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Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Woman Hands Out Fat Shaming Notes to Kids so She's not Seen as the 'Mean Lady' -- Oh.

Perhaps by now you've seen this?

Now, you might this this is some spoof out to rile the social justice warriors. I admit, I wasn't sure at first. But no. This is a real note, courtesy of Cheryl from Fargo, North Dakota. In fact, here she is on y94 defending her decision.

The DJ asks her why she doesn't just give out healthy alternatives, and her reply is that she doesn't want to be the mean lady. So she'll give all the kids candy, and the ones she deems overweight will also be getting this incredibly well worded, and caring, note.

There are so many things wrong with this I hardly know where to start.

Let's first define "concern trolling" okay? Since apparently a lot of people don't seem to understand the concept.

Concern Trolling: "A person who posts on a blog thread, in the guise of "concern," to disrupt dialogue or undermine morale by pointing out that posters and/or the site may be getting themselves in trouble, usually with an authority or power. They point out problems that don't really exist. The intent is to derail, stifle, control, the dialogue. It is viewed as insincere and condescending." --Urban Dictionary

Now, this is a case of in real life concern trolling. The woman holds herself up to be helping the community by inserting a note which she finds to be "well-meaning" into those people's hands that she finds unhealthy. She has put herself into a dialogue that didn't exist, is controlling it, and wants to be seen as the good guy.

Here's why she can't do that:

1) It's none of her business. Halloween is an opt-in holiday. Think Halloween candy makes kids fatter and you can't stand it? Opt out. Leave your porch light off. It's as simple as that. Or as the DJ suggested, give out something you consider healthy. The kids won't care. They're there for the costumes and festivities. If they ever even do care about what kind of candy they got, it's long after the fact, and they won't even remember you. Repeat this to yourself: you are not that big a deal.

2) Parents have eyes. They can see their own children, they know what their children weigh moreso than even you do, and they have deemed it appropriate to allow their kids to partake in the collection of candy this year. They don't need you to tell them what they can see. They don't need you to tell them what they should do.

3) Collection of candy. That's as far as you see. For all you know that family is donating their stash this year. Or not. Not your business.

4) I happen to be a fairly thin, muscular woman--a woman some people would say is in great shape. I've  eaten four bags of Halloween candy in the past two weeks. Meanwhile, I know people struggling with their weight who have eaten nothing but wholesome, doctor-approved diets in that time. Point being, thin people do not represent healthy people necessarily. Those thin kids you're referencing in your note could have far worse diets and exercise than the ones you consider to be overweight.

5) Kids of trick-or-treating age are just coming into the stage where they learn about people like you, who will judge them for what they look like as opposed to for who they are. They've not yet built the walls of self-confidence around themselves, and reading a note like this could have a very definite and a very negative impact on them. They could accidentally allow you to define them. They could lose their sense of self and start judging who they are by what you think of them. They could then pattern this for years, becaoming more and more unhappy with themselves, always feeling inadequate, no matter how much they accomplish. These kids, they don't know you don't matter. So you have to act like you do. Because you might to them. And if that's the case, wouldn't you rather be the person who shored someone up when they were feeling insecure rather than pushed them down into the depths of self-doubt and worry?

In summation, here's a PSA. Happy Halloween, everybody! Remember this year to not be a total douchecanoe when handing out candy to the joyous children happy to be out and about and proud of their costumes.


Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Fitness Corner - Body Combat 47 Track 3 Make U Mine

Okay, we tried a second one. This one is easier because it's punches, not kicks. If you want to look silly at home, like me, BC is the way to go!


Monday, October 28, 2013

Recipe Monday - Can You Guess What These Are?

I can already hear you. What, you are asking, in the everloving world are those? It's a valid question. Some people thought sausage, to be honest. But you all couldn't be more wrong.


These are donut holes.

And not only are they donut holes, but they are donut holes made in a maker machine specifically for donut holes. You'd think even I couldn't fail. But you'd be wrong.

There's the recipe for those of you who actually want it. My favorite part is at the very bottom. "Use your imagination and have fun!"

What? Oh, I had to use my imagination alright, but I really didn't have all that much fun.

It started out simple. Gather the ingredients. There weren't even that many! (Check it: super dangerous knife and water bottle atop the microwave...where the five year olds can't get them.)

But before we even began, I had a Facebook freakout about the buttermilk. In fairness, I don't often (read this was the second time ever) use buttermilk, and that shit stank. Holy God, it smelled so rough. Not to mention it was separated. As in, it was all watery up top, then turned into sour-creamy like goo at the bottom, Just no. So I asked about it very calmly on Facebook. Something like, Omg, has anyone ever used buttermilk? I feel like I'm going to kill us all, HALP! You know, a normal, intelligent FB update.

I was informed that the stankier the buttermilk was, the better. Um, okay. I'd just let the kids eat theirs first and watch what happened.

So, I began mixing. All I had to do was put the right amount of all the ingredients in one bowl and stir it. What could possibly go wrong? I only had one step.

Did you know that there is a difference between a one-cup wet ingredient measuring tool and a one-cup dry ingredient measuring tool? I didn't.

Okay, so that looks good, right? Like dough should look. And since these are "dough" nuts, I should be set. But this was supposed to look like batter. Wat? What do?

Apparently, I'd measured the dry ingredients in my wet cups and the wet ingredients in my dry cups, and seriously why are there so many cups?

Facebook helped me figure that out, but unlike usual, they had no solution. Just start over, they said. But I was out of stank-ass buttermilk. We were foraging on.

So, I just altered the directions a tad. Instead of "pouring the batter" into the little donut hole maker thing, I "scooped the dough" into it. I'm sure it's fine.

Well, almost fine. No one will notice that these are as heavy as bowling balls, I'm sure, and once I put the cinnamon sugar on there, no one will even see...any of all that up there.

Except another problem awaited me. The instructions stopped after the wonderous dough balls were completed. They gave no indication of how to get the cinnamon sugar on the holes! Facebook to the rescue again!

Just put cinnamon and sugar in a ziplock bag and shake the balls around in it, they said. It will work, they said.

That is a donut hole with only cinnamon on it. There was sugar in the bag. I swear. But sugar apparently hates donut holes and only the cinnamon came on board. If you're wondering, it tasted just like you would think a donut hole covered in plain cinnamon would taste. Blech. Clearly I needed another solution.

But not, of course, until trying that same bag thing over and over and over again. You know, just in case the sugar wanted to get in on this donut-hole action. (Spoiler: It never did. And now I had a dozen just cinnamon holes.)

Someone finally suggested putting a little, tiny bit of water on the baked goods, to get the sugar to stick. Now, that sounded like a bad idea to me because you can't just put water on bread-like things, amirite? But I was out of options, so I tried it.

And it worked. Thank the lord.

And for the week after that we had the densest, heaviest, hardest-to-eat donut holes ever.


Friday, October 25, 2013

No Means No

My twins are only five years old, but that doesn't mean I'm in any way smarter than they are. In fact, most days, it feels like quite the opposite.

See, I'm not so good at the "because I said so" line. I always hated it when I was a kid, and I went into this whole mom thing having made the conscious decision that I was never going to do that to my children.

I was wrong.

I was so wrong.

Part of the problem, of course, as I mentioned laughingly to a friend before I had to carry my kicking and screaming five year old off the playground about an hour later (because that's totally not embarrassing at all, by the way...or and in before you say "it's your own dumbass fault." I KNOW. Hence, post. Right?), anyway, like I mentioned to her, it's because I have too much respect for my kids.

I know, I know, gasp! How could you ever have too much respect for your kids? Especially you, Darlena, I mean, you yell at them all the time! That's not respect!

Okay, but bear with me.

Let me rephrase. I hold my children up to expectations I would have of an adult. Not in obvious ways, because I can tell they're five. No, in more...ingrained ways. It's hard to explain.

Basically, I expect my kids to think like I do when things are going in a normal way on a normal day. I project my sensibilities on them, so that when I say something like, let's leave the playground, and then they say no, and then I say yes, and then they get upset and tantrum (just a little, we're getting to the big ones, just wait), and then I tell them to calm down we're leaving either way, and then they do calm down for a half second and ask me if they can do one more thing...I will say yes.

Here's why:

I think, "It's time to leave, I should tell them it's time to leave, oh, they didn't like that, well, that's normal, kids don't like to leave fun places, I'll tell them again nicely, oh crap, they're crying, WHY DO THEY CRY? This is normal life, it's not like we didn't leave 10 billion places yesterday, too. Why aren't they getting that? I would get that. I'll tell them sternly to calm down, that's what moms do. Oh, look! They did calm down. And they want to do one more thing. Well, since they were able to calm down so nicely, and they're behaving now, and they clearly understood the message that we have to leave like, you know, people would understand that, I could let them do one more thing. Then we'll all skip home lalala, and everything will be wonderful."

Because I think that my kids understand things.

I do this a lot. Because I do this a lot, my kids have been trained to think this about the above situation:

"Crap, mom told us we have to leave. We don't want to leave. OMGOMGOMGOMGOMGOMG DON'T WANT TO LEAVE WAT DO? I know! I'll say no. That will very clearly show her my stance on this matter. What? Why did she tell us to leave again? Can't she hear me? OMGOMGOMG EMOTION FEELS CANNOT WON'T LEAVE. Also, maybe she'll cave if I cry. She never caves if I cry. No, you silly! It's after you cry that she caves. Just watch. Okay, crying. Oh. Here it is, she's telling me to calm down. Let's try that first, if it doesn't work, then we lose our shit, okay? Okay. Great! It worked! She's letting us stay! Huzzah!"

You see? I think they know I'm letting them stay because they improved their behavior. They know no such thing. What we've got going on is an improvised, slightly longer version of the I'll-cry-until-she-lets-me-have-it error that so many moms are shamed out of existence for.

Well, crap.

Anyway, to round out the story, after the one thing, when it was actually time to go, one of my kids did totally lose her shit, and freaked out not only as I had to carry her to the car, but also the whole ride home and then for about 30 minutes in her room, too.


So, what I'm saying, crudely, is I need to have less respect for my kids. But that's not what I'm saying at all. I actually just don't know how to articulate what I'm saying for once. I have to stop giving them the benefit of the doubt? No, that's not it. I have to set clear boundaries and not let them do even one more thing once I've said no.

That's it.

They need the boundaries. Because the way I'm doing it, while it might work for an older child, only serves to make them absolutely miserable, which of course makes me miserable.

I really, really want them to be able to reason, and come up with good points and get rewarded for thinking their way around things. But we're not ready yet. And me forcing that to happen only sets us back. Way back. So, keep it simple, stupid. No means no. No matter what.

Wish me luck.


Thursday, October 24, 2013

My Son Was Bullied - Contributor Post

Alex Nguyen of Alex Nguyen Portraits speaks to an increasing problem as our children grow up. Bullying and what to do when it happens to your family.


Last year, at the tail end of August, my husband and I casually talked to my son Samuel about school starting. We asked all the parent questions like, are you excited to see your friends? What are you looking forward to learning about the most? Anything that you want to talk to mommy and daddy about? He rattled off the expected answers such as, he was excited to see such-and-such friend; he wanted to know if he'd be able to check out such-and-such book during Library; and he wanted to see how much he'd grown against his buddies.


What we weren't expecting was his hesitation, and confession that he was scared, and worried about going back to school to see a specific classmate. At my son's school, he is in cooperative program where from first through sixth grade, he has the same classmates and they all move up together through elementary. So while it's lovely to know that he'll always be in the same class with his friends, this was the first time that we heard about him fearing a fellow classmate.

We talked to him about his concerns and fears, and he said that his classmate John* wasn't very nice. John was loud, disrespectful, mean to other kids, told lies, and not a rule follower. When Samuel was around John, it would make him feel anxious inside. I talked to my son about how sometimes kids don't know how to make friends, and they act mean because they don't know how to be kind. I told him about modeling kindness, including John in activities at recess, in games, and we brainstormed ideas on how he could interact with John to alleviate his concerns and fears before school started.

School started, and my husband and I checked in with Samuel to see how things were going daily. About three weeks into school, my son told me that John had hit him at recess. I asked him what were the circumstances, and basically they were playing a game. John was showing off and doing "karate moves", Samuel asked him to stop, John continued doing it and made physical contact with my son more than once. My son reported it to the playground supervisor, who followed up with John. I emailed my son's teacher at once to see her take on the situation. I got no response. I emailed again, and again, and left messages on the school voice mail. By this time, a week had passed since the initial incident, and my son came home to tell me that John had kicked him at recess again. He also mentioned that John had stolen stuff out of Samuel's desk, and taken Samuel's school stuff from his backpack. Just matter of fact, while he was telling me about his day.

This time, I emailed the teacher, I emailed the principal, and I went to the school to talk to the teacher. I asked my son if he had reported it to anyone, and he said he had told his teacher who said she didn't see it and wanted kids to "work it out" amongst themselves. For recess he had told the playground supervisor, but John had run away and hidden, so he wasn't sure what had happened. I finally cornered the teacher to set up a meeting time with me to specifically talk my concerns that maybe John was bullying Samuel.

Her responses to me: "I haven't seen anything, so it didn't happen" "It's never happened to me before in all my years of teaching" "Do you really believe the word of a seven-year-old boy?" "Well, I think the class is bullying John, not the other way around."

She wouldn't take my concerns that my son was being HIT BY A CLASSMATE seriously. She wouldn't take my concerns that maybe my son was being bullied by a classmate seriously. And she blamed my son. When we finally met up with the administration, two and a half weeks after the initial physical hitting incident, we were told that we could only discuss things moving forward, and we couldn't discuss anything that happened in the past.

To say that I was livid would be an understatement. The cherry on top of the under-responsive teacher and school administration sundae was that my son came home the day of our meeting to tell me that John had hit him again on the playground.

After calling the Vice Principal again, we had an action plan in place. But, I had to really advocate for my child, since his first line of defense, his teacher who should have been protecting him, would not believe him. She even marked him down on his report card, stating that my son had social issues and did not accept others' behaviors (because he would not get along with his bully in his classroom - even though he got along with everyone else, and was even chose as ASB representative for his grade).

The action plan we finally got in place for my son was this: my son and John had weekly separate meetings with the Vice Principal starting in October, and lasting through April. All adults in charge were made aware of the situation, and knew to at least acknowledge my son when he came up with them to tell them of John's behavior (a simple, "I hear your words" was all we were requesting from them). His teacher, parent volunteers, the P.E./Music/Librarians/Spanish teacher all knew. My son also had a daily check in with his teacher to make sure that things were okay.

I also starting volunteering in his classroom weekly to keep an eye out on things. My husband started volunteering during recess whenever possible to also check on things. It took a lot of effort, and a lot of pushing from us as parents to have the school take us seriously that this was a problem. As a parent, it is a nightmare when your child is being bullied and no one at your child's school takes your seriously.

My advice is to be persistent and document everything (emails, phone calls; make a spreadsheet if you need to of actions taken, who you contacted, if there was any follow up). Make your voice heard, even if the administration thinks you are overboard. Make sure there is an action plan in place for future incidents, and that EVERYONE knows it - playground supervisors, even substitute ones. Parent volunteers in the classroom. Teachers. Vice Principals. Everyone should know.

Changes can be as simple as making sure your child and their bully are not sitting at the same table group in a classroom. If the school doesn't take you seriously, check with your school district website. I found out that our school district actually had something called a Bullying Advocate for parents/students. This was a third person liason that would work with parents with resources, and give us ideas on how to approach the administration better. At the end of the day, you are the best advocate you have for your child, and you know what is right for them.



Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Parents Aren't Causing Autism. Quit It. - Contributor Post

Janel over at Pollychromatic takes on some of the more persistent autism myths.


You want a rant? I’ve got one.

This was shared on my feed and I pretty much had my brain spasm all over the place. Here’s what I said, try to ignore the twitching anger:

I can’t with this. I mean, I can’t even read it. I mean, I can’t read it and continue to not be seriously heated.

You want to celebrate diversity? Here’s one for you: people on the Autism Spectrum? They’re people.
Here’s another shocker: not all of them are “difficult to reach.” 

Autism is a spectrum “disorder.” It’s a collection of learning disabilities, and neurological conditions. Not all of them present, or at the same levels with all people on that Spectrum.

We haven’t really delved very far into where ASD comes from as much as we have a new scare every month about what’s causing it, and how we’re being bad mothers if our children are affected by it. As though, somehow, we are the sole gatekeepers to our children. As though they are our possessions, and everything that happens with them, or everything they are is a reflection on us. 

This is a tool that has been used to beat women for centuries. It is a tool that women use to beat other women. It is a tool that women use to beat themselves.

Early in the history of ASD as a disorder it was believed to be caused by mothers who were too cold to their children. Not surprisingly this was during much of the early 2nd wave Feminism when women were beginning to discover identities outside of only being mothers. 

You want to have a career, or a life outside of the home? You’ll cause your child to be irreparably damaged. Now take off those shoes, get back in the kitchen, and do your duty to your family, or else your children will suffer, and it will be your fault.

Much has evolved since then, and we have come to learn more, but so much of that knowledge is a chaos of continued blame sourcing that seems to end nowhere other than hocus pocus faux scientific “medical” quackery.

What do we know? There seems to be a genetic link for Autism. It runs in families. 

We know that the numbers of those with ASD have likely been underreported for decades. So many people lay in the wings of Autism Spectrum and were so “lightly” affected that they simply were never reported. They were considered late talkers. Exceptionally picky eaters. Late bloomers. Shy. “Weird.” Etc. Parents simply never understood what they were seeing and never reported it if they did suspect. Perhaps fear of the stigma of a diagnosis that would follow their child around for life gave them caution. More likely that they just truly did not know what they were seeing. “Uncle so-and-so was a late talker, and then he went on to be successful,” went family legend and the friendly advice of neighbors. And so they put their suspicions on hold. 

Lord knows the backlash that I incurred when I put my son in Early Intervention at age 2 was bad enough. I can not imagine how bad it would have been if I had not had the wherewithal of my own knowledge and the courage to listen to my own inner voice AND the luxury of time that comes with being decidedly upper middle class to back me up. If I had been fighting the daily grind of a 9-5 (or a 3-11 for that matter), and trying to put food on the table, keep the gas turned on and water running, and the kids in clothes? Would I have fought so hard? 

It’s pretty hard to say.

I’m pretty insulted by this whole essay and it’s tone. I’m being frenetic and chaotic in my refutation of it.

What I have to say?

ASD isn’t the end of your child if your child has it. Not all ASD looks alike (my son could not be more sweet, more open, more funny, more loving, or more empathetic toward others). Mothers aren’t “causing” Autism.

Continuing to feed any of the three beasts I have named right there? Not. Very. Awesome.


Tuesday, October 22, 2013

The Reality of a Tummy Tuck - Guest Post

The original title of this post, which Smibbo has graciously given me, was "The Horror of Beauty." Equally as fitting.


I have had four children. I am also under five feet tall. I have an “orphan disease” called Jarcho-Levin AKA spondylocostal dysostosis, which means rather than having a long torso and short limbs like most “classic” dwarves, I have a short torso and long limbs. So you can imagine how confounding it was for my body to fit a baby in there.

Strangely enough, my first child was my largest and the only one I gave birth to naturally. The other three were in transverse presentation which just means they lay sideways inside me and refused to turn upside down like a good baby should. Babies can’t be birthed sideways. So I had three C-sections.

Now, imagine if you will, a torso about 12″ long being stretched out to accommodate a series of creatures from 21-23.5″ long. Yeah that doesn’t work so good. I was already pretty stretched out after my firstborn (9lbs and 24″) but with exercise, extended nursing and a healthy diet, my tummy receded. Mostly. I had the classic “pooch” with massive stretch marks. I didn’t care, of course, because I was so thrilled to have a baby. I was in my late 20s and assumed I’d “snap back” at some point.
Well five years and two more babies I sure as hell didn’t “snap back” at all. I got worse, of course.

Mostly I didn’t mind. It was annoying to have a flap of flesh hanging down but I kept believing it would shrink back… after all, the doctor said my hips would shrink back, right?

My hips did shrink back. My tummy skin did not. The hip shrinkage made the tummy non-shrinkage look worse, in fact. Chee thanks, nature.

By the time I had my fourth and final child, at age 41, it was pretty damned obvious that my tummy pooch was not ever going to shrink or otherwise stop annoying me. By the time I recuperated from the last C-sec my tummy pooch was a hideous foul thing. It hung a full FIVE inches below my pelvis. It obscured my precious parts from sight. It was bulgey and ugly and so deeply wrinkled that my navel appeared to be a cavern and I worried ridiculously about hygiene, afraid one day I’d be navel-cleaning and discover a nest of small mammals residing in it.

The worst part though, was the “flap”

I’m not talking about the piece of flesh itself, I’m talking about the SOUND it made when I moved. It made a very audible noise when I moved if I did not clothe myself carefully.

When I say “clothe myself carefully” I am being coy. Clothing myself with the pooch in mind was a process in and of itself. There needed to be cloth underneath the fold to muffle the sound it made and absorb sweat plus there needed to be cloth on top of it to help buffer the movement AND there needed to be tight cloth over the whole thing to try to tamp it down and smooth the surface appearance. After all that, I usually needed a nice loose layer to go over everything. Buying clothes was a depressing event because this flap basically added about three inches to my tummy area. If I bought high-rise pants to go over the whole thing I had to get a size 14 (42″) but if I got low-rise pants to go under the flap, my butt would sag like a gangsta wanna-be. And I don’t have a lot of butt to begin with. Short shirts were out of the question. Forget something like a halter top or bikini. HAHAHA. I wore man’s size large shirts which went to my knees and just left it like that. I looked like I was wearing my night clothes every time I went anywhere. Lets not even get into wearing a dress. I could sort of get it all under control by wearing underwear and super-tight pantyhose or tights. But dresses aren’t made to fit me anyway so to find one that was nice looking but didn’t accentuate the weird bulgey thing in my midsection was just an exercise in futility. So slovenly was my usual couture. I preferred to wear elastic band skirts with tights under and a long shirt on top. Even so, it was a production just to choose my clothes every day. Heaven forfend I went anywhere that required excessive walking. And by “excessive” I mean more than the steps it takes to get from the car to the nearest doorway. When confronted with stairs in public I nearly cried. If I was dealing with a baby and thus without any attendant hands to hold over my gut, the “flap” was thunderous to me and I often toyed with the idea of hurling myself over the stairwell just so I could break my ankle and have an excuse to NOT climb any stairs for a while. This was not a happy time for me. Moving about outside of my own house was a prospect that gave me pause more than once. Vanity? Don’t talk to me about vanity! I could have been walking around with legs like redwoods and a face only a monkey could love, and I would have been less self-conscious than having to hear that GDmnd “flap” sound every time I took a step. Oy and Vey. There were times when I chose to sit immobile just to avoid hearing it one more moment. And everyone who knows me IRL knows I hate to sit down (I’m too short, can’t see anyone, I prefer to stand) I sometimes wondered if I could get away with just using a kitchen knife and then rushing to the ER where they’d be forced to finish the job for me? Of course not, but damned if I didn’t think about it at least glibly. I wasn’t sure the requisite psychiatric brouhaha that would ensue would be worth it.

Still, it was an ever-present part of my life, this pooch. The size of it, the look of it and the sound of it were inescapable. Reminders that my body was used up, broken and worthless as an object of admiration forevermore. Which was a crying shame because at this time of my life, I was oddly more conscious of the fact that the REST of me was pretty damned awesome. It was just this horrid horrid fleshy bit that wouldn’t stop haunting me.

So, to sum it all up: the pooch had to go.

Let’s jump ahead through various and painful, related but ultimately inconsequential anecdotes about finances and just say, I got the money. Six Thousand dollars. Maybe not a princely sum to many people but it might as well have been six million for all the money I had. But fear not, I found a way to get the money. Namely, my (ex)husband got a medical loan. i would have signed away the next five years of my life to get rid of the pooch by then. Despite still having student loans and a barely treading water income, we took on a loan to pay for it. It was that important to me.

I did research and found a very highly regarded doctor who had all the certifications and stamps of approval and high reviews etc etc. He actually charged a fair price – some were jacking it to $8-10K. And I liked him too. Which is always a good thing.

So I had the surgery. Yeah of course I was scared. Surgery is scary stuff. You get put under. Someone is cutting you open. It’s a scary thought. The surgeon told me it would take anywhere from 4-8 hours. Dear gawd.

I woke up and… I really don’t remember. At all. I’m sure I was wheeled out at some point and taken home. I think I was allowed to stay at the recovery place for a day? I don’t remember. I really really don’t.
I was completely doped out of my mind. Thank goodness.

About two days later (?) I remember waking up for the gazillionth time in horrible pain. It was the day I was supposed to stop lying in bed and start moving around. I knew how important that was because I’ve had three c-secs. You need to move around as soon as possible so your blood doesn’t pool up, start forming clots, traveling to your lungs and/or heart and kill you. oR worse, clog your brain and make you a cretin for life. Yeah, so I got up.

Let me tell you… when they say abdominal lacerations are the most painful thing going, they are not kidding around.

Let me detail some things for you first.

A tummy tuck generally requires two main incisions: one straight down the middle and one horizontal, curved to your pelvis. The perpendicular incision usually goes around your navel which is removed for repositioning. The cuts do NOT go through your muscles but your muscles are rearranged to go back to your midsection (where they were before you got pregnant and had an alien try to split you in two) The abdominal muscles are then stitched together tightly in order to stay in place while you heal. The flesh is cut according to the pre-op drawing they do on your belly (yes they actually draw it on you first. With a sharpie), the navel is then fit back into the new cuts. Liposuction is applied in certain areas to flatten it smooth and the fascia is rigged into place (might be sewn, might just be pushed and held in place by overskin) then the skin is sewn back together. In layers. The inside is sewn with individual sutures and the outside is stapled. Then more liposuction to finish the ‘sculpting” and they start covering everything up with massive amounts of bandages and tape.

Unfortunately the curved pelvis cut is right on top of your pelvic bone so the tape is afixed on top of the pubic hair that is right at the top. Myep. WOW does that hurt.

Anyway, while they are sewing your midsection, you may (I opted for it and paid extra) get a lidocaine drip inside. And by “inside” I mean a loooooooooong tube about the size of an old fashioned stereo speaker wire is left inside you alongside the midsection cut. There is a tube on each side of the cut. There are holes all along the tube. The tubes are connected to a lidocaine drip “machine”. I say that in quotes because when we examined it, it turned out to work solely on the principle of vacuum. The tubes are connected to a large hospital-grade plastic bulb of lidocaine housed in a small box. The ‘caine hangs around your neck and using vacuum pressure it leaks slowly out. There’s nothing mechanical about it but it’s kind of nifty. It ekes ‘caine inside you right next to your incision.

Because incision pain is no freakin joke, yo. How do I know this? Because despite having this wondrous “machine”, I still was in horrible horrendous pain. I could still feel the incision, just in a muted kind of way. But trust me, its bad enough there’s probably not enough painkiller in the world that would make that go away without death. It actually felt like someone was still slicing me open down the middle, just in a slightly softened, muted kind of way.

So I woke up with my entire midsection bandaged heavily and tape tugging on my pubic hair and a weird thingie hanging off my neck and a catheter in my urethra and two tubes attached to bulbs one on each side of me to catch internal fluids. But I was supposed to “move around”


So. My life became a dull hazy repetition of movement and pain. I was lying in an armchair (you can’t lie down flat because getting up and laying down requires bending at the waist, which you can’t do because of all the bandaging. and it hurts like hell. Like pass-out kind of hurt) with my feet up in compression stockings wearing the skankiest, most People-of-Wal-mart kind of dressing “gown” with a box of ‘caine hanging off my neck and two plastic bulbs of bloody fluid pinned to each side of my gown. I am a classy kinda gal you betcha.

The catheter, luckily, was taken out on the second? third? day. taking it out kind of hurts but hell you time those pain meds right and who cares, amirite? I would get up whenever I was cognizant enough to remember it and start shuffling around. I’d usually shuffle to the bathroom whereupon I would start the procedure to sit on the toilet.

Unsnap gown. Unpin bulbs of bloody fluid. Put each bulb in a pocket. Pull spanx down (you have to wear spanx to help compress against the massive inflammation. more on that in a minute) partway. Take each BoBF and gently, carefully, duck it under the spanx to get the tube free and put it back in the pocket. Finish pulling down spanx. Shift ‘caine box to the side so it doesn’t bang into the toilet during the next move. Brace one hand under, on the toilet seat and one hand against he wall (pain meds make you kind of unsteady). using all the strength in your arms, lower self as SLOWLY as possible with back as straight as possible, down to the toilet until backside makes contact. it helps to lean to the side. Do business while trying not to cry out in agony. Rest a second or two. Do the wiping. Brace arms again for rising up. ONce upright, pull spanx partly up. Duck BoBF back under spanx so tubes are coming out from bottom of underwear. Pin each BoBF to the gown again. Snap gown. Swing ‘caine box back around to front (this is important step to remember otherwise the box is likely to swing unexpectedly and either clock you in the chest or catch on something like a doorknob while exiting the bathroom) Exit bathroom. Check BoBF to see if they need emptying. They always do. Follow procedure to empty BoBF. Try not to gag on the smell of bloody fluid. Put bulbs back on tubes with severe suction such that you can feel it pulling the fluids out of you. Shuffle back to the chair of doom. Repeat variation of toilet maneuver in order to rest in armchair. yay. I moved around.

So there’s these bulbs of bloody fluid. They are the drains coming out of your incision. They allow the body to release inflammation liquid without making your sutures pop from the pressure. It’s T-cell white cell interferon I don’t fucking know what the hell it is: its bloody, it smells gag-alicious and you have to not just empty it periodically, you have to measure the fluid, sanitize it all down with rubbing alcohol and write down the fluid volume on a chart. yeah. Fun times, my friends.

Let us not forget: you also have to get a shot of blood thinner in your thigh every day. Since this is an intra-muscular shot, the needle is pretty effing big. Like “don’t look at it” kinda big. The shot itself is pretty big too. I know because I had to get that shot for ten days in a row and the shots came in a box which was about 6″ tall. So it wasn’t like a little prick, it actually took a couple of seconds to push it in. You may not think a couple of seconds is much but when someone is forcing burning liquid into your thigh muscle slowly, you perception of time changes. Hurt like a mofo to get it every damned day. We wouldn’t let Lil Miss into the room because I didn’t want her traumatized by seeing me get that shot. I know my husband was not exactly loving having to give it to me when I’d cry out during the giving. Who likes hurting someone who’s already suffering? Nobody human.

So that was my basic daily routine for ten days. I shuffled and drained and toileted and sat and popped pain meds and shuffled and slept and hurt and hurt and hurt.

Somewhere around the fifth, sixth? Day I began to actually feel some differentiation in my hurt. I will share them all with you!

Of course the incision hurts. Its the first thing to hurt and the pain of it is bright, sharp and slicing. Imagine a paper cut across your midsection and pelvis. Now spray some of that green throat stuff on it. That’s what it felt like. It pretty much drowned out the pain of everything else. But somewhere before the first week was up, the pain of that receded just the tiniest bit and I noticed the myriad other pains.

Muscle pain. You think you know muscle pain? You work out or you sprained your ankle or you tore a ligament? Yeah, that’s pain. But you don’t KNOW pain until you’ve had abdominal surgery that causes the muscles to cramp up over and over which pulls against internal stitching at the same time.

I’ve been in labor and it hurts, I will not lie. This pain was verrrry similar but guess what? It was way worse.
Uterine contractions are cramps, yes. You can feel them when they happen. The uterus is large and cramping against a solid object inside of it so it’s essentially trying to squeeze the object out like closing a fist around a bar of half-used soap. But the muscle cramps of the tummy tuck are amazing breath-taking cramps that made me do nothing but sob. And that’s WITH high-dosage lortab. Those cramps were so hard (you could feel them, hell you could SEE them from the outside) that more than once I actually wondered if my body was going to tear something of its own accord. The cramps were so hard that it actually restricted my breathing. At one point I was sobbing and shuffling half-bent to the bathroom where I got a towel, put it under the hot tap until steam was rising from it and slapped it on my belly. My skin turned bright red and my husband said something about burning myself but I could not hear anything. Those cramps put childbirth to SHAME. The saddest part of it was that nobody, not the doctor, the nurse, the PA, the office girls, not even the literature had mentioned anything about muscle cramping. I had NO idea this was going to happen. I do believe the first time it happened I called the surgeon’s office terrified and of course they told me it was perfectly normal.

If I forget everything else about my tummy tuck, I’m sure the only way I could forget the abdominal muscle cramps is if I suffered brain damage.

And those cramps went on for longer than a week.

Believe it or not, the bandages and tape hurt. Some of it was because the tape went over my pubic hair as I mentioned, but some of it was actually because my skin was reacting to the tape or the glue in the tape. At some point I could not stand the feel of it in one little area – about 2×2″- and began to prise some of the tape off. I ended up cutting some of the bandaging away from that area. There was no stitching or incision in that area so I figured it was reasonably safe to do so. But the affected spot was seriously inflamed. Angry red and starting to weep. I smeared it with antibacterial ointment and tried to keep it untouched. Then there was the pubic hair tape. I ended up prising some of that loose as well. Because, as is typical, the top of my mons was shaved to facilitate the surgery and when the hair started growing back, it was underneath a ton of surgical tape. This is not a recipe for happiness. So I prised the edges of that off and retaped it with store-brand bandage tape in a looser way. Lil better. My hair follicles were not amused.

I could feel some pain around the incisions, as noted, but it was muted and weird. Partly because of the ‘caine drip but also because the surgery had cut many nerves which were now “dead”. So the incision area had a lot of numbness in it but there were plenty of nerves that had *not* been severed so there was also plenty of feeling. Combo: deadened-but-really-painful.

Because narcotic pain killers don’t confuse the brain enough, yanno?

But I have not said anything about pain killers here.

Yes, I had a nice big scrip for narcotic pain killers. I also had a prior scrip for lower-dosage pain killers from a previous condition.

The problem was that, as nice as lortab is (and it IS, I loves my lortab) it barely covered the pain I was feeling. At least for the first two weeks.

Part of the problem is dosage: generally everyone is allowed to have ONE pill every 6 hours. It doesn’t matter how big or small you are, how your body metabolizes food, how your body processes medicine, or how high your pain level is. You get one pill every six hours. So that is what we stuck to.

As many pain sufferers know, that *might* have worked for some people, but it didn’t work for me.
I’d get about 2-4 decent hours of pain killing with that dosage. In those 2-4 hours, I’d have about one hour of blissful COMPLETELY pain-free time which I would use to recline and sleep. The other 1-3 hours, I’d just feel slightly unhinged from mild pain. But it was enough panacea to keep me moving and do a little socializing with my family. The last 2 hours of every dose was hell. I’d feel every single incision, bruise, irritation and cramp in my entire surgical area. And there was nothing I could do about it. I couldn’t read, I couldn’t do the internet, I couldn’t do much of anything worth a damned in those 2 hours. Just sit dully waiting for my next dose and hope that maybe I could sleep the two hours away. I cried, I whimpered, I gulped a lot and I shuffled around trying to stay distracted. But those 2 hours… I hated my body and I hated the world.

So, to sum it up: the first ten days of recovery were Dante-style hell. I actually remember it in a sort of hazy blur of pain and bathroom trips swirling around that green chair I lived in.

Ten days out, I got my bandages removed completely. and the staples along my midsection were removed. My midsection incision was actually healing really nicely. It was weird as could be to see my navel as a puzzle piece fitted into my body but it was heartening to see my navel as an actual bellybutton instead of a miniature spelunker’s paradise. My pelvic incision was not looking so hot. Of course, this is where all the fluid collects (yay gravity) and where most of the bruising occurs as well. My incision was not healing uniformly either. But I knew that was “normal” from my last c-sec. I no longer needed the drains and so they were removed.

Let me tell you something: having someone pull long thin tubes out of your abdomen is a very weird experience.
I had no idea those tubes were so long. I’d guess about 2-3 feet. So now perhaps you can see that having someone pull them out of you is a bit on the surreal side of life.

How do they do it? By fooling you!

I was lying down on the exam table, they had just taken out my staple and checked everything over (including that raw reactive area I told you about earlier which they wanted me to keep putting antibiotic ointment on it)
Then the PA says to me “look in the other direction. Great, now I’m going to count to three. When I get to three I want you to take a deep breath and hold it.Then I’ll pull the tubes out. Okay?”

I was ready.




I can only guess this was done to keep me from screaming.

I’ll be honest, it didn’t hurt very much but it was so squick-inducingly weird that I probably would have cried out in some form if she had not surprised me like that.

Now of course that only works once. And there’s two tubes. But I played along anyway.

After the Bulbs of Bloody Fluid were gone, I had to make sure the open holes they formerly occupied were kept clean and dry. One side closed up almost immediately. The other side didn’t. For almost another week. Another call the to surgeon’s office. Not totally “normal” I’m told but not to worry about unless it starts seeming infected. Hokay.

Next up on the “things to get a little anxious about” was the pelvic incision itself. It wasn’t completely closed when they took all the staples out either but they didn’t seem too concerned about that. It was closed on the inside and I remembered from my last c-sec that that was okay. The outside would close later so long as I kept it as clean and dry as possible. I was told I could debride it occasionally but not to go too crazy with that. Debriding is when you swipe an astringent on an open wound. Its a little squicky but it doesn’t generally hurt and it appeals to the germ-worrier in me.

So two weeks after the surgery and I still had the ‘caine box and an incision that was partially open and weeping as well as a hole in one side that was also open and weeping.

Did I mention that I had to wear spanx during this entire ordeal?
Yes, compression garments are an absolute must. It helps compress the swelling, hold everything in place while you move around and it maintains the integrity of the surgery during healing.

I had never worn spanx in my life. I had no idea what to even buy when we went shopping for them before the surgery. I wish I could remember but I think we got two of a size small and later he had to go back and get me two medium or maybe it was the other way around??

The ones we got originally were so tight, I felt I couldn’t breathe and they left deep purple marks in my waist. So the husband cut a notch in the waistband. It helped tremendously.

Oh remember I said I’d stifle a cry when going to the bathroom? That was because of removing the spanx. Wearing compression on swollen tissue may not feel great but removing said compression during the healing time is a whole new level of agony. Fluids rush in, tissue swells up, gravity feels doubled and everything suddenly is just kicked up a notch or two. That means that when its times to put the compression garment back on, there’s NEW swelling to compress. Which is a refresher course in generalized pain as well. There were a few times I opted to keep the spanx off for a few more minutes just to give my body some time to calm the hell down. It seemed to help actually.

After about twenty days it was time to take the ‘caine tubes out. The bulb was pretty much done dripping. I called the office but it would be a few days before I could get an appointment to get them removed. I didn’t feel very comfortable with the notion of having the tubes sitting around in me no longer fulfilling their purpose so I asked if perhaps we could take them out. The office assured me it was perfectly fine. Just pull them out. I think there were some instructions somewhere… either verbally or in text… but the gist of it was “grab the tubes at the top and pull upwards until they come out”

And I thought the Bulbs of Bloody Fluid tubes were long? Dear gawd.
Because the ‘caine was all done, I could feel those wire-thin tubes snaking their way through me, over my organs, along the front of my stomach muscles and my diaphragm. Yay more squicky. And yes, they were bloody. The holes closed almost immediately. But I noticed the scars of the holes lasted a long time. I can still see them; two tiny spots of white.

So after two weeks, I was finally tube and bulb free but still had a open wound or two to deal with. I could finally move around upright, lie down (carefully) and go to the bathroom without wanting to stab anyone. I still needed my pain meds and I still had some serious issues with how things were looking down there but over all… I was finally recovering.

It took about two months for my incision to totally heal shut and start to scar up. I used special silicone tape that really is amazing. But I used it TOO much and it began to wear away some of my “good” skin. Still, I have almost no scarring along my pelvis. I still have some childbirth stretch marks but I could care less. The surgeon had asked me about them, if I wanted any extra work done for those and I told him “those are nothing to me; they are cosmetic. I Don’t care about cosmetic, I just want to wear regular clothes again”

It took about six months for my bellybutton scars to fade enough that I am not reminiscent of Frankenhooker.

Sadly, I did end up with the dreaded “dog ear” on one side. That is a surgical issue whereby the end of the incision doesn’t close up tightly enough and it hangs forward just a bit, kind of like a flopping dog ear. One side is fine but the other, not so fine. It only bothered me because I could FEEL the skin (barely)touching me in that one spot. The traumatic memories of the pooch probably make me a bit oversensitive about that sort of thing, though. I thought about someday going back to get corrective surgery, because I know it can be done in an office visit under local, but really, it’s not a big deal. Now I’m glad I chose not to worry about it, because it’s been nearly a year since the surgery and I’ve noticed that the “dog ear” has decreased enough to where it doesn’t look like a dog ear anymore… more just a little extra fat now. I think wearing Spanx 3x a week is still helping. Or maybe it’s the increased activity i’ve been doing in the last couple of months.

The appearance of my stomach has changed several times since the surgery. Once the swelling had gone down, while my abdominals were still tight and cramped, I actually had a sort of washboard kind of thing going on. I was tickled because I never looked like that in my life! It was kind of cool. But it didn’t stay that way. Frankly I’m glad: it was odd looking on me and it also restricted my breathing. Once my muscles loosened up and stopped cramping, my stomach became the basic round thing I’d had long before bearing children. This was what I wanted. I had not seen THAT stomach since my 20s and I was very glad to see it again. The “washboard” thing wasn’t me. I thought it was kind of interesting, but it wasn’t me. The lipo that was done is kind of interesting as well because I hadn’t realized that I could have a bit of contour to my stomach either. I suppose it is just age but I dont’ think I ever had those contours. But its subtle and I like it.

The most important thing, however, is the clothes.

I now can shop at a department store for pants and get a size 11. Low rise, medium rise, it doesn’t matter (high rise goes to my ribs) I’m still a size 11 pants. I can wear shirts that fit me now. I have a couple of dresses now and I wear them WITHOUT tights.

I bought shorts.

I bought a sexy slip.

I wear tank tops.

I put on a pair of daisy dukes (although I felt super-silly) and looked at my belly button.

I put on a bikini. And posed for a picture.

And I smiled.


Monday, October 21, 2013

Recipe Monday - Salsa Salad Mix

This was amazing. I used it as a side dish for enchiladas the other week. It's really simple, too.

1 can black beans
1 can corn
2 fresh diced tomatoes
2 avocados
1 small onion
lime juice

Cut up anything that needs to be cut. Mix it all together. Refrigerate for an hour.



Saturday, October 19, 2013

We Don't Need an Excuse!

Based on the popularity of the last post, we have started a tumblr to take back our body images. It's called Don't Need an Excuse, and the submissions, so far, have been stunning!

Here are a couple, just to show you what's up.

Head over there and submit your own, and spread the word. Loving ourselves is the best way forward, whether we want to improve in any arena, or not!


Friday, October 18, 2013

What's Wrong with This Picture? Why Maria Kang Can't Tell People What to Do.

Maria Kang is getting a lot of heat for this photo:

Now, I came here to defend her, actually. That had been my idea. I mean, she's clearly "fitspiration," and that's a genre. People attacking her for 'what she does' (which is also what she does for a living), is almost like someone attacking a romance novel for not being Proust. They're not meant to be compared. Which, really, is one of the problems with this photo. It's meant for the 'fitspiration' crowd, not for the general public.

The problem with 'fitspiration' people is that they often assume that the general public is the 'fitspiration' crowd, or would be if they could only see the light.

It's so easy, you see. Anyone can do it. What's your excuse?

And there's the second problem with this photo. Unlike the other 'fitspiration' stuff she's posted that involve pictures of herself, she actually comes out and brings you into the equation. And you know what? We all have some pretty good excuses.

Here are a few from a Facebook thread:

"My "excuse" is that I don't work out for a living."

This is a good point. Maria Kang's business is fitness. It's what she does. She makes money from it, in addition to her social media presence. Blogging and writing are what I do. Unfortunately, they don't keep me fit. Come to think of it, they don't pay me either.

"I don't have money for daycare or a babysitter so I can work out for hours or go on 10 mile runs."

Another excellent point. Maria Kang's husband stays at home and is extremely helpful around the house. They do have money. She does have time. These are not small issues.

I'm totally privileged in that I can afford to go to a gym that provides child care, and I have the time to work out for an hour three times a week. I have a husband who looks after the kids on Saturdays when I go to that gym. I spend my days writing, being a housewife and mom, and going to grad school. This is privilege. I can do these things because I have advantages that other people do not have.

One person on Facebook commented that "it's pretty damned easy for a suburban soccer mom to tell a single mother with two jobs and barely enough income to afford fast food that she just isn't trying hard enough."

When you're working two or three jobs, as a single parent, and your car is on the verge of breaking down, and your kids need their time with you and you're just making ends meet, well, running 4x a week and doing your core 3x a week is not happening. It's not an excuse. It's reality. And when those parents sit down, exhausted, in the thirty minutes of peace they have between the time their kids go to bed and the time they drag themselves to bed, the last thing they want to see is some woman who doesn't get it telling them how easy it would be if they just gave up the excuses. The message simply cannot translate.

"My excuse is 4 kids in 5 years, an emergency c-section, and genetically inelastic skin. I had a consult with a plastic surgeon and the extra skin on my tummy falls into the "severe" category. So I can exercise like a beast (and I have) and I'll still look 4 months pregnant. So fuck her."

This is a biggie. When taken out of the 'fitspiration' subgenre (and even within it, honestly, because many, many followers of 'fitspiration' have fairly insurmountable odds, or as Kang would call them, excuses, when trying to get fit). It's great that Kang can look like that thirty seconds after giving birth (which she actually doesn't, but I'll get to that). The point is, not everyone is Kang. Not everyone can look like that even if they do everything she does exactly to the letter. Everyone's circumstances are different, and speaking as a lady with stretch marks and extra skin, it totally sucks. And seeing a (n edited) picture like that saying I'm just not working hard enough. Well, like the FBer said, fuck you.

Now, if you visit her Facebook page (which I have a lot to say about in a minute), you'll see at one point Kang posted this picture of herself:

You'll see through the sand, that her pregnancies do show. There are the stretch marks I so recognize. There's the way my own skin wrinkles when I sit. And yes, I know that she can arch and stand in ways so that that doesn't happen (I do it myself for photos). But in the first picture I posted, those stretch marks are non-existent.  I blew that photo up to as large as I could, hunting for a tell-tale streak. Nothing. Photoshopped or airbrushed out.

So, Maria, what's your excuse?

How can you tell women that if they just put down the pound cake and took up your prayer and exercise regime they would look like that, when  you don't even look like that? I am...disappoint. And none of this is to say her photo here isn't gorgeous. The only one saying that is her, when she thanks her fans for being "understanding and supportive" of her stomach skin. She is a damn knockout, as she is. I'm sorry she doesn't see it that way.

But wait! We're not done with real life "excuses"!

"I have hypothyroidism which means one of the many complex issues this causes is a slow metabolism. So it's not easy to lose weight but it's reeeeally easy to put it on."

When you take a meme like 'what is your excuse' and you put it on a picture that gets shared to the general public, you run the risk of people getting pissed off. Deservedly pissed off. Do you have hypothyroidism, Kang? Or lupus, or scoliosis, or fibromyalgia? No, you do not.

And they're not excuses. They are reasons.

I visited her Facebook page after reading the Yahoo article about her (who gives an exclusive interview to Yahoo, btw?) And there are lots of "excuse" motivations on there. Like this one:

Okay, now, I love this kid. I've seen this before, and I just love this kid. I'm not going to dwell on this point too much because I just don't know how I feel about it. But someone on Facebook made an interesting point which bears repeating here and that is: "those disabled "what's your excuse" memes are bullshit. Disabled people do not exist for your motivation."

I feel this is absolutely correct. I think the line here is where we stop celebrating our own fantastic-ness, and start telling others that they should be doing something just because we did it (or because the most adorable boy on the planet did it). Everyone has their own obstacles to overcome and everyone overcomes those obstacles in their own ways. You cannot take someone else's (even your own) story, and push it onto people at large. Life doesn't work that way.

Love yourself, love your life, job, fitness level, etc. But don't preach it to people who didn't ask to hear it.

Not to mention that some people simply cannot get her results, no matter what, like the FB commenter who worked out for two hours a day for three years, and still couldn't lose the weight.

After many people gave their "excuses" in that thread, an interesting thing happened. People started asking Kang what her excuse was.

"I have 3 degrees...what's her excuse?"

"Can she play tuba? No? What's her excuse?"

"I had my kids closer together than she did. What's her excuse?"

This is hilarious, but it also sheds light on something that isn't normally visible. No one would ever expect to see a tuba player's picture with the words "what's your excuse" atop it. And if they did see a picture like that, they'd most likely laugh their asses off. Because that's ridiculous. Not everyone wants to play tuba, so they don't need an excuse as to why they can't play it. Not everyone wants three degrees. And the people that do want three sometimes have the legit excuse as discussed above of not having the funds or the time to achieve them. And no one is posting pictures of themselves with their prizes and achievements in those areas asking others to justify themselves. Because that's silly.

But somehow it's not silly when someone does this in the working-out realm. Because 'fitspiration' is not just a subgenre, but is part of our general culture, and as such is open to these criticisms. Because the people hitting back don't find it silly or absurd. Shaming in this arena is such a part of our mainstream culture that people do get insulted when a random meme picture like this shows up on their social media. They get it enough everywhere else. They don't want it from a complete stranger, too.

The tuba player goes on to say, "Maybe it's not important or interesting to her... Gasp, you mean different people have different priorities?!"

And that's the crux of the matter. Looking like she looks a year after having her third child is not a priority for most people. And yet somehow, when seeing a picture like that, with a shaming message atop it, people do feel shamed for it not being a priority for them. And then they get mad. Because it's a dominant theme in our culture. One that needs to go away.

She has every right to be proud of herself, and every right to motivate those who are looking to be motivated in her arena, in her area of expertise. But she does not have the right to attack those who would fight back against her message. Because while she intended to say this: "I know you think you don’t have time if you have kids. But if I can do it, you can do it, too," she actually said this: "what's your excuse?" And those are two different things.

And it's not the first time she's tried to pass a genre message off to a mass audience. She frequently posts pictures like this one:

Which would be absolutely fine if it wasn't so patently false. Again, these self-motivating messages simply cannot translate into the wider world.

After receiving a lot of backlash for the original picture, Kang took to her own Facebook page in what is now a pinned post saying:

"I've been getting an influx of new followers, emails and comments (on my profile pic) recently. Some saying I'm a bully, I'm fat-shaming and I need to apologize for the hurt I've caused women. I get it. SO here's my First and Final Apology: 
I'm sorry you took an image and resonated with it in such a negative way. I won't go into details that I struggled with my genetics, had an eating disorder, work full time owning two business', have no nanny, am not naturally skinny and do not work as a personal trainer. I won't even mention how I didn't give into cravings for ice cream, french fries or chocolate while pregnant or use my growing belly as an excuse to be inactive.

What I WILL say is this. What you interpret is not MY fault. It's Yours. The first step in owning your life, your body and your destiny is to OWN the thoughts that come out of your own head. I didn't create them. You created them. So if you want to continue 'hating' this image, get used to hating many other things for the rest of your life. You can either blame, complain or obtain a new level of thought by challenging the negative words that come out of your own brain.

With that said, obesity and those who struggle with health-related diseases is literally a 'bigger' issue than this photo. Maybe it's time we stop tip-toeing around people's feelings and get to the point. So What's Your Excuse?"

Okay, so this is what's known in the business (the business being the internet, of course) as a fauxpology. And she doesn't even try very hard. This right here? "What you interpret is not MY fault. It's Yours." No. Just no. Words mean things. Interpretations are not pulled out of the blue. They are based on societal frameworks set in place long before Maria Kang got herself a 'fitspiration' FB page. You want to write an aggressive, accusatory message on top of your amazing picture? Do it. But own it. You did it. You own it. Them's the rules.

It is not the reader's responsibility to place your intent into the latent meaning of the phrasing you used. End of story. Or, as someone on Facebook aptly said, "I love how I have personal issues if something on the internet makes me think the person who made it is kind of a douche."

The FBer doesn't have personal issues. She is interpreting a media message as she has a right to do. That apology is the most offensive apology I've read in a long time. And spending a lot of time on the internet (not at the gym!) I see a lot of false apologies every day.

It's also important to note that body image is so important to Kang that she has suffered from a very real eating disorder, one as real as any of the conditions listed above. While her struggle in no way disqualifies her from motivating others to be fit and healthy, it is something that perhaps she should take some time to parse.

Like someone said on Facebook, "this woman has a major body issue - she is paranoid of being fat. She used to puke. She learned to stop puking. Now she exercises obsessively. That's not something to aspire to. Great. She's skinny and has washboard abs. That isn't something to aspire to if she does so as a way to mask some deep emotional scars. It's nothing to do with her being a good mom or a bad mom. It's nothing to do with her shaming me for being fat. This is about her trying to hide her body issues by telling everyone else they should have the same body issues. I have spent years fighting my body issues. I'm working really hard on them. I'm finally STARTING to be comfortable in my own skin. I hope some day she finds a way to be comfortable in her own."

I feel like that's the core message here. We all need to find a way to be comfortable in our own skins. A meme on Facebook isn't going to help us there. It's not a flash realization. It's a process and it takes a lot of fighting cultural norms and media messages to get there. Best to be part of the solution, not the problem.

As one FB commenter noted, "What it all boils down to is an inability to accept that other people's desires, motivations, abilities, obstacles, and circumstances are not the same as your own."

This issue goes far beyond 'fitspiration' and even beyond body shaming. It's a pervasive ideology in which people cannot fathom lives different from their own. Every life holds beauty. No one (at least no internet strangers) need to tell the people living those lives where to find it.

Maria posted that picture a few weeks ago. It's a message that rings true. It's a message that works across genres and boundaries and subjects. It's the true message for anyone looking better themselves. Let's concentrate on that, and not our "excuses".

PS - If you are interested in taking part in the body positive meme, or would like to see some of our "excuses" laid out, come over to We Don't Need an Excuse. Submit if you'd like!


Thursday, October 17, 2013

An Open Letter to a Third Grader's Teacher - Contributor Post

We all have back-to-school jitters, and things we want our children's teachers to know, so that we can give them the best start possible to every school year. Sometimes knowing what to say, and what not to, can really help. Accidentally Mommy helps me out.


An open letter to a new teacher at the start of a new year. Since we can’t actually make our correspondence to our childrens’ educators both confessionals and on-our-knees pleas for help where we’ve failed in the past, I couldn’t actually send this. It was written, though. Here you go, Village. I wrote mine—don’t feel foolish if you’ve ever written or need to write yours. And as you save it to gather dust in the drafts folder, remember one thing: No matter your fears and concerns at the beginning of each year, sometimes just the change in and of itself is all that we need to find balance again. Dancing Queen has found her love for school again, without my tear-stained e-mail going out to her teacher after the first week.

Dear Mrs. 3rd Grade,

First off, I want to say thank you. Upon reflection, I realized when we were talking that I was pointing out many of Dancing Queen's weaknesses. You lead only with her strengths. That means a lot to me, and I wanted you to know that it didn't go unnoticed.

Dancing Queen is a very, very special person. I know every parent says that, and for every parent, it's true. I see a strength of character in Dancing Queen that I don't see in many other people, though -- adult or child. As you said, she's a very social individual and genuinely interested in being friends with just about everyone. I've had the chance in the past to observe her in a social situation that another person could have handled in a much more negative way. Instead of reacting with scorn, or suspicion, or gawking curiosity, she reacted only with a smile and an offer of friendship. While the children around her were making fun or asking hurtful questions, she was standing up to bullies and holding her new friend's hand. I have encouraged tolerance and good will in her from the beginning, but I cannot in good conscience claim to be the reason for her good nature. That would be a false humblebrag; kindness is simply a part of who she is. Don't get me wrong -- I'm not saying she's without fault. She's eight. She has the same quirks and frustrations that come with being eight and expanding her boundaries. She has a good heart, though.

You'll have to bear with me. I can get verbose and sometimes it takes me a little while to get to my point, which is why I wanted to email you instead of talking to you tonight. It takes far less time to skim an e-mail than it does to listen to a parent awkwardly fumble through trying to get their thoughts to come out right.

As her new teacher, you need to know that she didn't have the strongest start in school, and I feel like you need some of her history. Pre-K was marred by drama with her father and the very difficult pregnancy and subsequent birth of her brother who was very ill at the beginning. Because of this, she didn't have a parent who was the most engaged and involved. This continued into kindergarten, as I was consumed with maintaining her brother's health. We have a very strong support system in my parents and my siblings, but that can't always replace having mom directly involved. First grade found her with a teacher that was very clearly under personal strains who unfortunately took it out on her classroom. Dancing Queen is a very, very sensitive child. She's naturally averse to conflict and sensitive to what she perceives to be negative judgment. She was made to feel inadequate a handful of times, and that was enough to start the downhill slide. By the time second grade rolled around, she found that she dreaded school and everything about it. She dreaded tests. She dreaded reading. She dreaded writing. She felt like her teacher was passing constant judgment on her, and because of that often felt persecuted, even though she was reassured at home that this surely wasn't the case. Still, though, I met with her teacher early in the year to discuss these feelings she had, and I was met with a stony expression and monotone, emotionless, flat answers to my questions. Questions that I should have been asking all along, like "What are some suggestions for things I can do to enrich her at home and help her to enjoy learning again?" Questions of that nature were answered with "I don't know." Fast forward to this summer, and we have a normally bright, sassy little girl presenting herself dimmed, defeated, convinced that school sucks and she just doesn't want to go.

I don't want that for her. And I see that in your class, that won't be the expected behavior. While she will still answer when asked what she likes about school is that there's pizza and fruit-flavored water, it is my dream that she tacks on something about actually receiving her education, too.

Now that I have that said and out of the way, there are some other important things you need to know. Dancing Queen, as I said, is a worrier. She is definitely her mother's child in that she dwells on things that bother her and lets them interfere with her daily life sometimes. Her biggest school-related anxieties are centered primarily on test taking and reading/writing. Some things were said to her last year that she interpreted to mean that she wasn't good enough, wasn't smart enough, to succeed this year.

 In addition to this, Dancing Queen is also epileptic. The medication she's on can sometimes have an effect on her mood, sleeping patterns, and even her short-term memory. If she seems more forgetful, it is possibly a side effect of her meds.

(Disclaimer: I won't pull the meds card if you come to me and tell me that you truly feel she isn't paying attention. I'm not that parent. Please, please, please let me know if you feel that her behavior is questionable. I don't allow her medical condition to be a cover for lack of effort.)

She needs to play catch-up at home, particularly with her writing skills (punctuation, grammar, vocab, and sentence structure specifically,) and to discover a love for reading. I am the first to admit, though, that I don't make a very good instructor. I know I already ask a great deal of you by simply sending my child to be your student, but may I ask for a little bit more help? Can you point me in the direction of some resources  that I can employ at home that take a fun approach to these subjects so that she and I can work on them diligently without frustrating each other to the point of misery?

Thank you so much for your time, and thank you so much for your dedication to the kids. I wasn't paying lip service when I said earlier that I'm excited for this year. I'm truly  looking forward to being more involved with both her and you.


Accidentally Mommy


Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Sweet Potato Pecan Hash - Guest Post

Sarah Tormey over at The Answer Is Garlic was kind enough to give me a smashing fall recipe just in time for the autumn weather!


As we creep further into October and the weather starts to cool, I start to crave not only eating but cooking heartier foods. Stews, roasts, casseroles, and root vegetables. As much as I like pumpkin pie and butternut squash soup, sometimes I want a good side that makes me think of fall. This hash fits the bill, and it's a double duty recipe because I also love it for breakfast, with some eggs and some thin pan fried pork chops.

It's just a few simple ingredients, but they are all so flavorful and blend so well together, and it's satisfying in a way that regular potatoes (which I LOVE, don't get me wrong) aren't always able to be. They're just heartier, somehow.

I start with a few good sized sweet potatoes, peeled, rinsed, and cut into 1-inch size chunks. They don't have to be perfect or uniform. Rustic is fine for hash.

I par-boil the sweet potatoes until they are a bit soft, but still hold their shape. While those are working, I start the pecans toasting.

Onions, garlic, and sage are next. I like them nice and soft and caramelized in yummy butter and olive oil.

K checks my onion chopping skills

I check on my little sous chefs...

D is annoyed he's not already eating
K is drawing, he stayed home sick and has been taking it easy today
Now that the potatoes are par-cooked, I drain and add to the onion mixture.

I also like to add a little fresh nutmeg here, and then chop the nuts and fold them in.

And it's as simple as that! I stir to combine all the flavors, add another pat of butter to bring it all together, let it simmer for a few minutes, and top with some chopped sage.

My sues chef approves!

Sweet Potato Pecan Hash
2-3 large sweet potatoes, around 3 pounds
1 large red onion
3-4 cloves of garlic
3/4 cup pecans
5 TB butter, divided
2 TB olive oil
small bunch of fresh sage
freshly grated nutmeg
salt and pepper

Peel and rinse the sweet potatoes. Chop into 1 inch large chunks. Put in a heavy bottomed skillet and cover with water. Bring to a boil and par-boil until they just start to get tender, about 10 minutes. Drain and set aside.

While the potatoes are boiling, toast the pecans in a dry skillet or cast iron pan, on low. Give the pan a shake every few minutes. Toast 8-10 minutes, until you just start to smell them. Keep a close eye on them, once they start to toast they will burn quickly. Pull off the heat and set aside to cool.

Melt 4 TB  butter and 2 TB olive oil in a large heavy bottomed skillet (I prefer cast iron). Chop red onion and garlic and add to the skillet. Add in about 3/4 of a small bunch of sage, 8-10 leaves, finely chopped. Saute until soft and translucent, about 8-10 minutes. Add in the cooked sweet potato, fold to combine. Add freshly grated nutmeg to taste (if you don't have fresh nutmeg, pre-grated is fine, about 1/4 teaspoon). Roughly chop the pecans and fold in. Add the last pat of butter and stir to combine, cooking until all the flavors meld, about 3-5 minutes. Sprinkle with the last bit of chopped sage. Serve with any grilled or roasted meat and veggie (shown here with roasted chicken and sauteed green beans), or with eggs for a great breakfast.



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