Thursday, September 11, 2014

Some Questions About Domestic Abuse and The Whole Ray Rice Thing

I don't follow sports. Wally keeps me updated on the interesting stuff, and I never hesitate to share my amateur, detached, layman's opinion, usually very strongly. 

Which might be the case here. 

But please help me sort out this Ray and Janay Rice thing*, because right now, it feels like the NFL is unsuccessfully chasing down public opinion, attempting to placate a crowd that can't make up its mind and likes drama for the sake of drama. It feels like middle school. Or election season. 

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Are women a weaker sex? Is it men's job to protect them?

If the answer is "Yes, and therefore, men should never hit women," then why is the Ray Rice assault just now becoming an issue? Why would we even need to see video footage to demand justice? Ray Rice told NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell back in June that he hit Janay, and we all saw the video footage of him dragging her unconscious body out of the elevator. 

When Goodell acknowledged the initial 2-game suspension wasn't sufficient, NFL policy changed to penalize domestic abuse with a 6-game suspension, and everyone seemed okay with that (at the time). Now we see new footage of the same event, and act shocked that he actually hit her. 

Where was the public outcry back in June or July, when this was all over the media? Why is Ray Rice just now being terminated from the team? Why is the National Organization of Women just now petitioning for Roger Goodell's resignation? Why should seeing a video of an event we know occurred make any difference? Unless we all got it wrong in the first place -- not just Roger Goodell, and not just the NFL. And shame on us for needing a video to realize how awful domestic abuse is.

But back to the question -- Are women a weaker sex? And is it men's job to protect them?

If the answer is "No, we're all equals, and men don't have an innate obligation to defer to women," then should it be taken into consideration that Janay Palmer allegedly hit Ray Rice first? Should this be a case of disorderly conduct or fighting in public instead? Should they both be charged with assault? Or just the person who's not as beaten up? 

Be assured, I'm not advocating domestic abuse here. I just wonder where the line is between two people getting in a fight, and domestic abuse. 

- Is it dependent on one person being physically larger than the other? 
- Or one person having a more powerful weapon? 
- Or is it dependent on the moment when the fight turns from verbal abuse to physical abuse (whoever throws the first punch)? 
- What if they're both sized equally, and the fight looks fair? Would it still be more the man's fault? 

That an intimate relationship even reaches the point of physical violence is tragic. But I don't think domestic abuse is as simple as media and public opinion are treating it. Things usually escalate through stress, disrespect, resentment, anger, verbal abuse through to physical abuse. And I don't think it's a men-versus-women issue. I think it's a people issue. 

I'm not advocating that victims of abuse stay in an abusive relationship. In fact, I think anyone who's even in a disrespectful friendship should just walk away, if it can't be repaired. Oftentimes, children are involved, and I'll clarify in advance that never in any circumstance would I think child abuse is explainable or acceptable. Child abuse is never a fight between equals that got out of hand. I'm glad we have shelters available for domestic abuse victims, in particular the children who are caught in the middle. 

I don't know what happened between Ray and Janay that night. I don't know them. I don't know their relationship. They haven't asked for my help or my opinion. For now, they've asked for privacy. 

So for now, can we back out of their business, back off the public opinion ping-pong game we've been playing with the NFL, and just wait patiently together for the next big social media scandal? I'm sure it won't disappoint. 

Post from Janay Rice in response to the release of the elevator video in September, and the public outcry that followed.
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*Last February, Ray Rice got in a fight with his then-fiance, Janay Palmer, and punched her unconscious in a casino elevator. In July, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell gave Rice 2 games suspension. It made the news, everyone was upset that domestic abuse was obviously less an issue to the NFL than substance abuse (myself included), which carries a 4 game suspension, and come August, the NFL increased the penalty for domestic abuse to a 6-game suspension. Things calmed down, and football season commenced. In September, the video was released from February of Ray Rice punching Janay Palmer in the elevator. It's a violent clip, people got angry, the NFL terminated Ray Rice from the League, the Baltimore Ravens cut him from the team, and the National Organization of Women is demanding Roger Goodell's resignation. 

Monday, September 8, 2014

When Dreams Aren't Really Broken

The radio DJ says God wants to fulfill all my greatest desires, and at inspirational conferences, I hear, "Dream big!" and "Do something great for God!"

I got my 10,000 hours of dance in growing up, and there was something really satisfying about getting to join a company and perform after college. It felt like the first real risk I'd ever taken, the first time I'd admitted to having a dream.

So there were plenty of questions and doubts when I left three years later, looking for love, a job that could pay the rent, and some kind of healthcare coverage. Was I selling out?

I've spent a lot of years mistaking big dreams and godly ambitions for financial stability and health insurance

But I've also spent a lot of years thinking spiritual highs and shining in a spotlight were God's signs of favor in my life. 

After leaving the dance company, I picked up a couple of jobs teaching dance. I realized I enjoyed it, and started grad school to get some credentials in it. 

I married a wonderful man, we got pregnant 18 months sooner than we planned, and I dropped out of grad school to get a "real job." I still wonder if these were the right choices, or how life will turn, or if I'll ever return to something that was such a big part of my life for so long. 

It's easy to feel that the busy seasons of life are more important, or that seasons in the spotlight are more esteemed, or that a season on bed rest is just a big waste of time. (My current full-time -- hopefully temporary -- job is hospital bed rest.) 

But I'm seeing that life is less a Disney movie and more a miniseries, and what I see as drifting from the storyline might just be a new episode. 

And the Author of all of this is pulling together our stories into something bigger and greater than we could ever imagine or write for ourselves. 

A man’s heart plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps. Proverbs 16:9 

Saturday, September 6, 2014

A Very Unexciting Update

The whiteboard in my room told me it was "Monday, 9/1" all week, until Thursday, when it was updated to "Monday, 9/4." It currently reads "Friday, 9/5." I think today is Saturday (9/6?). I guess it doesn't matter. 

I think the nurses have a secret chart at their station that makes fun of how many times I think I'm in labor. I buzz the call button at least twice a day to alert them: "I'm having real contractions." You would think after birthing two kids naturally, I could identify labor. Nope, no idea. If we have future kids, at least one will be born in the van on the way to the hospital. Hopefully we can make it to the van, because if I give birth in the driveway, we'll have to move.

I don't know what medications I'm on. Morning and night, I'm handed a medicine cup of brightly-colored pills, and I take them.  

The bed rest crazies started getting to me when I almost lost it over a brownish banana I got on my breakfast tray. Until I realized that every day, someone delivers a hot breakfast to my bedside, after I've been drinking Ensures and half cups of coffee for months, so I should shut up and be grateful. So that's what I did.

Wally took care of checking me in, while I got changed and evaluated upon admission. One of the nurses got annoyed and frustrated when Wally wouldn't list my social security number (because they don't need it, and their systems aren't secure, and stuff happens.) Anyway, all the nurses are super nice to me, except this one. She seems exasperated by stuff like taking blood pressure and temperatures. My Southern instinct is to be super sweet and compliant to win her over, but I'm pretty sure she just hates me. Thanks, Wally, for protecting my identity. 

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My "big" kids: I love it when our preschoolers call me at the hospital. But I love it even more that they can't ever stay to talk, because there are more exciting things going on in their lives, like sandboxes, hiking, and Texas high school football games. I think, if Joe and Josh weren't getting such good care from Wally, Mommom & Poppop, I would have to get myself back home to give them Mama love, and just let these baby twins be born in the driveway. 

Last night, after my latest girl-who-cried-wolf-contraction-drama, the nurses gave me Ambien. I hear it's addictive and has crazy side effects, but wow, that was the best sleep of my life. 

And I guess, most importantly, babies: still inside and doing great. 32 weeks on Monday!

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

How I Should Have Quit My Job: Case Studies on the American Workplace

I hate to be jaded (who am I kidding - I relish a good critique of capitalism at its worst), but based on six years of quiet observation at a small, successful financial investment company, it really doesn't pay to be the responsible employee. 

Without further ado, I present, case studies on quitting your job: 

Case #1: Getting Fired

My coworker doesn't get along with the boss. One day she's pushed over the edge, and loses it. When she comes in the next day, she's fired. For signing an agreement not to sue the company, she leaves with: 

- 2 months' pay 
- 2 months' family health insurance 
- 401(k) intact 
- a guarantee that her unemployment insurance application will be approved

It's worth it to the company to avoid any litigation or bad publicity.
Case #2: Leaving Without Notice

My coworker isn't a good fit for the office. She gets stressed easily, which causes her to get sick and miss work. The office doesn't have paid sick leave, but on the good faith that she's going to make up weeks of time missed, her paychecks continue as usual. One day, she picks up her paycheck and just doesn't come back. She leaves with: 

- 2 weeks' advance pay (due to the company's payroll system) 
- 4 weeks' paid sick time (which technically doesn't exist)  
- a year's worth of paid vacation, despite only working half a year 

It's not worth it to the company to pursue the 8 weeks of overpaid wages.

Case #3: On-Call Unpaid Maternity Leave With 7 Months' Notice

Four years ago, with my last pregnancy, I gave 7 months' notice of maternity leave. I prepared a manual for the position, trained my temporary replacement, worked until my due date, and then spent six weeks of unpaid maternity leave constantly coaching the temp through basic job duties via my personal phone and email. When I returned, my benefits were cut, as was my year-end bonus, since I was only on-call (daily) and not in the office during maternity leave. At the end of the year, all of my comp time was cut without notice. 

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Case #4: Resignation with 4 Months' Notice and Replacement Training 

Seven months ago, I found out I was pregnant with twins. I gave four months' notice at work that I wouldn't be returning after the babies are born, provided referrals for potential replacements, put together a manual for the position, and offered to simultaneously train an additional position that was unexpectedly vacated (see Case #2). There is no paid maternity leave, no paid sick time or vacation days, no unemployment insurance. There's usually a generous year-end bonus, and I think perhaps, I'll receive a portion of it, since I've been a responsible, over-achieving employee for more than half the year. No bonus is given. My replacement is hired at 160% my wage. 

But, see, I was thinking...
It would seem meritocracies are only for Silicon Valley and cock-eyed optimists. Nonetheless, at least I collected many stories for future telling, and some great blog material while on the job!

"But I'm only a cock-eyed OP-ti-mist, 
and I can't get it intoooo my heeeeeeeaad..."

Post-script: I have a couple of coping mechanisms: laughing awkwardly, detachment and introspection, and if all else fails, a good cry session. I tried to make light of this situation -- my leaving a job to which I really felt committed and accountable for many years -- but the truth is, I'm disappointed and perhaps unreasonably disappointed that a good job with good colleagues and friends with whom I genuinely enjoyed working, seemed to come down to capitalism and the bottom line in the end, more than the people that make it successful.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

On Hospital Bed Rest

Following 24-hours that Wally and I would be okay not re-living, I'm now on full-time hospital bed rest, indefinitely suspended halfway through labor. The gestating of babies and cocktail of drugs hasn't left much mental capacity, so I'll just describe my current home:

The Bedside Cache

Meds: I brought my own CVS-brand saline spray, but the hospital pharmacy replaced several of the drugs I brought with their own versions. (I guess they missed the self-pay disclaimer on my admissions form!*) Anyway, now I have fancy sea salt nasal spray. I wish I could tell you it's made all the difference. But I can only conclude salt water is salt water.

Phone: Our boys are spending a good amount of time at Mommom and Poppop's house now, a marvelous place of more toys, fewer rules, and the great outdoors, pretty much utopia for preschool boys. Mommom taught Joseph, our 4-year-old, how to auto-dial me at the hospital, so I've enjoyed several stream of conscience phone calls, interrupted by the 3-year-old's one-sentence updates ("I found a rock today!") as the phone gets passed back and forth. 

Laptop: I have found the end of the internet. 

The Stage Lights

Yes, stage lights. Because if you haven't lost all sense of privacy through the birthing process to this point, let's gather an audience of nurses, residents, doula and doctor to the foot of the bed and flip on those spotlights. I felt like I should break into song and dance. 

The Video Camera

I'm pretty sure that's a video camera -- the little black circle between the stage lights. So no matter how closed the partition is, no matter how few people are in the room, I can't get over the thought that a crowd is gathered at the nursing station monitors watching me live out life in a hospital bed.

The Leg Cuffs

Since I can't get regular exercise or blood circulation, the hospital has air-filled cloth balloons that alternate inflation on my calves. It's supposed to prevent blood clots. They don't work well with bed pan use.

The Baby & Contraction Monitors

There is nothing sweeter than the background noise of babies' heartbeats overlaid by kicks and hiccups.  But the little ultrasound discs that are gelled and tied all over my belly can only work as long as the babies aren't moving, which is just not Jonathan and David's style. So the nurses are constantly having to come in and get them back on the monitor. Thankfully, I don't worry about heartbeats when I've got babies rolling around like crazy. 

The New Hobbies

Everyone's biggest concern seems to be boredom. Even the nurse tried to help me come up with a new hobby while I'm here. Honestly, doing nothing is great. The last couple years haven't budgeted enough time for staring out the window. And reality, bottom line: all the reading and crocheting in the world can't replace the only thing I want to be doing, which is living life at home with Wally and our boys. All the other options seem pretty lame.

Things I'm Missing At Home

The Challenge

As mentioned earlier, I don't have the mental capacity to do much more than describe my surroundings, but there is a very serious need in hospitals everywhere that maybe you could help with. I'd like to extend a challenge and a plea to everyone who reads this: design a better bed pan. 

At this point, a coffee cup from Goodwill could be considered an improvement. 

*Don't panic about our self-pay status. We're part of a healthcare co-op that's pretty awesome. They've got us covered.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

#8: An Ebenezer Scrooge Anniversary on Bed Rest

When we found out our surprise twin babies were "high-risk," we were only 21 weeks into pregnancy. I remember thinking, if we can just make it to the Feast of the Assumption on August 15th, everything will be okay.

Eight years ago, on this feast day, Wally and I went on our first date: August 15, 2006. And every year since, we've found a way to celebrate again. 

This year I felt like Ebenezer Scrooge, spirited around to anniversaries past, present, and future, as I lay on the couch, under doctor's threat of pre-term delivery or miscarriage if I do anything more than roll over. And I was quite the Scrooge. Grumpy from lack of sleep and lack of movement, an influx of artificial and natural hormones trying to regulate this pregnancy, and the frustrations of being a do-er relegated to observer status in my own home. 

I watched Wally get up early to eat breakfast, put away the dishes from the night before, make oatmeal for our preschool boys, get them up and dressed, humor them into eating, all the while re-filling water cups, coaching "please" and "thank you," wiping noses, packing lunch, cleaning the breakfast dishes, chatting up next week's first day of school, banking the 4-year-old's pennies for evening Mass, an impromptu treasure hunt for the 3-year-old's rock collection, crisis toddler shoe intervention, and a swirl of chaos as they all swept out the door to play at Mommom's house while Daddy went to work. 

With my body measuring at 39 weeks gestation for a singleton birth (while at 28 weeks gestation with the twins), I really thought bed rest sounded nice. Walks with my kids were already a tortoise affair, house chores were borderline ridiculous/creative, and evenings were pretty much crashed out on the couch anyway. But I didn't realize how important those moments were, until I couldn't jump in to fix a snack or clean up a potty-training accident or run to the store for milk and bananas. Bed rest feels pretty useless, aside from the whole gestating babies thing. 

It's hard watching Wally do everything around here, especially since he does it with such a natural, unassuming attitude. I mean, sure I've taken over care of the kids for a couple days, when he's been sick or in a busy season at work, but I make sure it's proclaimed with a healthy dose of martyrdom and performance theatrics. Wally just does it, and still manages to raise an eyebrow and keep his sense of humor when our four-year-old panics about an empty water cup, finally gets the "please" out to secure a refill, and then wanders off mid-tantrum without a second thought. 

In his late afternoon transition from work to picking up our boys to taking them to evening Mass, Wally surprised me with anniversary roses and Sonic drinks. His few minutes of downtime were spent bringing in the mail, adding automatic cleaner to the toilets, and preparing little vases with roses, so the boys could bring flowers to Mary on her feast day. A quick kiss and he was out the door again, into the craziest part of the day.

Meanwhile I rolled over, used my evening bathroom pass, unstitched all my crocheting from the day before, watched "Shark Week," wondered for the hundredth time if it was labor or just a cramped muscle, re-read the internet, tried to explain to the dog why I couldn't feed her, and hoped Wally was surviving evening Mass with both boys. 

Then there was a rush of hyper, happy excitement as everyone crashed through the front door -- a day's worth of stories in five cacophonous minutes: flowers, lotion, pennies, singing, a playground at the mall, more lotion, fishing, trains, a search for the ever-missing rock collection, and then Wally had the dog fed, and dinner ready on the table, and both boys calmly eating. 

The eighth anniversary of our first date wound down with the boys' impromptu reenactment of Mass in our living room, followed by their ever-lengthening bedtime routine. I re-located bed rest to the floor of their bedroom, grateful for these calm moments together (some evenings not so calm), as we read our Bibles and prayed our prayers and sang our lullabies.

When I came back to the living room, Wally asked what I'd like for dinner, and I said nachos sounded good. Without hesitation, he pulled a hot plate of nachos from the microwave, passed me the dinner he'd just prepared for himself, and pulled leftover pot roast from the fridge to replace it. I tried to protest, but he just passed me another Ensure (flash forward 50 years), and asked what movie we should watch.

Our 3-year-old's ever-missing rock collection (currently in the toy oven)

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Signing Out of the Rat Race

Last weekend, for the first time in years -- even including vacations -- I turned off my work email. It was an unceremonious transition, my work laptop passed to the replacement executive assistant, a few final good wishes, followed by the usual commute home. 

For five years, I've been in this rat race of commuting, running late, overachieving, impulsively checking in with work around the clock, shooting midnight and 5 am emails to all the other Dallas EA's, and like a hopeless crack addict, I spent the past weekend logging into my work email, checking on situations that no longer affected me, deleting the account, and then re-installing it again just to be sure. I finally realized that without the laptop, I couldn't accomplish much anyway. 

Leaving my job was a somewhat reluctant and unplanned decision (kind of like getting pregnant with twins). Never one to let go lightly, it took a series of reality checks over several months to realize "Super Mom" is a delusion, and I can't actually do it all. 

Leaving is full of uncertainty. We've re-run the new budget so many times this week, an exercise that usually ends with shrugging our shoulders and saying, "God's got this." (Or, as so many of our conversations end, with shrieking preschoolers calling us to the other room.)

What's surprised me is the joy.

In the last few days, I haven't held up my hand, asking my kids to be quiet while I finish a call. I haven't indefinitely prolonged reading "Thomas the Tank" or a hike to the park while sending a work email.

The opportunity to work part-time from home over the past year has been really great, but in only three days, I can see how work-life boundaries didn't exist (which is why it was such a good set-up for my company). I didn't have the freedom or the discipline to set limits or hours, thinking my physical presence at home with my mental presence at work was enough to satisfy everyone. 

As young kids do, they adapt, make the best, overlook any faults in their parents, and they love. 

But the past few days, sans email and laptop, have overflowed with small moments and seemingly insignificant joys.

"Mama, since we are so happy, I'm going to give you something," my four-year-old said spontaneously, and then reached little arms around my neck to gift me a hug. 

Six months pregnant with twins (both of whom are on the normal-to-high weight range for singleton births -- so much for small babies), I'm slower and more limited than I've ever been. But I'm here, mentally and physically present with my family and beginning to think the work stress has all been for nothing. 

I'm frustrated with myself for chasing the financial "American Dream." I feel like a pawn in someone else's game -- striving for accolades in a system that reinforces wealth and materialism, so I can mentally crash at the end of each day and then wake up too early to do it all again. 

I expected financial crisis, transitioning to one income (totally could still happen). I didn't expect a calmer peace of mind, a happier home, and re-discovering so many moments with my husband and kids. I would downsize ten times over to keep this. 

“This is your last chance... After this, there is no turning back. You take the blue pill – the story ends, you wake up in your bed, and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill, ...and you stay in Wonderland, and I show you, how deep the rabbit-hole goes.” – Morpheus' offer to Neo in “The Matrix”