Book Review: Grace Without God by Katherine Ozment

u34+1F!EVWH7ngw7NLVXIcKIKW2pmYA+Gl!w8rbMsYH!BRIAG5OUet9tcq9F2XjffXkZsjELHH1dotzfe59Az2vNK7LiZyZN+sBWsKtMX1WWsW1OYzkgsRAdZgmVYczuGrace Without God

by Katherine Ozment

I was asked to read and review this book by TLC Book Tours.tlc-logo-resized

The book’s genesis, apparently, was a particular night some years ago during which the author and her young son witnessed a religious procession through their neighborhood.  Her son asked her what the people walking up the street holding candles were doing, and she explained to him that it was a religious ritual.

“Why don’t we do that?” he asked.

“Because we’re not Greek Orthodox,” I said.

“Then what are we?”

***

“We’re nothing,” I said.

Ozment’s response to her son’s question unsettled her so much, that she spent the next few years searching for a better answer.  She interviewed dozens of people, including scientists, scholars, and religious leaders, searching for her own meaning to life (it seemed to me) absent religion.

I will confess that, as an atheist and former “believer,” I had a lot of difficulty relating to this book.  Ozment mostly seems to lament her loss of religion, and to operate under the assumption that those who don’t have religion are missing something essential and sacred – which begs the question: why did she give up religion then?  She spends a great deal of the book discussing all the benefits and positives that religion bestows upon people and society, and very little discussing the very real harm that religion and religious belief brings to individuals and society.  I kept getting the sense that she lost her religion very much like someone misplaces their keys – it seems that she feels that there is a real need for religion, or at least some substitute for religion, and she would be happy if only she could find hers again.

My own letting go of my religious beliefs was a process of reflection that took awhile, but once I did let go, I only felt liberated and at peace.  I’ve never felt like something is missing, and I’ve never felt that I am somehow cheating my kids by not raising them with religion or faith.  I actually feel quite the opposite: that to grow up without the shackles of religion and faith, to have the freedom to decide one’s own purpose, is a gift.  I suppose there are agnostics and atheists who struggle with feelings of loss and searching similar to Ozment, but all of the “Nones” I know have come to understand, exactly by letting go of religion, that, yes, traditions, family stories, morals and values, community, and identity do exist apart from religion, and perhaps more richly so.

It saddens me that Ozment told her son that “We’re nothing.”  It was undoubtedly a knee-jerk response to a question she wasn’t prepared for, but certainly not belonging to a religion, or not believing there is a god, does not make one “nothing.”  In any case, even telling her son that they’re “nothing” didn’t have to be so unsettling; it could have simply been the springboard for further conversation with her son about what they are, or better yet, how her son has the freedom to decide for himself what he is and what he will be.

While I think Grace Without God is well-intended and well-written, I’m just not sure what the need for it is.

2

A Big Long Post About Vaginas and Stuff

I came across this article, and reading it was actually an emotional experience for me.  Pelvic Organ Prolapse, like so many other women’s health issues, is a topic that is rarely talked about openly, even though the vast majority of women will experience some degree of POP if they live to a ripe enough age.  We should be talking about it.  Talking about health issues unique to women carries such stigma, still, and feelings of shame and embarrassment.  Maybe it will never be a topic for polite conversation, but  women should at the very least know that they are not alone, and they should feel empowered enough to seek appropriate medical care.

I haven’t touched on my own recovery from surgery for a while, but I’m going to share here where I’m at, and how I got here.

So, I’m four months out from pelvic reconstructive surgery.  My surgery entailed:

  • Vaginal hysterectomy (uterus only; I still have my ovaries)
  • Sacrocolpopexy (basically, anchoring the structure of the vagina to the tailbone, since it’s no longer held up by a uterus); here’s a graphic of that: obgyn-sacralcolpopexy
  • Bladder neck suspension; here’s a graphic of that:

F3.large

  • Extensive vaginal repairs – meaning reinforcing weakened muscles and tissue with grafts.

This was major surgery, and my recovery, as I wrote as I was going through it, was no walk in the park.  There was pain, there was a catheter for a while, there was a UTI on top of that, there was the fact that I came down with pneumonia a couple of weeks after surgery (which, obviously, is not typical, but it made my recovery that much harder).  And all of that compounded by the fact that I was very much unsupported during that time; my husband took as much time away from work as he could, but he has a solo law practice to run, which he couldn’t abandon.  It was very difficult, and I wish we had had help and support, but we didn’t.  It took a good six weeks or more before the constant fatigue diminished, and I was doing things I probably shouldn’t have been doing so soon after surgery out of necessity.

Anyway, my point is that this is major surgery.  It’s not a minor procedure that one recovers from in a few days, or even a week or two.

Four months out, I’m doing great.  I feel great, I’m back to all of my regular activities, and it appears that the surgery was a success.  The main thing that led me to seek medical help was urinary incontinence, and I am happy to report that that has been completely resolved.  I can cough, sneeze, and laugh without crossing my legs, and I have no leakage.  I can power walk a couple of miles a day, up and down hills, and arrive home as dry as when I left home (before surgery, I would soak a Poise pad on my walks).  I can sneeze while power walking (it’s happened), and it’s no problem.  I don’t exaggerate when I say that it’s been life-changing.  Totally liberating.  I’m still seeing my uro-gynecologist every few weeks for follow-ups, which I very much appreciate, and I’m still seeing a physical therapist who specializes in pelvic floor rehab.

How did I get here?

Childbirth is the culprit in my case, as it is for many women.  I first noticed stress incontinence after I had the twins.  I remember going to a birthday party with Kevin and Joey for one of their friends at one of those inflatable jump places, and I got into one of the jumpers with the kids – as I had done at dozens of birthday parties before – only this time, when I jumped, I peed.  It wasn’t a huge deal at first, but over the years after that, and with each subsequent pregnancy, it got worse.  I probably didn’t start wearing panty liners 24-hours a day until after Finn was born.  After Scarlett was born, panty liners weren’t enough, and I had to start wearing Poise pads all the time.

When Scarlett was a baby, I talked to my regular gynecologist about it at a well-woman checkup, and she referred me to a urologist.  He was an ass.  Did a cursory exam, announced that I just needed a sling put in, and was just very condescending.  (I’ve never liked the fact that by and large, female health is overseen by male doctors.  I feel like, if you’re going to claim to understand vaginas, you should have one.)  In any case, I learned that it would require an overnight hospital stay, and since I was nursing, I decided it wasn’t urgent.  So I put it off for a couple of years.

After Scarlett weaned, I decided to take my body back.  All the pregnancies and births and so many years of nursing had taken a toll, and, vain as it may be, I wanted to feel good about myself again (well, not that I’ve ever been free of body image issues and insecurities, even before I had kids).  So last year I got new boobs and a tummy tuck, and a year later I still maintain that it’s one of the best things I’ve ever done for myself – no regrets at all.  The other thing I wanted fixed was my incontinence, and around the time I was getting my new boobs and tummy, I started seeing a uro-gynecologist (this is different from a gynecologist, and different from a urologist; it’s a very specialized area of practice, and this is the specialist that women with POP and/or incontinence issues should see).  Over the course of several months, I underwent ultrasounds, various exams, a urodynamics test, and a week of keeping careful track of fluid intake and output.  I was diagnosed with a Stage 2 prolapse – which actually isn’t terrible.  There are women whose cervix actually hangs out of their vagina, their prolapse is that severe.  There are women whose bladder has fallen through the supporting muscles and protrudes outside their body.  There are women who can’t poop without pushing it out manually through their vagina (this is called “splinting.”)  Grossed out?  Imagine what it’s like to live with that.  Lucky for me, mine wasn’t nearly that bad – I just wet myself all the time.

Anyway.  My doctor had me try various pessaries (which are really medical grade versions of this).  They didn’t help.  She finally recommended surgery, and here I am, a success story.

Anyway, back to that article.  I’m really glad that a couple of popular, mainstream women’s publications (the article also appeared in Cosmopolitan) are talking about something that people don’t want to talk about.  I wish, however, that there was a more balanced exploration of the causes of pelvic organ prolapse.  First of all, although vaginal birth is probably the leading cause of POP, there are numerous other causes: pregnancy itself, especially when certain activities are undertaken while pregnant, like running or regular lifting; menopause; hysterectomy; chronic coughing; regular physical exercise that involves putting downward pressure on the pelvic floor, like running and jumping; and improper lifting.  I had a PT appointment yesterday and the therapist, a trained dancer who has treated a lot of dancers, said that it’s pretty common for young dancers who have never had kids to have stress incontinence.  So basically, engaging in any activities, especially regularly or repeatedly, that places stress on the pelvic floor puts women at risk for developing pelvic organ prolapse.  A great deal of this could be lessened or eliminated if girls were educated from a young age about their pelvic floor muscles and how to protect them.  The solution is not to abstain from activities, but to know how to properly engage in those activities while protecting one’s pelvic floor.

But back to vaginal birth.  I really dislike the implication that women’s bodies are inherently defective, and that pushing babies out through our vaginas (as all mammals do) is problematic in and of itself.  I’m no doctor or scientist, but it seems logical to me that what we really need to examine are the birth practices that are the norm.  I would venture a guess that the highly managed birth practices that take place in most hospitals are NOT conducive to preserving women’s pelvic floors.  Directed pushing, and pushing while in a supine position are not optimal; the former places unnecessary stress on all kinds of body parts (I got a hernia from giving birth to Kevin, and I have no doubt it was a direct result of directed pushing), and the latter works against gravity.  But it’s convenient for the doctors, so there’s that.  Prolonged pushing I would guess is also a factor, and one that could be often avoided by allowing birth to take place in whatever position feels best for the woman.  Often prolonged pushing (and c-section) result from a mal-positioned baby, which also can often be remedied by allowing the mother to be upright and moving around, or on all fours, or squatting.  I hate to think that there is a belief that c-sections are the answer, because they’re not.  C-sections are also major surgery that carry all the risks of any surgery, and they are certainly no guarantee against eventual prolapse anyway.  It seems to me that this brings into focus the need to move away from birth practices that serve hospitals and doctors, instead of those that actually serve women.

I just want to encourage anyone reading this who is quietly suffering from stress incontinence or any of the other symptoms and results of pelvic organ prolapse, talk to your doctor.  Refuse to be blown off.  Insist on a referral to a uro-gyn, or at the very least, a physical therapist specializing in pelvic floor health/rehab.  And read up on how to protect your pelvic floor in the first place.

Resources:

Take the Floor

Pelvic Exercises

Girls Gone Strong

2

On “Finding Dory,” “Me Before You,” and Portrayals of Disability

Finding-Dory-Disney-pixar-2016I went to see Finding Dory yesterday.  Because I had already read a handful of blog and Facebook posts expressing negative feelings about portrayals of disability in the film, I went into the movie theater wary.  I’ve also read so much positive reception about the movie – and especially its handling of disability – that I was also eager to see it.  I sort of wish I had seen it cold – that is, without having read or heard anything about it beforehand, so that I could truly make up my own mind without being influenced by anyone else’s perceptions.

In any case, here are my thoughts, but first a brief summary:  Dory, a blue tang who was featured in 2003 blockbuster, Finding Nemo, mainly as comic relief, has some disorder that causes her to have short-term memory loss.  Finding Dory is the story of how she became separated from her parents when she was young, finally realizes years later that she once had parents who loved her very much, and goes in search of them.  Nemo and Marlin from Finding Nemo are supporting characters in this story, as well as a host of other characters, but Dory is the star.

I loved the movie.  To borrow from the lexicon of the day, it got me right in the feels.  There were numerous parts that made me tear up, and one part in particular where I had tears streaming down my cheeks and I was literally biting my tongue to keep from sobbing out loud.  Maybe it’s just me; despite my rough exterior, I’m a marshmallow on the inside.

My thoughts on the problematic parts of the story (that I’ve read about, anyway):

There is a scene in which Dory wants to join a “school” of other fish for a field trip, and she is encouraged to find something else to do, because her disability makes it too difficult for the teacher to look after her.  Yes, this scene is heart wrenching for any parent who has faced similar situations of exclusion built on excuses with their own child in school and other settings – which I have, of course, with Finn.  I think this scene did a good job of showing what that kind of exclusion looks like, and in the end, Dory does join the class, because inclusion can work when there is a willingness on everyone’s part.

Within that segment, there is a scene in which Dory gets knocked out, and the other “kids” groan when they realize she’s not dead.  I don’t know … I suppose much could be made of this, but I didn’t get the sense that anyone actually wanted Dory dead, it was more like kids using something in poor taste to try to be funny, which kids actually do.  I mean, in the end, everyone is rooting for Dory, so clearly none of them really hoped she was dead.

There is a whale shark named Destiny who is so nearsighted that she’s constantly banging into walls, and it’s delivered in a way to get laughs.  Being a severely nearsighted person myself (my prescription is -7), I guess I’ve never thought of being nearsighted as a disability.  To be nearsighted is so common that seeing a person with glasses barely registers as different from seeing a person without glasses.  So this part of the story really didn’t bother me, and I think it’s okay to laugh at ourselves and at the pitfalls of being flawed creatures to some extent.  Throughout the movie, Destiny is helped by a Beluga whale (who has suffered a head injury) who navigates for her and tries to help her avoid banging into things, so I actually think there’s a very positive message there about helping and supporting one another.

Perhaps the most glaring offense in the movie is the portrayal of Gerald, a sea lion who … I don’t know what his “condition” is supposed to be.  Because I had read something before seeing the movie about Gerald being “obviously” intellectually disabled, I saw him with that bias (which is why I wish I had seen the movie cold; I wonder how I would have perceived him without that influence).  His eyes are somewhat askew, he doesn’t speak, and he carries a child’s pail – all of which could be perceived as embodying crude and offensive stereotypes of intellectual disability.  I get it, and it did bother me somewhat, but I’m guessing not as much as it bothered some other people.  It’s possible to perceive him merely as “goofy,” put in the movie solely as comic relief.  His purpose in the story (and he’s really a minuscule part of the story) seems to be to provide the pail, which is needed to transport Marlin and Nemo from the outside of a Marine Institute to the inside (they’re searching for Dory).  I’m sure the needed pail could have turned up in any number of ways, but Gerald the intellectually disabled/goofy/drunk/I don’t know sea lion was chosen as the vehicle.  And yes, he is excluded and pushed off of a favored rock by two bigger, “normal” sea lions, but again, this type of exclusion actually happens in the real world, so why not portray it in a kid’s movie?  Maybe it gives kids a chance to see that exclusion and think about if it’s good or bad.  Also, I got the sense that the two bigger sea lions wouldn’t have let anyone else on their rock, not necessarily just Gerald.

On the other hand, if Gerald is intended to be intellectually disabled, or even if most people do perceive him that way, then yes, that’s offensive.

Overall, I think the writers did a wonderful job in their approach to disability.  The overriding message is one of inclusion and acceptance; I absolutely love the fact that never in the story is there an attempt to “fix” Dory.  Instead, her limitations are acknowledged and accepted as part of the wonderful, unique person – er, fish – she is, even if various other fish are sometimes annoyed with her (which is pretty true to life).

The theme of “family” also resonated with me.  The story illuminates the fact that “family” isn’t necessarily about who you’re related to by blood, it’s about who accepts, loves, supports you and sticks by you.  That is one of the driving forces in my life, so that message was very meaningful to me.

me-before-you-posterI wanted to also talk a bit about Me Before You.  I have not seen the movie, although I want to very much and definitely will at some point, but I did read the book and loved it.  I wrote about it here.  It seems that there has been a great deal of controversy about the movie and its portrayal of disability – particularly quadriplegia.  The movie is apparently perceived by many as deeply offensive and ableist, mainly in that (SPOILER ALERT) the quadriplegic character commits suicide.  What I have read is that many people feel that this perpetuates the idea that disabled, and particularly paralyzed, people are depressed, can’t live fulfilling lives, and who could blame them for wanting to kill themselves?

What I don’t understand is why there is all this outrage about the movie, but there was virtually none about the book – which was a bestseller, so it was widely read.  My understanding is that the movie doesn’t stray from the story presented in the book (although I’m sure the book offers a lot more detail and insight into the minds and hearts of the characters, as books generally do have that advantage over movies).  In other words, the movie doesn’t tell a story that the book didn’t already tell, so why the outrage now?

I never felt that the book presented a general picture of disability or quadriplegia.  I didn’t read it and think, “Oh, this is what it’s like to be disabled.”  Instead, what I read was , “This is what this particular kind of disability felt like to this particular character, given his particular worldview and circumstances.”  In the book, Will Traynor is an ambitious, physically active man who gets most of his fulfillment from undertaking dangerous and extremely physically challenging activities, like sky diving and mountain climbing.  There are people like that.  When he becomes paralyzed by a freak accident, that aspect of his life is gone.  To act like one under those circumstances wouldn’t have some MAJOR mental and emotional issues to deal with is foolish and disingenuous, and in my mind, it sets forth a notion that to suffer depression as a result of becoming disabled is a character flaw.  One must be stoic and positive, immediately and always, after all.  Why can’t we talk about disability honestly, and acknowledge that there are things we hope never happen to us or those we love, while still advocating for inclusion, access, and compassion?

In any case, in the book, Will decides to end his life not solely because he can no longer participate in the physical activities that once gave him so much fulfillment, but also because he is now plagued by health problems which are only going to worsen over time.  His physical suffering will increase until he finally dies, most likely from a secondary condition to his quadriplegia.

So, I very much read this as a story that advocates for self-determination and autonomy and dignity – not for seeing disabled people as feeling that their lives aren’t worth living. And I honestly felt that kudos should go to JoJo Moyes for creating a character with such notable limitations who is the love interest in the story.  Louisa, after all, falls deeply in love with Will, and spends most of the book trying to convince him to live (supporting the idea that, in fact, a disabled life is worth living).  Moyes also presents a good balance about quadriplegia and quality of life in the book when Louisa talks to numerous quadriplegic and paraplegic people on a message board, many of whom tell her how fulfilling their lives are.

Again, I haven’t seen the movie yet.  Perhaps the movie doesn’t go as deep into those issues as the book does, I don’t know.  Perhaps the real offense of the movie is casting a non-disabled actor as a disabled character.  Hollywood certainly has a great deal of work to do when it comes to inclusion: too often, non-disabled actors are cast as disabled, straight are cast as gay, and the list goes on.  Marginalized groups are certainly under- and mis-represented in film.

In the end, I am left wondering lately if in our sincere efforts to be advocates and allies, we sometimes go a little too far and look for things to be offended by in everything around us.  I’m not suggesting that we don’t go beyond the obvious and blatant, but there has to be a balance, wherein we support and lobby for equity, equality, inclusion, compassion, and access for all, without losing our sense of humor, or ourselves to cynicism.  If you look hard enough, you can find something that offends you anywhere and everywhere.  And then you’re left not being allowed to actually enjoy anything.

 

3

I will do my part.

I don’t know what’s happening to the human race anymore. It’s frightening and disheartening and utterly bewildering, all of this killing of each other. It feels like End Times are lurking around the bend, and I’m not even a believer. Is it worse now than it’s ever been? Or has it always been this way, and it’s only our access to information that has changed? It’s completely overwhelming to turn on the news or sign online anymore. Killing, killing, killing. Death, death, death. I struggle to even find words anymore to express my anguish and fear and distress.

In the midst of it all, there are always the heartfelt messages about unity and healing and coming together as a people, as a society, to overcome the hatred and violence that has become so terribly commonplace. Those messages sound good – they sound wonderful, and I rarely fail to be moved. But they feel like the stuff of fantasy. How can the profound division we’ve cultivated be overcome when there are still so many people oblivious to their own prejudices? How can we overcome and come together when so many people fear and are repelled by anyone who is different from them? How can we cultivate peace and unity when so many people teach their children hatred and model self-righteous intolerance? How can we nurture non-violence when we can’t or won’t let go of our fucking guns? When we value personal rights over the safety and health of everyone around us? When we cling to a victim-blaming mentality?

I won’t be a part of it.

I will speak out against racism and prejudice in all of its forms whenever I recognize it. Even if it means losing friends, whether online or “in real life.”

I will continue to strive to engage in honest reflection and recognize my own prejudices, and not allow them to drive my choices or actions.

I will continue to strive to educate myself about the experiences of others.

I will use my right to vote to support measures and laws that at least attempt to promote equality and safety for everyone.

I will instill in my children that different is not less than, and that diversity is beautiful.

I will teach my children to respect, but question authority.

I will teach my children to question the status quo.

I will instill in my children an awareness of the privilege with which they walk through life, and the inequities that are borne of that privilege.

I won’t be a part of hate or violence or division based on difference.

What will you do?

Untitled

 

0

School Year Redux

Here we are again, with yet another school year behind us.  It felt a little anticlimactic for us this year, as Joey was the only one finishing up a year of conventional school; there wasn’t that feeling of counting down to summer.  Homeschooling has a way of blurring lines between school days, weekends, holidays, and breaks.

Joey finished up junior high school.  There was a big promotion ceremony for the outgoing eighth graders last week, which, like so many other things these days, was a little overblown (this is eighth grade promotion, not high school graduation; so many ceremonies of life have trickled down to the younger set that I keep wondering what they will have to look forward to), but nice.  Overall, junior high was a pretty good experience for Joey.  It’s an angsty time.  His social circle changed a few times, and his anxieties increased in some ways, which concerns me (especially given what happened with Kevin in high school).  His grades fluctuated, depending on how much of a shit he gave (and it’s hard, as a parent who no longer believes in the institution or policies of conventional school, to enforce the school’s expectations without feeling like a hypocrite), but he finished strong.  Whatever that means – it’s a piece of paper with letters and numbers on it, right?

Anyway, he’s sort of in limbo right now.  All the kids he knows from junior high are going on to high school, and they all know exactly which high school.  Joey might start at his high school of choice come August, but he might not – it all depends on whether we manage to get our house sold over the summer.  There’s a good chance that I’ll homeschool him for a year, because I don’t want to pull him and have him change schools multiple times given our pending move (we’ll rent for a while once we arrive in Oregon while we look for a place to settle permanently). And truth be told, if I had my druthers, we would delay his starting ninth grade for a year – not because he can’t hack it academically, but I think a year to grow (which is what we should have done when he started kindergarten; he has a July birthday, so we could have gone either way) maturity-wise and size-wise would benefit him.  We shall see.

Homeschooling this year definitely had its ups and downs.  I went into the school year feeling excited and confident; I had spent countless hours researching and choosing materials to use with the girls based on their learning styles and personalities, and my own goals and philosophies.  I bought everything ahead of time and was ready to rock and roll.  Of course it didn’t turn out the way I had envisioned.  By November or December, we had ditched almost everything I had so carefully researched and bought because the girls were bored with it, and I was growing increasingly frustrated.  We had meetings and took votes, because I want them to have a voice in their own education.  We settled on a much more relaxed way of schooling which required them to take a lot more initiative and responsibility for their own learning, rather than my forcing formal lessons on them.  All in all, it was a better way to go, but it’s never perfect – probably because parenting and life are never perfect anyway.  I feel like the girls all grew academically this year – except in math, which continues to be the bane, man.  The things I am most pleased about are:

  • realizing that Lilah is dyslexic and taking steps to address that.  When I figured out back in October that she’s dyslexic, so much made sense suddenly about her short history with school and her relationship with learning; it was a revelation.  I have been working with her ever since using an Orton-Gillingham-based program, and she’s made definite strides.  It’s gratifying.
  • the amazing science research projects each of the girls did.  All I asked of them was to choose any science-related topic they wanted, to research it, and present something.  Each of them did something different. Annabelle studied the solar system – she chose the books from the library and read them, she took notes and made an outline, she put together a Keynote presentation and presented it to the whole family, she made a 3D poster representation of the solar system – completely on her own.  All I did was drive her to the library and buy the supplies she asked for to make her 3D poster.  This was a HUGE achievement for this girl who is usually repelled by anything that smells like work.  Daisy studied waves – specifically, what makes waves in the ocean.  She did all the research herself, wrote a report, and did a cool demonstration involving a tub of water, marbles, and a fan.  This was less surprising coming from her, as she is by nature conscientious and responsible.  Lilah studies volcanoes.  She chose books from the library, did research on the internet, made a working model of a volcano (not from a kit), and with a little help from her sisters, made a mini documentary about volcanoes.  They spent several weeks on their projects, and came away feeling great about what they had learned, and what they had achieved.

Homeschooling Finn has been less than glowing.  In truth, I still have a bitter taste in my mouth over how things panned out for him at school.  I believe that pulling him was the best thing for him – but only because the adults in whose charge he was created such a negative environment for him, and it wasn’t supposed to be that way.  At home, we still deal with a lot of negative behaviors with him – and yes, it’s tough and it’s frustrating.  It takes so much patience and perseverance to ignore negative behaviors, offer lots of positive reinforcement, and create opportunities for him to be successful.  I have no doubt that the negative behaviors he exhibits stem from emotional immaturity, frustration at not always being understood and not being able to do all the things he wants to do, and diminished self-esteem from all the negative reinforcement he’s gotten.  The bottom line is that the more positive we are with him, the more positive he is.  Still, I didn’t accomplish much at all with him with regard to academics.  He was so resistant to anything school-related when I pulled him out of school in January that I finally just decided it was best to back way off and give him time to regroup.  I worry about him falling farther and farther behind, but then I ask myself, “Falling behind what?  Behind who?”  It’s not a race.

Scarlett, who will be four (yes, four!) in a few weeks, also benefits from homeschooling – even if she’s not officially being schooled.  She’s my clean slate – completely unsullied by traditional school.  She mixes colors of paint to make different colors, she sounds out written words, she counts and is beginning to understand the concepts of adding and subtracting – but all of it is happening organically, and it’s a beautiful thing to see.

Kevin finished his first year of college.  He’s done well.  He’s paid for it all himself at his insistence; when we’ve offered to help with his tuition and books, he turns us down.  I think he’s owning his own education, and I admire him for it.  He’s talking about an art major; I just want him to be able to make a living and be self-sufficient.  We don’t see a whole lot of him these days; he’s either at school, at work, or hanging out with friends.  He comes home to sleep, and occasionally to eat.  That is the natural order of things, I suppose.  He may not even move with us to Oregon, as he might have the opportunity to rent a room in the home of a friend he’s known since third grade. I have mixed feelings about it.  It’s hard to imagine being that far away from this child in whom I’ve invested so much love and hope and fear for almost 20 years, but perhaps it’s time for him to go forth into the world.

As for summer break, it’s shaping up to be very hectic.  Joey and Annabelle are both at rehearsals every day for the next couple of weeks gearing up for the summer (and final) production of the theater company to which they belong; Daisy is at dance nearly every day, and she too has a show coming up, and other than that, we’re getting the house ready to put on the market, which means purging, packing, cleaning, and having work done.

And that’s all she wrote.

1

Frankengina

It is alive!

Okay, so I had my six-week post-op appointment with my doctor yesterday.  Everything is looking good, the healing is continuing, and I’ve been cleared to ease back into normal activities.  I get to begin physical therapy to strengthen my pelvic floor, too.  Pelvic floor PT?  Who knew?!  If it proves to be as salacious as it sounds, I’ll be sure to report back here.  My doctor wants to see me every couple of months for a year just to make sure everything is as it should be, which I find very reassuring (what I’ll do since we plan to move, I don’t know yet).

I’m discovering that I went into this fairly ignorant about what exactly was going to be done to me surgically, and about the recovery.  My doctor mentioned yesterday that I had seven surgical procedures done, which is quite a few more than I realized I would have.  I stumbled upon a Facebook group of women all dealing with pelvic organ prolapse (or POP) after my surgery, and I really wish I had found it before my surgery, because I think I would have gone into it with my eyes a little more open.

So, six weeks later I’m feeling pretty good, and the surgical repairs I had done seem to be doing what they were meant to do.  In a nutshell, I do not wet myself anymore.  I can sneeze, cough, laugh, and even yell at my kids, all standing up and not crossing my legs, and no leakage.  Of course, I still haven’t tested jumping or running, but I do hope to get back to walking soon, and that will be a test as well.

A lot of people seem to believe that c-sections prevent pelvic organ prolapse.  While it’s true that vaginal births can cause POP, so can pregnancy alone.  And so can numerous other things: being overweight; menopause (when supporting tissues become less elastic); high impact activities like running; and even just genetics.  It’s safe to say that the majority of women will have some degree of POP by the time they are post-menopausal.  So although my own POP was caused by my clown car of a vagina, there are all kinds of ways for your parts to fall.

I also haven’t had a period since early March (although I do still get all the usual PMS symptoms since I still have my ovaries).  I thought I would grieve the loss of my uterus – I’m serious, I really did.  But I haven’t.  To everything there is a season, etc., etc.  We had a good long run, my womb and I, but that time is in the past now, and that’s cool.

My recovery from surgery was hard.  Much harder than I imagined it would be.  I think the fact that I bounced back from my mommy job last year so quickly after I kept hearing how hard it was going to be set up unrealistic expectations on my part for this surgery.  And honestly, nobody really told me it was going to be as difficult as it ended up being (another big reason I wish I had found that FB group before the surgery).  There was a lot of pain involved, and it didn’t help that I had the setbacks I had.  I felt discouraged and even depressed at times, and maybe the worst part was feeling so alone and isolated.  I was confronted with the absence of a support network and help our family has, and in all honesty I’m still struggling with it.

In any case, I’m finally bouncing back, and ready to put that whole ordeal behind me.  Hopefully in a year I will still be saying that it was worth it.

4

Ten Reasons Why Public Restrooms Should Not be Transgender-Friendly

Next to Prince’s shocking death, the issue dominating news outlets and social media is the one surrounding trans people’s use of public restrooms.  The big question is: should they be required to use restrooms that correspond with their biological gender, or should they be allowed to use restrooms that correspond with their gender identity?

Wake up, people!  Why is this even a discussion?  The answer is obvious.  Of course transgender people should only be allowed to use public restrooms that correspond with their God-given gender.  Here’s why:

  1.  Transgender people are notorious sex maniacs and child rapists.  It’s a known fact.  Seriously.  Stop and think about the transgender people you know personally.  Total sex maniacs and child rapists, right?  Mmm hmm, I thought so.
  2. It is a known fact that the wafting aroma of feces and air freshener, coupled with the sound of piss hitting water from behind closed stall doors is a total aphrodisiac to perves like transgenders.  If we let them in the door of the women’s restroom, we’re seriously just asking for it.
  3. We need to protect our kids.  If a kid is faced with a trans person, especially in a restroom, who knows what long-term effects it could have?  At the very least, the kid will probably be plagued by PTSD and have to undergo Christian-based counseling, and worst-case scenario (assuming they’re not molested!), they may turn trans themselves!
  4.  Non-trans people never assault, molest, or harm anyone in public restrooms.  So, obviously, if we bar trans people from using the wrong bathrooms, we can cross the dangers of public restrooms right off our list of worries.
  5.  Everyone knows that most sexual assaults are committed by trans people, and not non-trans people.  Look it up!
  6.  The best way to earn your way into God’s good graces – and therefore heaven – is to be as intolerant and exclusive of people who are not like you as possible.  Not only does God hate fags, He also hates everyone who is not a white male cisgender heterosexual American Christian Republican.  It says so right in the bible!
  7.  Speaking of God, if He had meant for people born with penises to wear dresses, He wouldn’t have invented pants, and if He had meant for people born with vaginas and boobies to wear wingtips, He wouldn’t have invented Victoria’s Secret.  Think about it.
  8.  If we let trans women use women’s restrooms, and trans men use men’s restrooms, what’s next?  Are they going to want to eat at the same restaurants as us, too?  What’s to stop them from frequenting our grocery stores and banks and schools?  They may even demand to be allowed to drink out of regular-people drinking fountains!  They’ll take over the world, I tell you!
  9. We normals should not be made to face things that make us uncomfortable.  I mean, seriously.  If trans people are uncomfortable with the law of the land, it’s just their punishment for being so … not normal.
  10.   Because, cooties.  Ick.
10

The Road to Recovery is a Bumpy One

When we last tuned in, I had visited my doctor again and was sent home without the catheter and many wishes for happy peeing.

(I never dreamed I would be writing so much about not only peeing, but my peeing.)

My doctor was confident that I would see noticeable improvement over the next few days.  This set up certain expectations on my part, expectations that were quickly dashed.  For the next several days, I had an extremely difficult time peeing, and I was miserable and filled with thoughts of gloom and doom.  What if this is my permanent condition?  I thought.  What if I have to have another catheter placed?  What if … what if I have to self-catheterize?

I spent a lot of time crying, swearing, and generally wallowing in self-pity.  It seemed so unfair that I put myself through such a horrendous surgery to fix a certain problem, only to end up with the opposite – and worse – problem.

Also, Wednesday (the day after I had the catheter out) I started feeling under the weather.  By Friday it was clear that I had a bad cold, or the flu, or some other communicable disease.  Kevin was also sick, as was Finn.

By Sunday, I had made up my mind to call my doctor (the uro-gynecologist) Monday morning, about my continued difficulties peeing, come what may.  I was beginning to fear kidney damage, sepsis, or who knows what.  But suddenly Monday morning, there was a noticeable improvement.  And things have continued to gradually improve since then.  Still not back to normal, but peeing is no longer an ordeal, and I’m no longer worried about dying from urine poisoning.

The things we take for granted.  Next time you visit the loo, I want you to really be present in the moment.  As you listen to that golden shower, and feel the warm flood being released from your body, rejoice.  Do it for me.  In fact, it will make me very happy to know that people the world over (or the three or four of you who read this blog, anyway) are thinking of me as they shake the dew from their lilies.

Meanwhile, by yesterday morning, in other respects, I felt like death.  I dragged myself in a feverish fog to my GP, and was diagnosed with pneumonia.  I was given a breathing treatment in the office and sent home with a prescription for a z-pack and an inhaler.  After two doses of the antibiotic, I am feeling more like myself today.  Hopefully I will be completely well and back to my obnoxious self within the next few days, and this will all fade like a bad dream.

In other news, the Oregon state bar exam results were published on the state bar website last Friday.  I am not overstating it when I say that it was absolutely thrilling to be sitting here with Michael, and to scroll down and see his name among the mere 60% of candidates who passed.  There has been a part of me over these six weeks since he was up in Portland taking the bar exam that was very confident that he would pass – because I know how smart he is, how well he thinks on his feet, and, well, there was probably a naive part of me that just couldn’t imagine him not passing.  I didn’t start to doubt until the day the results were going to be posted.  He, on the other hand, had serious doubts all along.  He came back from Portland saying that the exam – especially the second day – was incredibly difficult, and the reality is that he only devoted less than three weeks to studying, given that he has a law practice to run.  Many people study for the bar for months – full time – and still don’t pass.  So, I’m kind of in awe of him right now (I’m sure this will pass next time he pisses me off).

So, Oregon.  We have no definite plan at this point.  In all honesty, now that this hurdle is out of the way, moving seems even more daunting than it did before.  Maybe because before he took the bar exam, it was all hypothetical.  Now, it’s like, are we going to put our money where our mouth is?  So much to figure out.  A law practice to wind up, a house to sell, and adult kid who can’t yet support himself, but who also doesn’t want to leave California.

2

Fifteen Days Post-op

waterfall-02I know, you’re all dying to know if I’m peeing yet, right?

I went back to the doc this morning for another voiding trial.  I peed this time.  I expected that successfully peeing after this ordeal would look a lot different than it actually looked: I expected a gushing river, by god!  But no, it was a mere trickle, and that took a lot of effort.  I was able to empty a little more than half of the sterile water they put in, and the doc was satisfied with that, which, honestly, shocked me.  When she came in and said, “You’re good to go!” I thought I misheard her.  She explained to me that it’s very much like having one’s arm in a cast for several weeks; when the cast comes off, the arm is a little weak and thin, a little atrophied from non-use.  Same with a bladder being continually drained and compressed by a catheter: it needs to be exercised again, and she’s confident that I will see a lot of improvement over the next few days.

I’m wary, cautiously optimistic, and so freaking glad to be rid of that awful catheter and pee bag.  It’s been the one thing holding up my recovery it feels like; my pain from the surgery is pretty much gone, my energy is gradually coming back, but hauling that damn thing around – and not even being able to wear actual clothes – it was such a total drag.

So, I’m not back to 100%, but I’m getting there, and this was a big step.  I still have to take it fairly easy for the next month or so – no heavy lifting or housework, no power walking, etc., because everything is still healing inside, but I feel the funk lifting.

If anyone out there comes across this and is anticipating the same surgery at some point, just know that the first couple of weeks after the surgery will be fucking misery.  Expect setbacks.  I have not talked to a single person who has had this surgery who has not experienced some form of setback.  It’s a major surgery, and the recovery is not easy.  That is not to say “don’t do it.”  Living with pelvic organ prolapse and incontinence is also misery.  The general consensus is that the surgery is worth it for long-term quality of life.  If you can resign yourself to a couple of weeks of a form of hell, you will be good to go.

6

Nine Days Post-op

My recuperation is slow and discouraging.  I went back to the doctor this morning for another “voiding trial,” and I was super hopeful, but it turned out that I still can’t pee on my own, so I’m stuck with a catheter and a bag of urine strapped to my thigh for at least the next week.

I think it’s safe to say that I’m rather depressed at this point.

Michael is mostly back at work – he does have a practice to run, after all, and we have bills to pay.  The kids are on spring break and I feel utterly disconnected from all of them.  I spend my days in pajamas (there aren’t many clothes you can wear, as it turns out, with a bag of piss tied to your leg), resting as much as I can, and feeling very gloomy.  I still don’t have much appetite, and have now lost seven pounds since surgery.  I’ve been reading some, watching a few movies.  I didn’t even pick up my knitting for a week, and even now don’t feel very enthusiastic about it.  I am driving a little.  Went to the store yesterday, hoping I wouldn’t run into anyone I know because I don’t feel like chatting with anyone (I didn’t), and it completely wiped me out.  I came home and slept for an hour and a half.

Next week we need to get back to some semblance of structure and school.  I feel bad that no school has taken place since a couple of days before my surgery.  I feel like I’m failing my kids.

I’ve decided that I would not make a good candidate for any long-term illnesses, so I’ll pass on all of those, thanks very much.

Years ago when I was a manicurist (yes, I was a manicurist!), I had this regular customer, and older woman named Lydia.  Every week when she came in, she reeked of urine.  Back in the day, women just had to live with incontinence.  I think of her often, and I think, well, it was either that or this.  Hopefully this will turn out to have been worth it.

Hopefully there are better days ahead.  Hopefully in a few months I’ll be able to look back on this ordeal and laugh about it.  For now, it sucks completely.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...
9

Powered by WordPress. Designed by Woo Themes

UA-37617485-1