apart, though even if she hadn’t said that, I wouldn’t have in front of her. Her job at this time was not to take care of me. I shook it off, there were kids who needed hamburgers and can they PLEASE have a sprite? Miss Jackie said they could! I also solemnly swore I would not google Thymic Cancer.

None of us believed I would keep that promise and I did not. I did however promise myself that I would be the friend who brought the funny. That’s kind of my specialty. “are you going to make me shave my head?” I asked, as she said she was out-shedding her dog, Dyson. “I mean, I will. In a heartbeat, but I have to tell you, you will rock the bald head. You’ve got the noggin for it. I’m going to look like that woman from Total Recall.” She laughed and told me I could keep my hair. But I would have shaved it in a heartbeat. I would now if I could have her back. I have no regrets. I talked with her about how hard it was to have others in pain over her health. I was able to give her perspective on how powerless we all feel. How could the inimitable Kristen Gorman be sick? Neither our brains or hearts could understand. She vowed to let people help. But as many times as I tried to bring her milkshakes post chemo or come visit she would always say the same thing “I’m coming to you, Dulli, while I can!” She meant before chemo really knocked her down and surgery sidelined her for a while. A week or two, she said. She was walking down that aisle, for Shannon’s wedding.

It was incredibly important to her that her cancer not overshadow Shannon’s day. No cancer talk at the shower, she insisted. No cancer talk at the wedding.

 

That’s a promise I can keep.

 

My last text to her before her surgery was that I loved her. I did. I do. I always will. It never occurred to me we wouldn’t be texting one another ridiculous gifs (or just beaming them from our brains, whatever it ends up being) when we were 90.

I was going to being her a Fountain Diet Coke as soon as she could have visitors. We held our breath all day during her surgery, only breathing when we got the text that she was out, most was gone, but radiation would do it. I think all of us, channeling KG thought,  let’s do this. But cancer had other plans.

“where is your book? I’m waiting for your book?” she nudged past my fears, yet again.

 

They always say those who go early have too much life in them. Kristen was full of life. And life was joyful. Kristen is my third friend to be gone too early due to cancer. And like both Carrie and Susan, she was full of life. Full of joy. The world is a darker place for the wont of Kristen Gorman.

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Her last text to me was that we have a life of yes to get too. I can’t believe I have to do it without her, but I cannot think of anything I could do more to honor her life is live a life of yes. To pick up the mantel. To be there when others need me, without being asked. To spread joy. To nudge others past their fears. To stand up for what is right, but to make room for those who want to learn and grow. Maybe even learn excel, she loved a good spreadsheet.

 

 

To live a life of yes.

I read the news today, oh boy.

This is a terrorist act. Photo By Ryan Kelly, Daily Progress
I realized about twenty minutes into our time at the playground, surrounded by children’s laughter, that mine were the only white kids there. There was no value attached to this observation, the day was mild and sunny, not too hot, not too cool, just right for a bunch of kids to climb and scream and swing and slide. Oh yeah, there was a zip line too. The reason we were there. Maybe that’s privilege for you, not immediately assessing the racial breakdown of any situation.

My oldest spun around and around with three brand new friends, boys about his age, their faces a blur of smiles and giggles, while one just slightly older and taller pushed them on the tire swing.  They took turns spinning each other so fast I had to look away before I felt dizzy with both feet firmly on the ground. Their laughter and screams of delight louder every go around. My six year old worked hard standing on tip-toes with another boy exactly his height as they struggled together to be just big enough to truly do the zip line. My baby girl, made a beeline directly for two girls, probably 7 or so. She always wants to be where the big girls are. I worried she was cramping their style as she is only three and they were clearly playing a game together, but when I tried to distract her so they could play alone they already knew her name and said it was okay, she was cute. They wanted her with them, and I sat on a wooden climbing apparatus and smiled as they adapted their game and helped her go up and down the slide for twenty minutes straight.

 

I looked around at the 25 or so kids and felt the oddest mix of wanting to cry and yet feeling hopeful. The kids, man. The kids are alright. They didn’t care one bit who was black and who was white. It’s the adults who are messed up.  They were the same age and at the same place and within moments had learned who liked baseball or basketball. Teen Titans Go or Loud House. Nats or Orioles. The important things. They ran and played until everyone was tired and thirsty.

 

As I left one of the women with them complimented my daughter’s hair and mine. “Exactly the same”, she smiled and I made her laugh when I said “I just told the salon to make mine match!” and while we laughed we told one another to have a wonderful day.

 

Last night I watched in disbelief as men carried Tiki Torches, perhaps gotten on clearance at Walmart or Pier One, through Charlottesville, VA. They surrounded a Church. They screamed horrible words at people there to pray for peace. For love.

 

Things kids just know.

Denis Leary’s voice rang in my ears. “Hate is taught. You know what my three year old hates? Naps. End of story.”

Today I cried as I watched white men in khakis, white polos and MAGA hats, arms extended proudly proclaiming “Heil Trump!” I watched them wave Confederate Flags, Nazi Flags, I watched someone purposefully drive a car directly into those there to say no, White Supremacists, we don’t want that here. I watch them in their tactical gear, some in bike helmets and elbow guards, perhaps hoping there will be a roller blade race later, screaming they want their country back.

 

But it’s never been ours, we stole it.

 

I see pictures of black officers being taunted and their deaths called for, and still they stand and protect these monster’s right to free speech. A man on instagram with the username CumRefugee calls me a slut. I’m at a loss. I get a message on FB asking me to “calm down”. I reply, you are free to look away. Perhaps also, look at why you want me to calm down.

The President of the United States speaks and blames both sides. He has a literal Nazi and a White Supremacist in his staff. How much longer can we pretend this isn’t the game plan? I hate him.

The news breaks there is a fatality. Is this death the first official life lost in our new Civil War? I tell my husband if they come to Maryland I will be there, and I know he worries. But I want my kids to see me standing up for what is right.

 

I won’t calm down. I won’t quiet down. People are dying. There is a young man with locs wearing a yoke and chains and it takes my breath away, moments later I cannot help but laugh as I see two middle aged white guys carrying wooden shields attempt to fight and fall upon one another in a pratfall that would have made The Three Stooges proud.

 

I don’t have an answer, how to get to these Nazis and Klansmen, for the media can vacillate on naming them all they want, we know. How to show them a fundamental belief system they’ve been taught is faulty and is causing death. How to show them love is better.

 

But I won’t be quiet. And if you need me, I’ll be driving out the darkness with the light I will find at the playground.

 

Because kids, man, they get it.

Max’s Birthday Letter (late)

18447674_10154288921985876_7315162523581789159_nDearest Max,

How are you nine? Nine is, so grown. I remember nine. Nine is big kid problems and more complex schoolwork. Nine is an official pitcher on your baseball team. Nine is…not little.

I am struggling with it. You are not. I am constantly amazed at your growth. You are aware of your anxiety and your struggles, but you take them in such stride. I worry constantly about you in social situations but it is needless. You take off at the pool for the deep end making friends, playing Sharks and Minnows for hours.  When there is a joint activity you THRIVE.  I truly believe you are the bravest kid, courage is being scared and doing it anyway and sometimes that is an all day activity for you. But at the pool, on the baseball field? No fear. All skill and fun. There is nothing greater than that.

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You continue to be a kind hearted kid. It’s one of the things I treasure most about you. You take kindness seriously. This last year you dealt with a bully, and he got to you quite a bit in your heart. It was hard, and one day after a particularly bad encounter you sat in the backseat of the van and we talked about it and you said “He must really be having a hard time to be so mean”. I agreed. Surely he was. He was in pain, you thought. I nodded, both heartbroken that my sweet boy was having a hard time and lifted that even at this age you understood that others can act out due to their own pain. It’s not right and it’s not fair but it is human, and you got that.  You take our motto “You are not going to like everyone, everyone is not always going to like you. But we must always be kind.” seriously.  I appreciate that about you and work to protect it.

This year you  started to thrive academically, we were able to figure out  some of how your magnificent brain works, and your amazing school got you set up with people to help you achieve all you can. You are a math whiz. You seem surprised at your own smarts sometimes. I always joke that you are a Super Secret Amazing Reader and your test scores showed that this year.  You have a speech disfluency, due to anxiety, and now you are getting help with that, I knew that this added to your not wanting to read aloud in class or in front of others. But you own it now and it is amazing. At the Author’s Tea this year you proudly read your work and when you got stuck you simply looked up and said “sometimes I stutter.” No big deal, sometimes you stutter. Sometimes you don’t. Joe Biden stuttered too. Didn’t hold him back, won’t hold you back. No sir.

Growing up is hard and sometimes you get angry, I know it’s hard sometimes to control your temper and we fight about this, but we are a team and we have your back.

Your art is just…incredible. I love to see how you create and draw. How you see things. You and your brother and sister can draw all day and none of you have ever had any use for coloring books or the like. Plain paper, thank you.

You continue to be obsessed with Five Nights at Freddy’s. I hate it, you love it. You love it because, well, it’s a THING, and also because it is scary but doesn’t scare you. Anything that empowers you, I am for. And while I do not care for it I do care for the creativity it has inspired in you. You create cardboard puppets with articulated jaws and draw endless variations on the characters working on each one’s facial expressions and perspectives. I am constantly amazed with the art you put out. I hope you never stop creating.

You continue to love music but are much more interested in sports right now. The Beatles have taken a backseat to basketball. Baseball is still your first love and you want to play football but mama won’t let you. Sorry. I gotta protect that beautiful noggin and that glorious brain! We compromised on flag football. So we are both happy. 20479453_10154539299725876_2245592579082296432_n

You are still my homebody, you would stay home all the time if I let you. You are THE GREATEST big brother ever, your patience with Piper knows no bounds and while you and Huck are getting to a place where you fight sometimes, you love him so much. You sometimes still crawl into my lap for a snuggle and I stop everything for our cuddles and talks.  It’s hard to believe we are halfway to 18 and college. It’s been a blink of an eye and honestly, even the hard moments, have been full of joy.

You are the very heart of our family. I cannot wait to see what this year brings as you continue to spread your wings. You KNOW yourself, and sometimes, okay often, I just need to back off and trust you.

I love you so much Max. Happy Birthday.

I feel bad about my tankini.

me back in the day. I thought I was fat.

me back in the day. I thought I was fat.

 

 

 

I bought a tankini. I mean, I see them everywhere and they look cute on other women, comfy, easy to use the loo in at the pool and of course, they give great coverage to those of us who have, shall we say, some extra padding about the middle and are self conscious about the bum? Yes, let’s go with that. I’m padded.

I bought a tankini.

And the moment I put it on I felt bad about it. For some reason to me, the tankini felt like I had tossed in the last towel. Like, that’s it. I’m no longer a woman. I’m a MOM.

It felt shitty.

Suddenly, and without warning it hit me; this is it. I am a middle aged suburban mom. And that moniker, that thought, was diminutive. Disheartening. I am so much more, aren’t I? Is everything that made me special gone? Is this it? Is the tankini a woman Invisibility Cloak?

Because, of course I love being a mom, not just a mom but their mom. It’s the greatest experience and even when I’m exhausted and they’re cranky it’s still rad. It’s just that everything is different, including- especially my body.

I also love my mom-bod. After years of abuse it somehow managed to build three totally rad, bad ass, cool small people that I not only love more than anything in the world, I like. So I love this bod. 35 pounds heavier than it was, flabby about the middle, my adorable formerly pieced belly button is now stretched and kind of an outtie thanks to diastasis recti (the gift that keeps on giving…as in giving you comments from strangers asking how far along you are). I love it. I am utterly at home in it; but I am also completely uncomfortable in it.

How do I dress this body? Nothing fits like it did. What’s that saying? I wish I was as fat as I was when I thought I was fat? That. And fat or not, it applies. I used to grab clothes off the rack, not even trying them on and go. I knew what worked and what didn’t.

Now? Not so much. I am far too old for the juniors department, and I’ve no desire to spend a ton of money to look like I’m homeless (I’m looking at you Urban Outfitters). The “women’s” department is too old for me…I am not ready for stretchy pants and resort wear. But JCrew? Loft? Yes. But…I have a three year old. Are shirts that must be ironed, really applicable to my life? This is why Target has the market on moms. I can grab Capri Suns and a sundress. It’s both awesome, and depressing. Am I the girl who can’t even take a half an hour to go to an actual clothing store and find something? Don’t I deserve that?Is that selfish? But then again, that Mossimo top is kinda cute…Then there is the real issue: I don’t look like myself. I don’t like how things look on me. I am out of sorts. Will I ever see a picture of myself again and like it? Am I so vain?

Then the mom-guilt kicks in. Mom guilt is like Miranda Priestly “Millions of girls would KILL for your job” and don’t I know it. So many friends who have lost babies or had trouble getting pregnant, staying pregnant. Do I even have, I don’t know, the right to feel wonky in my own body, now that it’s performed it’s miracles?

What do I want? Other than to get over myself and accept my new awesomely heavier body?

Right now all I want is a cute bathing suit, even a tankini, in a matching pattern, or at least a bottom that isn’t black or navy. Apparently it’s cute bikinis but if you want one piece or tankini it’s mostly black, navy, maybe a blue and white pattern.

Bikinis are fun! One pieces…well we might as well put you out to pasture. Maybe I’ll just go ahead and get an old fashioned swim dress.

Because for reals, I feel bad about my tankini.

Piper’s 3rd Birthday Letter

Every year on their birthdays I write my children a letter. This is Piper’s third birthday letter.

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Dearest Piper,

You will hear me say this many times over your lifetime but it seems as if you’ve just been born, but also as if we have never been without you. You, my sweet girl, were what we were missing.

I’m late with this letter because I have really been struggling with it. You are three now, no longer a baby, and I admit it is so bittersweet. There will be no new baby to replace your warm little body in my arms, as there was with your brothers. Our family is complete, I feel no baby fever, my three babies are the perfect ones for me and I feel no loss to not having another. So that makes your leaving this phase behind you even more final. You are the last baby I will ever have, and now? You are no baby.

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You are all girl. You are strong, and willful, and so powerful I am in awe of you. You know your mind, you know what you like and what you don’t. You do not suffer fools easily. In fact, at all. You are all pink, frilly, delicate and sweet…until you need not be. Then you drop the hammer like no ones business. I know that society will want to encourage the sweet, the pink, the frilly,  will want to cultivate the girly, the small and the quiet. So I have vowed to cultivate what is innherrent in you. The baby bad ass that you truly are.

You can play by yourself for hours with your tiny shopkins, or PJ Masks toys. You love a good dollhouse. But your favorite thing in the world is your brothers, and their toys from the horror game Five Nights At Freddy’s. In particular, some weird ugly chicken named Chica. You love Chica. You and Huck play FNAF and you pretend to be Chica. You have Chica plushies (which is nothing but a rad name to make grown ups feel cool owning stuffed animals, but whatever) You and Huck are inseperable, you play together all day and fight as often as you play, but you cannot be away from one another. If you should happen tomake a friend at a park or church, or even our little cousin comes to visit and you play with her, Huck gets so jealous! You are his Pippi! You love it.

We always joke that between the two boys you have it covered. Max dotes on you, gives you his brand new toys the moment they arrive, even if he has waited for them, even if their are chica! He praises you and makes a big deal out of every accomplishment. Absolutely everything you do is perfect in his eyes, and on the off chance that he does get annoyed with your little sister antics, they are short lived and he cant’t wait to snuggle you again.

Huck? Huck started out as brother boot camp, he is rough with you, sometimes too rough, but you go back for more. Huck encourages your toughness, you fight back, and frequently you win. But it’s not all roughhousing, he is your stalwart playfellow. You develop games together, you create and paint together and oh, how you laugh together.  He is still young enough to watch your shows and share your interests. And when the three of you are laughing together, especially when I hear it from the other room, I swear it is the happiest moment of my entire life.

You start school in the fall and you are ready! You know your ABCs though it can be a bit dodgy about the middle, but you smile that smile and we all tell you it was perfect. We are suckers for our Pippi.

You like your hair down, no ponytails but we force you to have one so your hair won’t be in your face. You will only wear pink. You love your pink sparkly jelly shoes. Minnie Mouse, Owlette, and Puppy Dog Pals. Bunny is still your very favorite and you sleep with her every night. You love going to movies and swinging in the red swing. I confess, I don’t swing you enough. You still sleep with me at night, and I will be sad when that ends. You snuggle up close and I can smell your sweet hair and your soft breathing and it just stops me in my tracks that I got a girl.

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We say it all the time, the boys your father and me, we are so glad we got a girl.

You are our girl. And we love you so. You are precious beyond measure to us, and no one better mess with our girl.

Cause you can take care of yourself. (but if you need back up, we got your six)

SIX; Huck’s birthday letter

Every year on their birthday I write my children a letter to mark the year. This is Huck’s sixth birthday letter.

 

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My dearest Huckleberry,

SIX! You were so excited to be six you woke up at 4 am and simply couldn’t get back to sleep.  Six is a real live big kid! I cannot help but smile every time you cross my mind which is often. “I’m six right now!” you said joyfully in the morning and then again on the way to the movie theatre to celebrate with Captain Underpants. It was so pure that we couldn’t help but awe at your comment.

That’s you. Pure joy. Whatever it is, you are all in! And your birthday? Well, you bring the party!

I am not sure there is anything in the world that can instantly transform my mood like your patented Happy Dance. Snoopy has nothing on your happy dance!

In January we had a house fire and you were in the kitchen when it was burning. Of everyone in the family you have had the hardest time with it. You cannot be alone right now, you get very scared, afraid even to go to the bathroom by yourself! I am sorry it took me so long to realize what was going on with you, every beep from the microwave, every noise from the coffee maker, and heartbreakingly when the smoke detector went off at Ma and Bob Bob’s house panics you and my heart hurts that I didn’t instantly understand instead of brushing it off. You tend to shake things off so easily that it took me too long to understand how affected you were by the fire. Ma and I take turns sleeping with you and snuggling you at night until you feel safe. Every day you feel more confident and we will do whatever necessary to ease your fears. There is something extra painful at watching our happy, spirited little man be so scared. Again I am so sorry it took me so long to understand.

No one in the world loves hugs more than you do. You are still the snuggliest, sweetest little man in the land and you are happiest cuddling close to someone. You love CARS and chose to postpone your birthday party for two weeks so you could have a movie party for CARS3. You love to draw and create, sing and be silly, and more than anything you love your brother and sister.

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When Max pays attention to you and you two bond over Five Nights at Freddie’s (which I hate), or he compliments you on a drawing you’ve done, I see you absolutely bloom.  But the real story this year is you and Piper…you and she are best buds, you two cannot be parted from one another right now. You fight and play together all day, and if she tries to talk to someone else or play with someone at the playground or movies you get so jealous, you run up and hug her! It’s really sweet. Listening to you guys laugh and play is absolutely one of my favorite things in the world. You both ask for popsicles in the bath and I know there will be at least 30 minutes of fun for you guys. You make up games and stories and set up rocket ships and beaches all day.

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You rocked Kindergarten this year. You make friends easily and bring home all kinds of fabulous stories about them. Kindergarten has a LOT of crushes this year! You love learning, though reading is frustrating to you. This seems to be getting easier now that you got glasses! And listen, the glasses? Are KILLER. You picked them out yourself and we all just thought you made the greatest choice! I love how you swing them down and hook them over one ear when you need to see close up. It’s so cute and resourceful!

Your favorite color is still orange, you go crazy for Panera, and you still love hats. You ‘dare’ people to do things all the time, that aren’t actually dares. Like “I DARE you to give me dinner”, you no longer say ‘mine’ instead of my, but you do still say ‘childrens’ instead of child. You have the cutest way of phrasing things, you’re basically the cutest thing ever.

You are my best model, you love to post for pictures and ask for more! You are charming, sweet, silly, smart as a whip and you do not do anything halfway.

You bring the party.

And I am so glad you brought it to me.

Happy Birthday my sweet Huckleberry, you are my sparkler! My little firecracker and I am so glad you are my kid!
I love you!!!!

Mommy.

On raising a girl …

 

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A woman whose name I never got and whose face I cannot remember though I can picture exactly where she was seated as the stylist blew out her said said “you will never regret it is you do, but you might if you don’t” The overheard topic was babies. Should I have one, specifically, should I have another baby. I longed for a third baby, just one more. Honestly, it was as if I could feel her little soul floating over my shoulder whispering in my right ear “well, I’m waiting.”

I knew she would be a girl; though I made the nurse on the other side of the line tell me three times. “I have boys” I said repeatedly “Are you sure?” “99.9% sure, Mrs Dulli. These tests are nearly foolproof” I could hear her smile through the phone as I rested my hand on my already swollen belly, at just ten weeks it was hard to believe, and the boys danced around me in the living room. Still, I told her, I wasn’t buying anything until I saw it on the monitor. Seeing is believing. 2 months later there she was, crystal clear on the big screen TV monitor. Perfect, and wiggly, definitely a girl. “BRING ME ALL THE PINK!” I joked to my husband as we left the high risk doctor.”Yeah!” He replied “Let’s Pepto Bismol the whole place!”

Tonight, nearly three, she snuggles in the nook of me and cries a little as she falls asleep. She almost always cries, sounding as if she is in pain, as sleep takes over while I shhhhh and stroke her hair. She frequently wags a finger to the ceiling and says “no, no, no, no!” Sometimes she is so upset that I tell that ceiling to leave my baby alone; she doesn’t like it. Eventually she sighs and grows heavy against me. She smells of apples , her hair softer than silk. Her beloved, ratty Bunny held close as her breathing becomes deeper and deeper. I look up, past the ceiling and beg God to keep her safe. All of them. My three.

But my girl. I know what happens to girls. So especially my girl, I ask God. Protect her. Keep her safe.

And God forgive me for what I will do if someone truly hurts her. If someone does to her what was done to me, to so many of my friends. To so many strangers on the internet who share and support. Varying shades and levels of abuses and traumas. The systemic breakdown of self esteem and self preservation. The undermining of knowing we are right to say no. To fight back. We teach our girls to be small, then we punish them when they are overtaken.

She is now small in stature but not in spirit. She is tough; she has two older brothers who both protect her and put her through boy boot camp. She is all girl, pink and sparkles and ballet; but mess with her and she will neck punch you before you know it. She’s a tiny pink bad-ass. I say past the ceiling to God, I vow that I will not let this be beat out of her. Every day I watch as the world rolls back progress. It is terrifying.

I turn my head, inhaling her sweet scent and kissing her delicate forehead and ask one last time for her protection. And for grace and temperance for myself.