Monthly Archives: March 2013

‘You mean it was illegal before?’

63019_10151407541394010_2069448190_nI know there are a lot of stories, opinions, statements and ideologies being offered today as the Supreme Court hears arguments regarding Prop 8. I don’t want to go into a long, tired argument as to why I support marriage equality – those who support it will understand, those who don’t will dismiss.

But I will say this: I was a journalist when Iowa’s high court deemed the ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional in 2009. I remember talking to those who both supported and objected to the move, all the while containing my own opinions because, well, that’s what journalists *do.*

When I got home, however, I could share my excitement with my kids, who were then 16 and 11. I’ll never forget their response:

“You mean it was illegal before?”

It never occurred to them that any group of people in the United States wouldn’t have the same rights as everyone else.

I was both thrilled and dismayed – thrilled because I had raised my kids to be so open to the differences between us all and embrace them without question, but dismayed because I had sheltered them so much that they weren’t aware of the inequalities and discrimination that really do exist. My daughter became fascinated with the civil rights struggles of the ’60s a few years earlier, and was captivated by the actions of Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks, she studied and listened to speakers regarding the Holocaust and shared the sadness we all do when we think of that period. But those were things of the past in her eyes, things that happened in history.

Now we’re here. History is happening again, right in front of them. I hope, as my kids raise their own children, they can tell them about ¬†this time in history and hear the same quizzical response from their kids: “You mean it was illegal before?”

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A fecal matter

*Note: I just want to point out that after more than 25 years as a writer, I finally got to use the word¬† “fecal” in a headline. Yes, it’s a good day.

I can’t help but wonder what those without pets or small children in their lives – anywhere in their lives – talk about when the rest of us are talking about poop.

The fact that I’m wondering this at all tells me that No. 2 has taken too much dominance in many conversations and thought processes, and yet there it is. It’s just as much a part of my regular daily conversations as is the rising cost of gas and what the weather will do today.

Don’t pretend you don’t know what I’m talking about, especially if you have children who are or were once small, have pets of any kind, or both.

DiapersWith kids it starts early. First, as infants, any time they’re not feeling well you’re told to watch their stools – that’s doctor-talk for poop. Make sure it doesn’t change color, or consistency, or frequency. If any of those changes, you’re told to collect a sample – in other words, put a small amount of their stool in some kind of container you’re never ever going to use again and take it in to the doctor. God only know what he’ll do with it, but you do it because he tells you to.

When the baby is still a baby but not yet a toddler, he or she will start to cut teeth. With that comes a whole new dimension of poop talk – mostly because it does change in consistency and frequency, and neither in a good way. When my oldest was cutting teeth he went through three or four onesies every day because the mess would go up his back and down his leg. It happened with every tooth, too, so we were overjoyed when he’d cut more than one at a time – that cut down on the possibility of 32 different sessions. Of course the messes were smaller and smaller the more the baby’s system got used to what was happening, but it was traumatic all the same.

Potty training brought a whole new level of conversations about poop, poopy, icky, whatever you called it. The actual potty training was easy for both my kids, but I swear one of them – and I won’t say which, so I don’t embarrass him – uh, oops – had real separation anxiety when it came to poop. He just didn’t want to let it go into the toilet. I would sit in the bathroom with him for an hour at a time, knowing he had to go, but watching while he told me stories or sang me songs or talked about the puppies or did anything but actually poop. Then we’d give up and less than 15 minutes later I’d find him hiding in the corner behind the chair, a funny look on his face. <sigh>

Once that gets over and you’ve made the transition, your conversations about poop pretty much stop for a while. Of course, my then-husband and I apparently enjoyed the conversations because we timed the arrival of Child No. 2 with the crossing over of Child No. 1 from diapers to big boy pants. Welcome another three years of poop talk.

There’s even a commercial for a bleach cleaner that brings poop into the conversation: A little boy brings his mommy into the bathroom, “Mommy, I made poopy!” “You did?! Where?”

You can’t get away from it.

Then there’s the pet talk, and really the point at which I realized much of my adult conversation has centered around doody.

My Lab mix, Max, will be 13 this year. He’s still spry, active, and looks very much like a younger dog. Some of his mannerisms, however, remind me of Walter Matthau in “Grumpy Old Men.” He has to offer one solitary bark to anyone moving outside while he makes his way to the sidewalk. He bullies Mia, my Newfoundland who is three times his size, out of the way of the food dishes until he’s done with them. And his every trip to the bathroom – or in his case, every walk we take – requires me to take a pick-up bag. I’ve nicknamed him “Sir Poops-a-lot.”

The fact that he goes all the time is not something that is lost on my now-young-adult kids, either. They’re well aware of his habits:

Me to Teen Girl: Would you take the dogs out for their bedtime trip so I can go to bed?

Teen Girl: That depends. Has Max pooped?

Me: He’s gone three times today, he should be good.

Teen Girl (after taking the dogs out, grabbing a bag to go back outside): He’s never good. He pooped again.

See what I mean? So, in getting back to my original point, just what do those other people talk about?

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Writing the ‘old-fashioned’ way

Help! I’ve fallen into the digital world and I can’t get out!

OK, maybe it’s not that bad. But here’s a case in point: A Facebook friend (clue number one – I have to qualify my friends by “friends I’ve hung out with” and “friends I know from Facebook”) posted a status today challenging all of her friends to write a letter, to anyone. It took me just a second to fall in love with the idea – not because I’m huge on letter-writing (although I used to be) but because I love doing things the old-fashioned way.

Lady-Writing-a-Letter-xx-Thomas-FaedThat’s what I thought. Honestly. The old-fashioned way. Like I grew up with Laura Ingalls on the prairie.

The closest thing I’ve come to writing a letter in a very long time is leaving a note for my daughter when I leave in the morning, asking her to empty the dishwasher or to remember to take the dogs out. More often than not, though, those “notes” are in the form of a text message sent on the fly. If I have to send a package through the mail I do usually include a note – but it’s never more than a sentence or two, and it’s nothing that would be sent at all if there weren’t a bigger purpose involved in using the mail system.

I used to love to write letters. One of my most prized possessions is a letter my father found last summer while going through his box of military papers. It was a letter I’d written to my grandmother postmarked Oct. 18, 1978 – just two weeks before she died tragically and unexpectedly in a store fire in Des Moines.

I remember writing a lot of letters. We moved around quite a bit when I was growing up, so letter-writing was a great way to keep in touch with friends I’d left behind. College, married life, children and life got moving too quickly and we soon lost touch, but thanks to the internet and (gasp!) Facebook I’ve reconnected with several friends from different areas we’ve lived.

Our first move – the first one after I learned to write, that is – was from Minneapolis to Anchorage. I had one friend I wrote to, Krissy, who was the daughter of my mom’s best friend. I think I wrote one letter. When we moved from Anchorage to a small Missouri town the middle of my seventh-grade year, there were more friends left behind and more letters written. I managed to maintain penpal status with a few of those friends until we went to college. We left Missouri for Carroll, Iowa, the summer before my senior year. You can bet I wrote a lot of letters to friends left behind as we all cursed my horrible, terrible, evil parents for making me move (I got over it). There were a few people I wrote from my one year in Carroll, but since I’d spent most of that year with a chip on my shoulder I didn’t get real close to a lot of people.

When I was in college my freshman year I got a surprise in the mail: a letter from my dad. I talked to Mom frequently, but since Dad spent most of his day at work on the phone, getting into an engaging telephone conversation at home was not something he wanted to do. On the rare weekends I went home – I loved college and didn’t love Carroll – Dad would pick me up and we’d spend the three-hour drive home talking non-stop about just about everything, but once we got home it was all about holidays or me being with some of the handful of friends I had there. The first letter was a surprise, but a welcome one; I wrote back and we started an occasional habit that continued all through my college career.

I think I wrote a few letters post-college: thank-you letters for gifts after the wedding and each of the kids’ births, a few letters to my grandparents in western Iowa, maybe a few to cousins and friends, but eventually the internet came along, cell phones became appendages and life just took off.

The letter went the way of the 8-track player and recording songs off the radio.

So now we have this challenge, and I intend to participate. I’m asking everyone to write just one letter – handwritten, with pen and paper – and send it to someone to make their day. Or to apologize for some long-ago misdeed. Or even to catch up with someone you chat with regularly.

Who knows? You may want to write two.









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