"A word in earnest is as good as a speech"
~Charles Dickens: Bleak House

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Thoughful Thursday ..... do you want to be a princess?

An article popped up in my newsfeed today about Disney Studio's newest Princess. Her name is Sophia and she is a little girl (as opposed to the others who are young women). She is meant to be "a positive and educational role model" for preschool girls (and no doubt sell a lot of toys).

There is also a new Pixar movie coming out over the summer called Brave, featuring Princess Merida, who is a "girl" trying to compete with the boys.

There was a point in time when even my five-year-old son was in a princess frenzy, carrying around his small Princess Peach toy everywhere he went. He has since decided he does not like princesses and has no desire to be a prince.

The article about Sophia made me stop and think. It talks about how hopefully this princess (since she is so young) will do more than sit around and wait for her prince to come.

The battle over whether or not Disney princesses are good or bad role models for young girls is endless ....

I loved Snow White and Sleeping Beauty when I grew up. Even as a young adult I could watch Beauty and the Beast or The Little Mermaid over and over. I wanted the dream. I wanted to be saved. I admit, I brought my oldest son to see Mulan when he was very young, not because I thought he would be interested in a Chinese war movie .... but because I wanted to see Disney's attempt at a strong female role model. I was disappointed .... not because it was a bad movie, but because it showed women that to be powerful they needed to act more like men. Even the trailer for the new Pixar movie seems to be sending the message that no longer will the princess wait around for a prince to save her, she will act like a man and then be successful on her own.

As an adult I learned  that being a princess is not all it is cracked up to be. We learned from Princess Diana that being a princess is not all glitz and glamour. And the recent Princess Kate had premarital counseling to avoid the depressing that Diana dealt with. It makes you realize that perhaps Princess Jasmine from Aladdin was right in leaving the castle to pursue her dreams ..... which do not include being a trophy wife.

My new favorite television show is of course Downton Abbey. These are women that I can see as good role models. Caught between the era of women having no rights or independence, to women wanting and fighting for it. The battle between tradition and social change. And with it all a castle, Lords and Ladies; Dukes and Countesses. In the end our heroine, Lady Mary, gets the boy as well. It has all the romance and feisty ladies all rolled into one - where the men have the power, but the women have the strength.

I was fortunate that I birthed boys. I don't think I would have been a good mother to daughters. They would have been confused as I spouted strong female values .... and still sat down with a big bowl of popcorn to daydream about living in a castle and falling in love with a handsome prince. So instead of raising the next generation of Disney Princesses, I am raising the next generation of Princes. Who (I hope) will value women for what they are instead of what they look like. Who will value independence and free thinking while at the same time showing respect and tenderness. And to those moms who refuse to let their little girls imagine and dream of being a princess I say "lighten up." You can find good role models in the princess realm, as long as you are willing to sit down and talk about it with your little girl about the reality of being a woman.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Wordless Wednesday

Literature Tuesday .... a little something from me

The Real World

I remember as a child
Counting shells at the beach at the edge of the tide.
The ocean tickling my toes with its babble & bubbles,
Before quickly returning to the sea with a urgency to see other shores.
My body smelled like coconut & sand
Briny and Fresh
My skin was tight with dried salt,
            My ears full with the call of the gull & the woosh of the shore
My back was hot from the sun, my face cool from the ocean breeze;
            As I sat in my bright orange bikini with big yellow flowers.
And I counted my shells,
            For these were my currency for a long day …..

Of being a captain of a pirate ship,
            Saving my bounty from the waves crashing the rocks.
For being an environmentalist,
            Saving starfish from killer rays probing their tide pool homes.
For being the queen,
            Saving my castle from the surge of the sea.
For walking from one end of the beach to the other,
Saving the most beautiful shells from the depth of the tide;
To settle in my pile and be washed and shined and counted;
            As I dream of distant lands and treasures that will come my way.

Today is a bright and sunny day,
            Warm breezes kissing the trees outside.
And as I remember back to my youth,
            And my shells
I count the people bustling by,
            All as unique as the shells on the beach.

Black and white
     Men and women
          Tall and short
               Bobcut, dreads, pony tails, afros & braids
                    Long skirts, short skirts, suits, slacks & jeans,
                         High heels, no heels, sandals, sneakers & boots.

Single parents, expecting parents,
     Parents of twins, triplets or quads,
          Hopeful, frustrated, tired parents,
       Those wishing for children,
            Those happy to appreciate the children of others.

People who work in an office,       
     People who push paper, movers & shakers,
  People who make things, sell things, create,
           People who make millions,
                People who make the rent.

Some live in grand mansions,
        Some in one room apartments,
             Some in cozy cottages or dorms,
                  Some carrying their home in their backpack,
               Some live in glass houses & should not throw stones.

Dreaming of distant lands and treasures that will come their way.

                                                                                                               ~Leann (6/28/10)

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Medical Monday ..... Lupus and Valentine's Day

I got the following blog post in my in box today. I was in the process of searching for medical news for today's blog. I had decided I would try and avoid lupus stories, you know, investigate things I don't know much about. Not dwell on my illness because there is so much out there that needs to be studied and cured.

But then I got this newsletter from the Lupus Foundation of America about love and lupus. Since it is the month of love I thought it was a good time to do some sharing.

I have had long winded discussions about what it is like living with lupus. But sometimes we forget what life is like for the people who live with people with lupus.

I was 35 when I was diagnosed with Systemic Lupus Erythematosus and Lupus Nephritis. It was a crazy year!

That was the year I married my soul mate. It was the year I went through the worst pregnancy - filled with complications, 6 months of vomiting all day, medications, hospitalizations, low hematacrits - and then an emergency c-section at 28 weeks to a 2 1/2 pound, 15" beautiful baby boy! He was in the hospital for 10 weeks before we could bring him home (I remember the day we brought him home, we were afraid they were going to arrest us for taking him out of the hospital - and then we swapped off sleeping because we were afraid to leave him alone without having the machines to tell us he was breathing). When he was in the hospital I went back to work so that I could have the time off when he came home in September. When he came home, I would work from home 3 days a week and he came into the office with me 2 days a week.

I was exhausted. I had been since the day I realized I was expecting. But then the day came that changed everything. I had fallen asleep on the futon in the living room and I woke up with my eyelids swollen shut. We had just brought the futon out of storage and I thought maybe there was some kind of mold or something that got in the futon and I was having an allergic reaction (I laugh now because the biggest worry at the time was how we could afford a new couch if we had to throw out the futon).

So I went to the allergist - no allergies. But some odd blood work - my hematarcit was really low, but I was not iron deficient. He mentioned autoimmune and said I should contact my primary care physician.

I then did the one thing that no one should EVER do when a doctor mentions a diagnosis in passing. I looked up autoimmune disease on the Internet. There are over 100 Autoimmune diseases and when you look at the prognosis of a lot of them it isn't very good .... words like renal failure, fatal, death. But I was optimistic and called my doctor.

She had no idea what was wrong with me. And that is ok. We have this illusion that all doctors know all this about every medical condition known to mankind. But I am ok with a doctor who says ..... your test results infer something I am not familiar with, here is the name of a specialist who can better treat and diagnose you. So, I called the rheumatologist. She was not taking new patients, but said she could see me in a month. I thought, this is good, it can't be that bad if I can wait a month for an appointment. She told me to have some bloodwork done so that she would have a clear picture of what was going on and I scheduled my appointment for a month later.

Two days after I called the rheumatologist I got a call at my office. She had gotten my test results and could I come into the office that afternoon. Now I was worried. My husband and I started talking about what we would do if ..... if it was cancer, if I had to take time off from work, if somehow it was still the futons fault.

The rheumatologist told me I would need to see a nephrologist since the test showed my kidneys were not filtering the way they should. So, three days later I was in the nephrologist's office. Up until this point I had no idea what a nephrologist did ..... I am not even sure I had ever heard the word. At this point I had so many blood tests taken that my arm was black and blue from my elbow to my wrist and they had to use butterfly needles to get any blood (again, I had no idea until this process started what a butterfly needle was). 

To say I did not like the nephrologist when I first met him is an understatement. He was very gruff and matter of fact ....... your kidneys are not functioning, you need a kidney biopsy, your blood pressure is too high for a kidney biopsy due to the edema so you will be in the hospital for several days, make child care arrangements, you will be admitted tomorrow.

And I sat there stunned.

Once all the tests were done and I was home I got the phone call .... you have stage 4 lupus nephritis ..... very aggressive ...... 2 years chemo therapy ..... prednisone until the chemo starts to work ..... we will start next week ..... have more bloodwork ..... very serious. And behind all of this, how am I going to tell my husband. What am I going to tell my kids?

My husband's mother died from complications of lupus before people really knew what lupus was. So for all the conversations we had about what could be wrong with me, we never mentioned the "L" word. I vaguely remember how or what I told him when I got off the phone with the nephrologist. What I remember was his response "Are you dying." And my response "Not today." And then he said "I can work with that." 

I gave him the option at that point .... you can walk away, no hard feelings. He reminded me of the vows we had taken only 7 months earlier ..... in sickness and in health. It has no doubt been hard on him. I wasn't the easiest woman in the world to live with before I got sick .... I am even worse now. When you finally realize you have no control over your body, no control over your illness, you try really hard to have control over everything else in your world - and being that I was a control freak before lupus this does not bode well for the men in my house!

But my husband stuck it out .... 5 years later my kidney disease is in remission and I only have to deal with the SLE (which I refer to as my annoying lupus). And my husband takes care of me .... when I am tired or in pain or just worn out and fed up. He cooks and cleans and takes care of the kids when I can't. Tries to console me when I cry for no reason or understand when I am just angry.

We live a good life and I am grateful. But loving someone with a chronic disease can't be easy. So for Valentine's Day I am going to try and do something special. But there are no guarantees that will happen .... I could be asleep by 6:00pm.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Family Friday ..... the words we teach our children

I have been thinking a lot about language. It started the other day when I heard a news report about Newt Gingrich referring to President Obama as the "food stamp" president and the implications that has on the topic of race in our country.

Then last night the 5-year-old brought home the greatest book "Wild About Books" by Judy Sierra. It was the greatest play on words and used "big" words in a way that children want to know what they mean. We read it so many times last night that my throat hurt:

"As the cheetah's new novel began to take shape,
He read chapters each night to the Barbary ape;
And although the gazelle couldn't spell very well,
Like everyone else, she had stories to tell.

Imagine the hippo's enormous surprise
When her memoir was given the Zoolitzer Prize."

And this morning a friend shared a blog on Facebook: "Being Retarded"

It really made me start to think about how we teach our children to communicate. I hear it everyday -
"That is so gay!"
"You are so retarded"
"She is such a douche"
And don't even get me started on the "N" word!

When I was a kid I was called a lot of names. I was different and sat alone a lot. There were a lot of reasons for that and I have gotten over them. But I remember very clearly coming home from school crying and my mother saying:
"Just tell them sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me"
I tried it and the name calling got worse because now they wanted to make me hurt. And words can hurt!

When I was a kid bullying was about hitting. It was about fear of being physically hurt. Grown-ups, school officials, the police were not interested in name calling. They were not interested in groups of popular kids communicating their disdain for the "weak" in hurtful words. I recently read an article on verbal bullying and it was interesting to me that we now have a word for it.

But the reality is parents allow it. Parents use those phrases. Parents allow children to watch "reality" television that use those words. Parents allow their children to use those words.

I heard a small child once call another small child a "dumb ass" and instead of reprimanding the child and telling her not to use bad words or call another child names; the mother giggle and thought it was cute. The child then ran around the table singing "your a dumb ass."

I believe in free speech! I am a liberal after all. I believe that when I am out with my children and I hear this type of language I can use it as a learning moment and explain why that is not appropriate, why it is hurtful (usually loud enough for the other parent to hear me - I admit to being passive/aggressive). I believe that I have the right to turn off a television show I find offensive. I have the right to not allow my child to watch a show I think has hurtful language and poor treatment of others. That is my job as a parent. It is a job that I love!!!

Parenting is a job that gets harder everyday ..... televisions, Internet, smart phones ..... we have less and less control over what information our children consume when they are not sitting directly in front of us. And then there are the children in school whose parents think it is cute to hear their child say the word "dumb ass." Those children have much more influence on my children then television ever will.

So I combat the language issue in my home - when we talk about each other, when we talk about others. I teach that words can be as hard as stone .... and they should be thrown about with caution ..... after all, we are all people who live in glass houses.