Here we are Again

This morning as I felt Baby Girl squirming & kicking in my belly, I fought back tears for the mothers who lost their babies yesterday. 20 children were murdered at Sandy Hook and we did nothing. How many were murdered yesterday? Will we continue to do nothing? Will this, yet another mass shooting at a house of worship, finally be the straw that breaks our back? Will we fight for change?

Or will we continue to bow to the almighty NRA and allow gun manufacturers and sellers to dictate where our children are safe. Which, apparently, is nowhere.

There will be far too many funerals, again.
Thoughts and prayers, again.
Then what? What comes next?

Do we continue to blame mental illness while stripping away healthcare for mental illness? Do we ignore the fact that another AR-15 was used (again). Do we sit back and continue to wonder how a person convicted of domestic violence was able to legally purchase a gun? Do we dissect his life inch by inch looking for a motive or trigger? Or do we finally pull the trigger and realize that we cannot continue to allow single gunmen armed with assault riffles, bullets and the Second Amendment to steal lives?

We’ve been idle and complacent for too long. This cannot continue. We will close borders over a terrorist attack. We build barriers after a pickup runs down bicyclists. We take our shoes off after a lone shoe bombing attempt. We limit cold medicine after a meth epidemic.

But, 377 mass shootings in less than a year and the GOP and NRA hide behind money and the Second Amendment, so we throw our hands up. And mothers continue burying their babies. Husbands say goodbye to wives. Communities lose members. Churches, concerts, movie theaters, schools, malls, Walmarts all become graveyards of our incompetency.

Enough is enough. It’s time to do something. If we fail to act THIS TIME we fail our country and our citizens. We fail our children. We fail. We lose. Is that enough motivation for your ego, Trump? We are losers if we fail to do something to stop this. We cannot and will it continue as a nation if it is acceptable to murder children and families.

By refusing to act, we are saying this is acceptable. It’s that simple. If we do nothing, we, yet again, confirm that no human life matters. We once again put metal and bullets above the sanctity of human life. Is that who we are, America?

The Price of Being Female

You can’t be outraged by Harvey Weinstein and then be totally okay with Donald Trump. Or vice versa. Either you’re pissed or you’re complicit. End of story.

Was that clear enough? I am disgusted by both and I could not care less which party is involved or whose narrative is validated by either man. Both are trolls. Sexual assault and sexual harassment are wrong and it does not matter who committed the acts. Does it suck when it is someone you once admired, yes. Does that change or somehow validate what they did, no.

Being a woman means this nonsense is a part of your every day life – a casual comment, an inappropriate glance or gesture, a hug that lingers uncomfortably long, an unwelcome touch. It happens every freaking day and if we bring it up, we are often told “Oh, I am sure it was nothing.” But, it is not nothing. It is never nothing.

What’s worse is almost every woman I know has a story of unwanted sexual advances, contact, harassment or comments. Most of us have several stories.

One that still haunts me happened early in my professional career that I am still not comfortable talking about in detail or at length. I had been at the job less than a year and was on a two-night trip with one of our vice presidents. It was my opportunity to prove that I was capable of doing my job (something he often questioned due to my appearance, age and gender) and at first I was excited at the opportunity. A co-worker told me “he will try to sleep with you” when I mentioned the trip to him, but I blew it off. I shouldn’t have.

There’s a lot of things I should have known in that situation … I should have recognized the danger in accepting a second drink … I should have heard the undertones in his request that we review the following day’s agenda in his hotel room … I should have run when he bragged about his sexual conquests outside of his marriage … I should have known that his position of power over me would give him the advantage. I should have listened to my friend and kept his warning in the back of my mind. But I didn’t do any of these things because I naively trusted him and was eager to prove that I could keep up and that I was worth my weight in my career. I should have seen through the BS and seen the situation for what it was. But, I didn’t. Instead I found myself in a situation where I felt both threatened and trapped and I blamed myself.

This is a position that so many women find themselves in every single day because their superior found them too attractive to maintain control and where they feel entitled to something that was never theirs to begin with. This is the very problem – far too many men feel as though women owe them something. We don’t. We don’t owe you anything – not a response to your text, not a yes to sex after a date. We aren’t yours to own or control or to do with as you please.

Thankfully, I was able to get out of the situation, but our work relationship never recovered and I never spoke up. I should have.

Here’s the thing about harassment in the workplace – women have everything to lose by saying no or by reporting the incident. Men have little to lose and often have the upper hand being in a position of power. Women that come forward are often retaliated against, which discourages other women from coming forward as well. This is why men like Trump and Weinstein are able to maintain decades of harassment and assault. Their positions of power act as a shield and they can silence the voices of women.

One (of the many) thing(s) that blows my mind about this whole Weinstein story is how many people are acting outraged that women did not speak up sooner. Why didn’t they? Their careers and livelihoods were threatened. Their credibility was threatened. They didn’t feel anyone would believe them and yet now everyone is holding them accountable for the acts committed that they “could have stopped.” But, who would have listened to them? How many of them did speak up and lost work because of it or were silenced?

This just one of the prices of being female – having a responsibility of speaking up, even though it can cost us everything and no one is likely to listen or believe us.

Changes & Challenges

My entire career has been spent in restaurant marketing – even during and before college, I worked in restaurants. It is an industry that I know well , am passionate about and also one that I am comfortable in. The experiences I had before college allowed me to accelerate my professional career and catch up to my peers, despite having a 6 year gap between high school and college. In a way, the restaurant industry is home – I am confident in my ability and my knowledge and I have been able to take this into a variety of different marketing roles and restaurant settings – family dining, restaurant and bar, casual dining and fast casual. Although each of these have their unique challenges, I have always been able to transfer my experience in one to the next as I have grown in my career.

More than once I’ve toyed with the idea of leaving the restaurant industry, but my background often made it difficult to get past the gatekeepers of other industries. My resume is pretty set in the restaurant space and I’ve been fortunate to live in a city that serves as home base for multiple restaurant brands. I’ve always known that I wanted more and that I had a strong desire to expand beyond food. I just haven’t found an opportunity that fit what I was looking for and that was open to working with me as I took that big leap.

But, in less than two weeks I am taking all of that experience and background and entering completely new industry, and in some way a new field. I am equal parts excited and terrified.

I am excited to learn and to grow, but also to be able to test my comfort level and jump out of the zone that’s been my bread and butter. The opportunity to meet a completely new group of people that will help mentor and mold my future is also beyond exciting. There is so much to learn and I am looking forward to seeing what I can do and how I can bring my experience and knowledge to a new team.

But, it is terrifying. Can I be successful in an area outside restaurant marketing? Will I be able to transition out of the industry that has been my entire world for so long? Can this old dog learn new tricks? Can I do it?

I suppose those are all more self-doubts than fears, but one often seeps into the other. As I head into my final few days in my current position, I am working to silence the fears and the doubts by focusing on the exciting changes that lie ahead. It’s easy to let your fear dominate my inner monologues, but thankfully the excitement of a new challenge is helping to drown out the voices of doubt.

One thing I know for sure is that this opportunity is coming at a major time of transition in my life as our family grows and that is also a little bit scary. But for us and me, the timing is also perfect because I am already in a mindset that is ready to embrace the change and the challenge.

Keep You Safe

Some nights, I feel your tiny 7 ounce body tossing and turning as I toss and turn and try to fall asleep. Your big brother tosses and turns too – and even flips sometimes. Your dad sleeps like a log and doesn’t move (unless he has a dream I am falling off the cliff known as our bed and he must jump at at two am to “save me”).

Often as I lie in the darkness and try to feel every movement, I wonder what you look like or who you’ll be.

This week, I wondered if I could keep you in my womb forever, or at least until the world is a safer and saner place. It seems every time I turn on the news another mother is saying goodbye to her child that was lost in a senseless act of violence. I’ve always known our world and our country can be scary places and that danger exists, but this week that danger seems more real than normal.

Two weeks ago, a gunman opened fire in a church less than two miles from our home. This week, another gunman opened fire on 22,000 people listening to music. I read about these tragedies almost daily, but until recently, I’ve never personally known anyone impacted by them.

Every time I feel you bump around inside my belly, I am reminded that my one job is to protect you and keep you safe. My body nourishes you and helps you grow so that one day soon you’ll be ready to make your grand entrance.

That day terrifies me.
That day I will no longer be the one solely in control on your security.
That day you will become vulnerable to a world that seems to value your life less and less every day.
That day you will begin to see the evil that exists; sure it may be years before you comprehend or understand.
That day I will no longer just have to keep you safe inside the security of my body, but I will have to keep you safe from outside forces too.

I fear that no matter what I do, it will not be enough. The mothers that lost their babies in Las Vegas did everything to keep them safe, but one man took that from them. He stole those lives and gutted families. And he did it in less than the time it takes most of us to get out of bed in the morning.

I so desperately want to shield you and your brother from this and to keep you safe from every evil thought or action. But, the reality is I can’t.

I want to keep you safe and the only way I know how to do that is to continue to love and nourish you as you prepare to make your entrance. Once you are here, my job continues and I will fight with every breath I have to keep you safe.

When is Enough, Enough?

This morning I woke to notifications that friends had marked themselves safe in the “Violent Attack in Las Vegas.” I blinked the sleep away from my eyes and reread the update, then immediately opened Twitter and CNN to find out what had happened.

The first update I saw said two killed. Then twenty. Now more than fifty. Over 200 injured. One lone gunman.

Let that sink in – ONE person stole the lives of more than 50 innocent men, women and children and forever impacted the lives of hundreds more. One man and his gun (or guns) carried out what is now the largest mass shooting in recent history.

The 2016 shooting at Pulse in Orlando previously held this horrific record. Just over a year later, another lone wolf, as the media calls it, changed that statistic.

Twelve people in Aurora. Twenty children and six adults in Sandy Hook. Nine in Charleston. Forty-nine young men and women in Orlando. Today, more than fifty in Las Vegas. All of these lives stolen in places we visit every day and places where we are seeking to learn, escape reality, bond, worship – movie theaters, schools, churches, nightclubs, festivals.

Each of these acts of terror was carried out by one person with a gun. One person. Mass fatalities and injuries.

And yet, what are we talking about after each and every one? The person behind the gun. We focus on what they did and why, which barely a mention of how. Not more than a passing word on just how easy it was for them to carry out such horrific acts.

It’s almost as if we value the metal and gun powder that took these lives than the lives themselves. How could this be true in a country that touts its family values and pro-life movement as hallmarks of its religious and moral obligations?

When do we finally say enough and take action to prevent these tragedies? When do we stand up and say our children’s lives matter more than someone’s right to own a gun and bullets? How many more have to die before we realize we are fighting the wrong fight? Is it when a lone gunman kills 50? 100? 200? Is it when it happens are your church? Your school? Your concert? Your movie?

Enough is enough.

Keyboards & Cowards

Keyboards make valiant swords for cowards.

I’ve seen this shit happen before with other friends, but until yesterday, I hadn’t had the pleasure of experiencing it for myself.

I knew posting about where I stand on the #TakeAKnee issue would spark some debate, it already had on Facebook and Twitter on a few occasions, it’s a hot button issue.

What I didn’t expect? Finding out a friend or two had some serious issues with me having an opinion and a blog. Or, that they’d sink low enough to post comments as a troll and then get butthurt when I called their BS on Facebook. But it happened.

Here’s the thing, I’m used to trolls and jerks on Twitter. It’s a side effect of being an opinionated Liberal female that doesn’t stay in the kitchen and keep her mouth shut. Twitter is full of trolls, bots and assholes ready and willing to be the stereotypical alt-right jerk that try to silence females (newsflash boys and girls, it’s never going to work).

I’m even used to and expect heated debates on my Facebook posts on controversial topics. Some end civilly and some don’t, either way, we are all still “friends” at the end.

What happened yesterday was different. This was someone(s) that clearly has an underlying hatred or strong dislike for me personally but doesn’t have the guts to comment on my Facebook post or use their real name (or just delete me and move on with their life), but that is more than willing to stalk my Facebook and use it for personal attacks on me and my friends. Normally, I’m all for “you do you,” but in this case a trust was violated.

I am a sharer. I share photos of my family, my work and everyday boring crap on Facebook. I like to share and I like to interact with people. It’s easier to do on Facebook because let’s face it, we are all busy these days. This is how I stay in contact and connect with family and friends that now live all over the world. Somethings I share are more personal than others and some are political. Either way, it’s my place to open up and share. Same with this blog, whether anyone reads it or not is inconsequential. I’ve been writing for years and pretty sure only a handful even read or pay attention, and that’s okay because most of the time, I am only writing for me (like this post).

What happened yesterday in the comments on my blog post was someone’s cowardly attempt to put me in my place. I fed the troll and posted their ridiculousness on both Twitter and Facebook. They reacted and the vitrole just grew, though far tamer than the comments I get on Twitter – just more personal. A friend posted about looking up the IP address of the troll and we had fun with it, the troll friend didn’t like that too much. But, this is the Internet, folks, what did you expect?

I was pissed and admittedly a little hurt that a friend would stoop that low. I reacted and did a much over due clean-out and it felt freeing.

This morning I am no longer pissed or hurt, just annoyed (and feeling a little lighter). I’m sure there is a chance the person or persons who hate me and my opinion are still lurking on my friend list, but there is also a good chance they are gone. If they aren’t, I’m sure they’ll keep trolling and hiding behind their keyboard.

Fabric, Lyrics & Patriotism

It’s not about the Flag.
It’s not about the Anthem.
It’s not about the Pledge.
It’s not about Football, Basketball, Baseball or any sport.

It’s about Racism.
It’s about innocent lives lost in senseless violence.
It’s about systematic police brutality against unarmed black men, women and children.
It’s about someone thinking they have the right to tell others how to express their rights.

Honestly, the fact that we even have to have this conversation is exactly why #TakeAKnee matters. When you marginalize the protest and the voices of those that are speaking out because they are marginalized all you have accomplished is proving their protest is valid, needed and warranted.

Let’s be real here, your problem isn’t with your perceived disrespecting of the flag – a flag is a piece of fabric and cannot be disrespected, same for a song or a pledge. Your problem is that you cannot believe they have the audacity to speak out and say that “hey you know what? America isn’t great.” Which, is deliciously ironic considering you championed a candidate who campaigned on America not being great. Only, his problem was in our diversity and their problem is in an inequity of rights and treatment because of their diversity.

Sure it is important to show respect for our country, but when our country doesn’t show respect in return and proves over and over again that your life and the lives of your children do not matter, there is no choice but to speak out and take a stand. We owe it to our country and the principles on which we were founded to fight back and demand that the rights of all Americans are protected, not just those that agree with you. And yes, you do have the right to speak your opinion – but when your opinion aims to silence or harm someone else’s rights, you not only are a hypocrite, but you’re abusing your rights.

For everyone screaming that “this isn’t the place for protest” – How would you like them to protest? They can’t march. They can’t speak on social media. They can’t speak out on TV. They can’t kneel. What do you deem acceptable form of protest?

Our flag isn’t our nation. It is a symbol. Our nation exists in the people that live here – whether born here or not. These men kneeling are taking part in the very elements that created our country, though their protest is far more peaceful than say, the Boston Tea Party. They are living the constitution and they are using their voices and peaceful protest to speak up for those that can no longer speak because their lives were violently and senseless stolen.

Standing for the flag, anthem or pledge doesn’t make you an American and it isn’t a measure of your patriotism. How you stand for your country and fellow citizens is the true measure of your patriotism, which by the way is not a contest. We all stand differently, that’s part of what truly makes us great.

Ignoring the real reason for the protest is a symptom of the very problem.

Being color blind isn’t the answer either – we cannot ignore the differences that make us who we are. That just marginalizes people and their heritage. What we need to do is fully embrace, understand and welcome everyone regardless of their race, religion, ethnicity, gender, country of origin, etc. Being tolerant or blind isn’t enough, it’s part of the problem.

My Promise

From the moment the very faint positive line appeared on the pregnancy test, I knew in my heart that I wanted this baby to be a girl. Mostly, this was for selfish reasons. I am the lone female in our home and I love the idea of raising a girl. But, I am also terrified of having a girl. The world will be much kinder and more accepting of my son – he has the privilege of being born a white male in America. My daughter will have half of this privilege, but will often be told she can’t do simply because she is female. How do I raise a daughter to be strong in a world that commands she be weak and mild? How do I teach her to trust and love others while also teaching her to guard her heart and trust from those with bad intentions?

When I first found out Baby AJ 2.0 was going to be Baby Girl, I text my brother (among a million others) to share the news. His response almost made me cry (had I not been sitting in a car with my company’s CEO, I likely would have) – “Outstanding. I cannot think of a better momma for a baby girl than you sister.”

Wow. Talk about a heavy compliment and a lot to live up to.

Since that day I’ve thought a lot about Baby Girl and how I can be the mama to her that my twin brother believes I can be. So, far these are the promises I hope to keep and the lessons I hope she learns …

Your big brother is pretty awesome and he amazes us every single day and I have no doubt that you will do the same. I promise to never compare him to you and vice versa, but know that anything he can do, you can do (except pee standing up, please don’t try this). But, know that you can do anything you want to and know that we are always in your corner cheering you on. Sometimes you may have to work harder than he does, but that work will be worth it in the end. Some things may come easier. Sometimes, you may not want to do what he does and that is okay too. You are your own person and you are capable of anything you put your mind to.

One day, someone will tell you that you are not good enough (or pretty enough or smart enough or thin enough or whatever enough), but know that you are more than enough. This world can be an asshole and people suck. Society will make unreasonable demands that will make you want to change who you are to fit it. I always tried to rise above this, but sometimes I failed. You will too and that is okay. Some jerk will say something mean and you’ll cry yourself to sleep or punch a wall or break your favorite music box (sorry Dad) because the pain and emotions are so strong and raw you don’t know how to channel them. This too is okay. And I know you won’t always want to talk to me or hear what I have to say, but I promise that no matter the question or circumstance, I am here when you need me and when you are ready.

You will find yourself in situations that are out of your comfort zone – for the good and for the bad – more times that you’ll be able to count or remember. People who call themselves your friends will pressure you into things you may not be ready for. Always, always trust your gut because I guarantee you another friend is watching and is just as scared to speak up or say no as you are. Never be afraid to use your voice and never be ashamed if you aren’t able to find it. My job as your mom is to help you find that voice and that voice can only come with experience and mistakes. You will make mistakes and that is okay. It never gets easier, but you learn and get stronger with every one.

I promise that no matter how many mistakes you make or how many times you fail that I am still going to be there cheering you on. I know people take issue with the whole participation trophy culture, but for me, participating is half the battle and trying and working hard are the rest. Sure, winning is great, but that doesn’t mean we don’t recognize the hard work we put in even if we don’t win. And, Baby Girl, you won’t win them all and that is okay. It’s okay to finish second and it’s okay to come in last. It’s better to walk away with a lesson learned and the knowledge that you busted your ass than to walk away with a first place prize that came easy. As a girl, you will have to fight harder, study harder and prove yourself a million times over just to have a chance to play the game. But, that makes us stronger.

More than anything. I want you to know and feel the love I did when I was growing up. I want you to experience the things I did not get to (among them, being Daddy’s little girl) and I want you to be unafraid of change and rejection. Those fears prevented me from trying new things or getting to know people. It’s hard to push aside fear, but it’s my job to push you past that and I will try my best to not let my own fears get in your way. You will get hurt. You will cry. You will push me away someday. But, I’ll kiss all the ouchies I can. I’ll dry your tears. And I will welcome you home with open arms.

In about 14-16 years, you will start to hate me, mostly for brief periods of time and for really dumb reasons (sorry, I know they are dumb because I had those same reasons a long, long time ago). I am going to mentally prepare myself for that now … yeah, not ready. We’ll talk about that in a few more years.

This growing up shit is hard, but we all go through it and most of us survive with a few stories to tell. I promise to help make those stories as interesting as possible.

Then There Were Four

One boy. One girl. Or so the song goes. And, I guess come March, so our life will go. Our little family is growing by one and I am finally going to have a little female balance in our male dominated house (between my husband and son and our three pets, I am sorely outnumbered).

We finally convinced him that Mama is not in fact having a Baby Star-Lord, but a baby sister. I think he’s slowly coming around to the idea. And, though, I cannot guarantee it, I am fairly certain Baby Girl will be just as (if not more) fascinating to him than Star-Lord. At least that is my hope.

Just One Strong Heartbeat

178 beats per minute. 178 tiny reassurances that the human your body is growing is healthy and viable.

The swoosh beating sound filled the tiny, but comfortable, ultrasound room and I breathed a sigh of relief. Just one baby with one strong heartbeat. The two confirmations I was looking for that day.

But as I watched the tiny heart fluttering on the screen, I felt the relief slip into sadness. Just this week, two women I’d just met via social media had been in a similar room and watched as their dreams and hearts broke. One had just learned she was expecting twins and the other had gotten pregnant just after marrying her soul mate. Both filled with the typical excitement and fear as their bodies began showing the symptoms they’d read about. Both clinging to hope. But when their time came, their ears weren’t filled with the sweet swoosh beating sounds. The screen didn’t flicker with the heartbeat. Three tiny balls of cells that just the day before had been filled with the promise of life and happiness were now gone and these mothers were robbed of the very thing that had just weeks before been confirmed. In those few short weeks, they had each grown to love the little raspberries or sweet peas growing in their bellies. They thought of names and wondered if they’d have mom’s eyes or dad’s nose. They laid awake at night wondering what kind of mother they would be. Now, their dreams would have to wait.

I thought of another friend. One who’s been trying for years just to get that pink line and a confirmation that she’d finally get to be a mother. She’d just completed her first unsuccessful round of fertility treatment and was about to start her second. Though miles and years separate us, I keep waiting for the day her announcement takes over my news feed and we can celebrate her impending motherhood, the dream she holds so closely and yet seems so far away. I thought of her as I watched the life we’d barely struggled to create flickering away. Why had it been so easy for me? She deserved to love a child just as much as I did and I know without a doubt that she will be an amazing mother.

Another face flashed as I blinked and stared numbly at the screen. Her face now filled with joy as she is expecting another baby girl, her third but her first with her new husband. She’d been pregnant at the same time I was with my first, but lost that baby a few weeks later. Another pregnancy, a boy, progressed much further a few months later. Sadly, he made his entrance too soon and did not make it. Now, the joy of a third chance and a third daughter filled me with hope that her and her husband would finally experience the joy she’d been longing for and so rightfully deserves. I don’t know the heartache of carrying and then losing a child, but it is a pain no mother or father should ever feel. I doubt the ache ever fully goes away, even after a rainbow is born.

Happiness is often a moving target and even in those moments when joy should overcome me, I find myself longing for the happiness of others. I so desperately want these women to see their own flickering hearts and to hear that comforting sound. Selfishly, I’ve also spent many nights thankful to not be in their shoes and to not know the pain and emptiness of the loss of a child. But, my heart aches for them and if I could, I’d carry a child for all of them.

These women represent so many that I know and many of them I only know because of social media, through mom groups or fitness groups. But, our lives are all connected in a way that I can’t explain and I often find myself thinking of them and wishing I could do more than feel pain at their loss or mourn their babies as I watch mine growing.

Like almost every other pregnant woman I know, those first 12 weeks are a daily game of walking on eggshells. You obsesses over every tiny symptom. You examine the toilet paper at every single bathroom trip, terrified of seeing the bright red blood of doom. Every single day that passes is a victory – one day closer to a healthy pregnancy and a baby in your arms. You Google everything and then regret it the moment the results of your search appear on the screen. You consult the experts in your mom groups and you eagerly await that first ultrasound that will either confirm your fears or your dreams.

I am lucky. Our time spent trying for both our first and now our second was less than six months and I am fairly certain my Starbucks obsession slowed both (caffeine, I love and loathe you). My pregnancy with my son was fairly uneventful aside from my water breaking 4 weeks early. His delivery went well and he was tiny but mighty. My second pregnancy, though only nine weeks in as I write this, appears to be following a similar path (let’s hope for a full-term this round). My symptoms are mild with only a hint of nausea and I’ve been able to manage them all well.

When the fear of loss and the sadness of others’ losses begins to consume me, I close my eyes and try to picture my son’s face or hear the sound of the brand new heartbeat again. I am grateful I have those images to ground me and I don’t take them for granted. When in the thick of being pregnant and chasing a toddler who refuses to nap begin to overwhelm me, it is easy to fall into self pity, but I try my best not to. I know how incredibly lucky and blessed I am to have these things to complain about. So many would kill to feel the exhaustion of pregnancy or the inability to wear pants due to a growing belly. They would lose a thousand night’s sleep just to cradle and rock a screaming newborn to sleep.