One Week Down

Let’s take a break from the heavy hitting posts and talk about the fact that the Conjure and Coffee Crew has made it through the first week of school.

I don’t know the schools for the area you are in, Dear Reader, so all these whinings and observations will be about the district we live in here at Casa de Conjure.border11This year, our little dude, who I introduced to you about a year ago as D-Man, is a kindergartner! He is a very quirky, smart, and funny little dude who has a love for Minecraft, video games, and coloring inside the lines. Yes, I said inside the lines. It’s crazy, I know. He’s so good at problem-solving it astonishes me. He is a really big fan of puzzle games and often when he asks for help, I just am not able to help him. He’s also kind and emotional, like any 5 year old is. As a middle child, I think he has a tendency to feel he has to be loud to be heard.

As much as I love him and believe in his intelligence, I really was fearful that going to school would be hard for him.

Like the other children, he’s never been to daycare and honestly, hasn’t even spent many nights outside the house. We aren’t isolationists by choice as much as by circumstance. The Husband has been a night worker since before the babies were born. Coupled with having one car and very limited child care resources, we’ve just kind of always lived in our own world.

And with things this year being so stressful with my husband and his illness battle, I was worried that the adjustment to being a more formal setting would be hard on him.

However, it seems that he’s doing pretty well. The school the kids attend is pretty damn great and has made him feel empowered and at home. The teachers and administrators there are some of the best I’ve ever encountered. I have connected to his class via the Class Dojo app so I can check in on how his day is going and communicate with his teacher whenever I need to. So I can see when he gets a =1 for helping others or a -1 for hallway behavior. Both of which happened within the same day.

I suspect that there’s going to be some bumps in the road at some point. And that’s ok. That’s expected. Honestly, it’s something I think is encouraging. Finding the right fit for a child in the world of academia is important. It’s not easy, it often doesn’t feel good, but by the gods, it’s important.Text Dividers_Part 2-11JoBean is now 10 and an official 5th grader. And I feel that if he knew I was referring to him as JoBean he’d roll his eyes at me. This is his last year in elementary school. And man, what a time it’s been. I feel that we are at a place where his ADHD is being controlled pretty well. I think he has emotionally matured a lot this summer. I do know he’s got the pre-teen angst down pretty well. He only thinks I’m embarrassing about 40% of the time.

He hasn’t had any emotional breakdowns so far. For the most part, he has done well at following directions. He did manage to forget to bring home important things twice in the first week. At some point, I think I’ve just accepted that he’s someone who needs constant reminding about things. I think the teachers and counselors at the school understand this too.

This will be his last year with a group of people who know him, his inner workings, and know how to handle them. Next year, it’s a new school a new set of rules and a new group of teachers and administrators. That scares the shit out of me.

All the progress we have made fitting him into his educational family is going to be erased and we will have to start over. There’s also the chance that the school will have a larger population of students. Next year for sure is sink or swim. And I’m not letting my boy sink, no matter how hard I have to swim.

But that’s all next year. This year, we’re going to focus on what needs to be done. For JoBean, school is like an archaeological dig. Each time he’s there and applies himself, we find out something new. Inspiring him to keep digging is going to be hard work, but I can be pretty damn inspiring when I need to be.

Text Dividers_Part 2-07Little MarMar is slowly adjusting to both brothers being gone all day. She’s been a little clingier, a little more attention seeking, and a little wilder. I had thought that with both boys out of the house during the day she’d be rolling in enjoyment. I guess she’s adjusting too. While she is usually at odds with at least one of the boys at any given time. They are her best and truest friends. And while its true that it won’t be much longer until she’s in school herself, right now it’s a little difficult. But we will get through it. Even if it means watching Moana every day. E.V.E.R.Y.D.A.Y

You’re welcome.Text Dividers_Part 2-04The movement of time is never more evident than it is in the growth of the children we love. We must remember they are not ours. We do not own these little personality machines. To us, they are borrowed until they find their way and learn the notes to their own song of life.

This first week has been a good start on them finding their vibe. I hope that for the rest of the year, things go the way they should. I do not wish them, and the rest of the students, the best. No, I wish them enough. Enough to keep working, dreaming, and searching.

 

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Keep grinding, kiddos.

One week at a time.

I’ve got your backs.

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An Illusion of (Birth)Control

 

Wikipedia says that an illusion of control is “the tendency for people to overestimate their ability to control events; for example, it occurs when someone feels a sense of control over outcomes that they demonstrably do not influence”. Typically used to describe how the superstitions and rituals that surround gambling, sports, and other such things work. For me, it’s how I’ve felt for years about birth control.

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I was laying on the stretcher, Stephen King book in hand when my doctor came through the curtain.

Numerous nurses had been in and out, checking my temperature and blood pressure, bringing me warm blankets and chamomile aromatherapy in a little sniffable vial. One even gave me an EKG for some reason. The nicest ones came in as a group of three, armed with IV needles and a syringe full of the equivalent of “a big nice glass of wine”.

When he entered the small cubby of a room, I knew it was Go Time.

I don’t know if it was because of how the light emphasized his hairline or if it was the fact that his last name ended in a vowel. Or if more realistically, it had something to do with the fact I’d had been marathoning the first season of The Sopranos at home, but suddenly, instead of just an OB/GYN, he was a man that could make me a very good deal.

“Are you sure about this?” He asked after the usual “hey, how are you”s. He was calm and pretty cool for it being so early in the morning. I could picture him meeting up with Tony at the Bada Bing after his shift was done at the hospital.

Feeling just a little less anxious and a little more sure of myself, I responded with a half laugh, “It’s a little too late to change my mind now.”

He responded by telling me it was never too late. If I needed an out, this was it.

Even though anxiety was tugging at the edge of my tie in the back-show your butt to the world gown, I shook my head.

I was here. Might as well do the damn thing.

A few minutes later I was wheeled into an operating room and switched over to a very cold metal table. Then after one of the nice nurses from earlier placed an oxygen mask on my face, everything went black.

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The first time I had seriously thought about birth control, I was 17.

For years prior, always in the company of others mind you, my mother would go on and on about how when I was ready, all I had to do was ask, and she would get me birth control. No problem right? She was the cool mom, remember? She would do anything if it was the best for her girl. She was the best mom. The number one mom. No other mom could mom like she did.

The actuality was when I had my first real boyfriend and decided to ask her for help in obtaining birth control, her response was different. Almost 16 years later even when I can’t remember the title of that song I just heard on the radio, I remember her answer.

“So what are you, a slut now?”

Quicker than a hiccup, the bravery I had pulled together to ask the question eroded. For the next few weeks, she acted as if I was contagious. Oddly enough, she did become a lot more handsy with my then boyfriend around that time. She’d chat with him endlessly while icing me out. A few times, she tickled attached him.

It was a really confusing time.

I did end up sleeping with that dude. We were safe. As safe as public high school Sex Ed classes could teach us to be. We broke up my first semester of college. He wrote goodbye letters to my mother and sister and never returned my calls.

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This event really peppered my lifelong birth control experience. Between that first boyfriend and when I got married to my wonderful husband, the only other experience I had was a trip to the campus Health Clinic for the morning after pill.

After having my first child at 21, I started THE PILL. For the next 9 years, we would have an off and on again relationship that was as rocky as the one I had with my mother.

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All the usual side effects happened to me that happened to thousands of other women. To use a clinical term, I became a basket case. My libido fell into the Mariana Trench. I got acquainted again with the migraines I had as a pre-teen. It literally was a little pill of Hell that I swallowed every day.

During the time of popping birth control pills like they were party drugs, I had four more pregnancies which gave me three of the coolest kids on the planet. It was also during this time that my first born, my beautiful long-haired son, passed away. That tragedy was followed by a miscarriage.

It was not an easy time.

I bounced around between types of hormonal pills before getting the Nexplanon implant. Three years of constant coverage seemed like a good way to tame my rabbit like fertility.

And for two and a half years, it was awesome.
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The decision to remove Nexplanon from my arm and being fertile from my life was made in my living room on what we call “The Little Couch”. I had my head wrapped in a blanket to block out as much light and sound as possible. My stomach rolled with nausea from a migraine roaring through my head and an almost Keith Richard’s amount of Excedrin.

I spent most of the days that week writhing in a pain I couldn’t touch with my hands. I felt that if I could just get my hands in behind my eye, I could dig it out, like the worms I dug up as a kid. The pulsing behind my left eye made me want to high five Odin for plucking his own eye out. It seemed like a logical and reasonable choice.

I didn’t pluck my own out obviously. My courage is way less than my imagination.

It was then that my husband and I decided that now was the time. We had a houseful of children. I wasn’t getting younger. And the side effects of hormonal birth control were getting worse. We like to pride ourselves on being logical people. Not Vulcan logical, but the basic human kind of logic.

The only clear answer was sterilization.

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I called my could-be-a-Soprano’s character doctor and made an appointment. There was no hesitation. There was no period of mourning. There were no tears shed about interrupting my biological imperative.

I haven’t gotten baby rabies for years. The sight of a newborn does nothing but remind me about how fucking hard babies are. I get giddy over puppy videos now. I go all gooey when I see a doggo doing doggo things. While I still take pride and enjoy (most days at least) being a mother, I am over becoming a mother.

The appointment came faster than I thought it was going to. I sat with my doctor and we talked about options before he dug the Nexplanon out of my arm. I told him I was done, I wanted out. He looked at my chart, then looked at me, asked me if I was sure and then said ok.

After talking all the obtains, we decided that a tubal ligation was the way to go. It was covered by our insurance and it supplied the lifelong low failure rate that I needed.
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That’s how I ended up naked and asleep in an operating room on a Tuesday morning. The surgery was uneventful and went pretty much as planned. I was taken to recovery and then, when I was able, I was reunited with three of the coolest kids in the world and my husband.

Since the surgery things have gone well. It’s been about a week and most of the pain had dissipated. The first few days were the worst, but that’s normal. I’m able to do most things and feel in the next week, I’ll be back to my normal self.

But it won’t be my old normal self. I don’t know if getting put under anesthesia is the human equivalent of turning something off and then back on again, but I feel a lot better mentally and emotionally. Maybe it’s the absence of extra crazy hormones in my body.

I’m not a doctor, I can’t really say for sure.

All I do know is that I feel like I’m actually in control now.

And that’s pretty nice.

 

Sources
Photo by Thought Catalog on Unsplash
Photo by Atik sulianami on Unsplash

Tahlequah’s gift

If you’ve been active on social media for the last couple of weeks you’ve no doubt seen the story of the killer whale known as Tahlequah.

Tahlequah is a member of the smallest of the four residential communities of killer whales in the northeastern part of the North American Pacific Ocean. Called the Southern Resident Killer Whales (or SRKW), the group swims the waters between Vancouver and San Juan Island bordering the Pacific Northwest.

The group is unlike other residential killer whale communities. Its population, cut down by food limitations, contaminants and vessel traffic disturbances, has been slashed to just 75. That 75 is made up of only one clan that contains three pods. Tahlequah’s generation is feared to be the last of her family. The youngest of her pod mates, a 3-year-old named Scarlett, has been seen to be extremely emaciated.  Scientists are struggling to track the young whale to try to feed her antibiotic-laden fish in hopes of keeping her from starving.

To describe this group as endangered would be an understatement.

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Photo by Ghost Presenter on Pexels.com

In SRKW, 20-year-old Tahlequah was set to birth the first calf in three years. After about 17 months of gestation, on July 25th, 2018 Tahlequah gave birth.

For 30 minutes, it was a glorious occasion. Another life had been added to the diminishing pod. A new generation has begun. The struggling 75 had become a hopeful 76.

And then, the calf, small for its size but huge in it’s potential, died.

As of this writing, it’s been 17 days since the death of Tahlequah’s newborn. And in a move that’s caused the civilian and scientific worlds to both gasp in awe, it’s been 17 days of Tahlequah pushing and carrying her dead child with her.

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It has long been known that whales and their sea-dwelling neighbors, dolphins, are intelligent. Crafted in July 2012 during the Francis Crick Memorial Conference on the Consciousness in Human and non-Human Animals, The Cambridge Declaration on Consciousness was signed by participating neuroscientists. The Declaration states:

The absence of a neocortex does not appear to preclude an organism from experiencing affective states. Convergent evidence indicates that non-human animals have the neuroanatomical, neurochemical, and neurophysiological substrates of conscious states along with the capacity to exhibit intentional behaviors. Consequently, the weight of evidence indicates that humans are not unique in possessing the neurological substrates that generate consciousness. Non-human animals, including all mammals and birds, and many other creatures, including octopuses, also possess these neurological substrates.”

This evidence shows that not only are whales and dolphins conscious, they are also self-aware. They have complex brain structures to use on complex functions, just like us. They live in complex societies, just like us. They are capable of experiencing a range of emotions, just like us.

And, as Tahlequah’s actions have shown, they feel grief and sorrow, just like us.

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Grief is only one size fits all in the way a straight jacket is.

There is no way to compare it among people. The only similarity is an emptiness that wraps itself around you and hugs you so hard you often have trouble breathing. You become stuck in that weird space between fear and familiarity. It hurts, but you’re used to it. The pain is rooted so deep, it has become one of the cores of your foundation. You don’t want to feel it but without it, you feel empty. So with bloodied paws, you continue your march.

We are seeing now the same is true for the grief struggle in animals.

In Tahlequah’s quest, I see a reflection of myself. Since the morning of November 3rd, 2011, I have been swimming, just like her,  against the tide of child loss. Controlled not by the gravitational forces of the sun and moon but by the weight of love and loss, I have been struggling to move forward. I have often forgotten my purpose in life and just reacted on muscle memory. Like Tahlequah, I have abandoned everything that was normal about my life and turned my whole existence into carrying the memory of my child.

To see and share pain is the most honest form of connection. It is the ultimate namaskar of souls.

It’s saying “Yes, I see your pain. Yes, I feel your pain. I see you. I accept you.” And that connection, be it between humans or animals or any combination of the two, is something that is revolutionary.

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On a personal note, I think it is wonderful that the whole world has been so touched by Tahlequah’s journey. The stories, the poems, the art, and the political change her story has produced has been uplifting and heartwarming. It’s important that we see and celebrate the connection between and us (humans) and the animal kingdom. To understand how important these animals are to our shared existence is something that I think we need to feel down deep in our bones. We need to continue to realize that there are more things on this planet than us. We need to respect their feelings and do better in accepting them as the rightful heirs to this spinning hunk of rock.

At the same time, I’d like for you to remember that there are people in your circles who are carrying the same weight as Tahlequah. But they won’t be the focus of a national news story anytime soon.No website is going to run the story about how hard it is to listen to the favorite song of someone who isn’t there. A picture of a grief-stricken parent, smile tense and eyes hard because s/he has to exist in such an unfair situation isn’t going to be a viral story.

Often times we forget about those people and their struggles. It’s easy to chastise these people when they are not being their best self. It’s easy to expect them to follow your guidelines and timetables of grief. What’s hard is to acknowledge them and their pain and give them reverence. What’s hard is to accept that grief is a weight that will be forever carried and a fire that will never be extinguished.

Maybe by acknowledging and accepting the pain that Tahlequah is showing in the waters off Vancouver, we will be better able to acknowledge and accept the pain of our human friends. When we do right by the planet and our animals brother and sisters, we do right by ourselves. Expelling empathy to all of the creatures around us, from those in the oceans to those sitting beside us in traffic, is the key factor in keeping this planet and each other alive.

And in the face of tragedy, maybe that is Tahlequah’s gift.

Sources:
Time.com
Fisheries.Noaa.Gov
Washington Post
Us.Whales.Org
Cambridge Declaration On Consciousness