12.23.2012

the sex knot - part 3

Here is Part 1 and Part 2.

So now that I have elaborated about my view of the responsibilities that come alongside having a healthy relationship with sex, I feel more comfortable eventually delving into the two major current debates that I have been having with various Christians over the past year: gay marriage and abortion. I don't write this to convert anyone to my side of thinking. As a debater, my biggest issue is that I understand where the people that disagree with me are coming from (because I have been them), and so I don't take a stand and say "this is my opinion." Normally I say "well this is the other side that disagrees with what you're saying." I actually believe that if God's will can be identified in any of this, it is the will that both sides be represented enough to have the struggle. Will it reach an inevitable conclusion? If we look at the past to arguments that have been similar, like slavery, racism, misogyny- we're still working them out all over the world, so I would say, not until Jesus returns.

But anyway, in my view, both the debates on gay rights and pro-life/pro-choice actually come to debates about sex. This may seem surprising because no one ever actually mentions sex itself, the closest people come is talking about babies. Just like in regular life, actually talking about sex open and honestly is avoided. I believe this is because people have had no practice and are not comfortable discussing sex with other people. It always gets awkward. Thus, my emphasis on understanding the sex knot in our brains and passing that information on as open and honestly as possible, first to those closest to us that require the benefit. If we want these debates to progress beyond where they are at, we have to raise the level of dialogue. We have to get to the root of the issue. We have to be more open and honest about what we all think about sex. Eventually, we have to own our opinions about sex and share them with people who don't know us very well.

Why don't we share what we think about sex now? Why don't we struggle through the awkwardness? It's because on the other side of the awkwardness is the threat of judgement. Even now, as I write these words, a part of my mind is wondering who is going to look down on me for them. For my culture, where I come from, I squarely place blame for this on the church- it's all tied up in their history. I have a general understanding of how following Jesus became a legalistic and judgment based religion, which I think would be helpful to share. Note that I am presenting this in an incredibly simplified manner, and also, there is definitely a strong bias towards the Anabaptist perspective.

The first Christians were Jewish. They were Jews that believed Jesus was The Messiah. At the time, there were people who followed other men that were not Jesus, but were also claiming to be The Messiah. When those "messiahs" died, so did their movements. This did not happen with Jesus, in fact the inverse happened, (arguably) because of His resurrection. Soon after Jesus walked the earth, He revealed to the disciples that followed him: not only was he the Messiah for the Jews but for the rest of the world as well! This is when the Jewish Christians started falling out of favour with the other Jews, because they were mixing with people who were "unclean." Then the Christians started falling out of favour with the Romans (who are ruling) because Ceaser was supposed to be their god, and no matter what way you slice it they couldn't recognize him as such. So for about 300 years being identified as a Christian meant people would probably try to kill you. But then, Constantine is the Roman Emperor and he becomes a Christian! The problem is being a ruler of an empire (which is always in a battle to conquer land or defend it) alongside following the way of Jesus makes you a huge hypocrite and threatens the existence of your Empire. But, if the Christians could reconcile this problem then they could stop being murdered!
How could Constantine be a Christian AND an Emperor? Enter Augustine. Augustine was probably not the first person to twist around Jesus' words such that it was suddenly OK to kill people in His name, but Augustine is certainly the most famous first person to do it. People still quote Augustine's writings today, his logic (especially when it comes to war) is still held as sound. Now the church had a place of power, and with it they exerted control. The church formed opinions on lots of different things which they implemented like laws. So from Jesus, the Man who said no human (aside from himself) is in a righteous enough position to judge another human; the Man whose main adversaries are the Pharisees (Jews that care more about following the letter of the law than understanding its intention); the Man who gave us the new commandment: to love God above all else and then to love others as we love ourselves... In Jesus' name the church turns into a judgemental, legalistic, institution of persecution. And the biggest legalism they fixate on is sexual purity.

I'm talking pre-protestant reformation still. The biggest authorities on sex were people who had vowed never to have sex! This can only produce ignorance. Then the protestant reformation happens. The reformation was essentially a whole bunch of Christians saying "Dear Church, you are so judgemental you can't even follow your own rules. We're leaving- you're now the Catholics. Peace out."  And then those new Protestants were like "OK people, this is the RIGHT way to judge other people." So while the new Protestants reformed a lot of the legalism that had been introduced into following Jesus, they kept a lot of it too. Including the sexual purity stuff. So, now days, while it might be fine in certain denominations for a leader of a church to have a wife and engage in sex (WHAT?!), we still hold to these ideas that were made up by the early church in order to control sex and a lot of Christians still use these ideas to pass judgement on other people- including hypothetical ones. 

I understand where the ideas of sexual purity come from in the bible- and I'm not trying to say they are wrong. The bible is a tool, used so that one can connect with God. It's not a weapon to be used to cut other people down. The problem I have is that people hold on to sexual purity so tightly that they let go of other ideas Jesus spent way more of his teachings on. Imagine if Christians cared as much about controlling urges to judge people as they do about controlling urges to have sex with people. Or as much about taking care of the poor. We would live in a different world.




*A note on my lack of sources: 
If you are curious about something I have said, feel free to message me or leave a comment. My opinions and ideas have been formed over years of study, so right now I just have a list of the general major influences that have created these thoughts. The things I present as fact are things that were presented as fact to me, and then sat in my head for a long time- this is only my perspective, only how I see the world. If you want to know more about where my perspective comes from check out:

12.12.2012

the sex knot - part 2

If you have't read Part 1, start there.

Why do we have sex knots in our brains? the answer to that question is almost as complex as our knots themselves. We could be quick to point a finger at religions and claim they are the problem, but that is an oversimplification. The problem is legalism, or the making of rules, in situations where rules alone shouldn't be made. I was just listening to this sermon, From Moses to Jesus, and the ever-wise Bruxy Cavey said something to the effect of: rules exist where there is either a lack of love or a lack of maturity. When you have both love and maturity, you don't need rules because you desire within yourself, within your heart, to follow the ideas that the rules would give you.

Maturity and love are both things that are achieved through understanding. If all we can understand is the physical effect sex has on us and we never look at the emotional affects. If we never try to unravel our sex knot, then we can't have love or maturity in our relationship with sex. And we most definitely can not pass the ability of having love and maturity in our relationship with sex on to anyone else. So we are left with rules. Rules we have given to ourselves and rules that we project on to other people. Rules that we can use as a check list when we're trying to decide something that involves sex.

Healthy sex is easily achieved within a healthy monogamous relationship because there is maturity, trust and love in place. In a healthy relationship, the emotional attachment to the person is healthy- it is mature, it is full of love. You want to show the person you are with that you love and care for them, so you demonstrate it by making healthy decisions when it comes to sex. You have a healthy relationship with a person and by benefit you obtain a healthy relationship with sex itself. This is the reason why the idea of only having sex after you have entered marriage is encouraged. This is the reason religions have come up with the rule. They assume a marriage is a healthy relationship between two people, and so they can assume that those two people together can achieve a healthy idea of what sex is and how it should be used.

There are two problems that are ignored when spouting the idea. The first, obviously, being that just because two people are married, it doesn't mean they have a healthy relationship, and it's quite possible within their relationship that sex is being used as a weapon, as leverage... any number of bad things.
The bigger problem, I think, is that the context of the healthy relationship with the idea of sex is incredibly limited. If a person achieves their healthy relationship with sex as a consequence of being in a healthy monogamous relationship, they can't automatically explain to someone not in a healthy monogamous relationship how to have a healthy relationship with the idea of sex. With lots of things in life I like to do what I call "the teenager test." I think about how I would explain something to a teenager, a person smart enough to understand but without enough life experience to really know anything. You have to make them believe what you are saying and why you are saying it, otherwise they will just have to learn by building up their own experiences. In this case, if I only understand a healthy relationship with sex as combined with a marriage relationship (or equivalent), the only thing I can say to a teenager for guidance of how to have a healthy relationship with sex is to say "wait until you have what I have." To a teenager, who is filled with hormones, curiosity and no real concept of time relative to life, this is a failure.

We know it is a failure because studies show that teenager who get abstinence only sex education do not refrain from sex any more than teenagers with other types of sex education. It fails because people don't understand why they should wait. And no one is helping them maneuver the questions that follow the command. The irony you come to realize growing up is that all the adults that are telling you to wait: they didn't wait. Yes there are exceptions, but those people are normally much more expressive about their personal experiences. When you tell someone to wait, you have to elaborate. You have to share your experiences that brought you to the conclusion. You have to unravel your sex knot and lay it out for their benefit. Even if you didn't wait. Even if you are just saying it because you're looking at your kid going "when did you turn 12?! I am so uncomfortable talking to you about sex!" They have to understand why, otherwise they will dive in head first with the physical part of sex and realize the emotional consequences after the fact.

As a teenager, what I needed most was an honest, in depth and personal explanation of why a healthy relationship with the idea of sex should have been one of my top priorities as a developing person. Even if that came from a text book, it would have made an impact. I was missing an entire aspect of  my understanding about sex. I needed someone to give me a map and mark out some landmarks for me. I needed someone to say "you know the fact that you grew up without regular affection from your father has made you more emotionally vulnerable to any male that is willing to give you affection." But of course when it comes to talking to a teenager about sex, the prevailing argument is that it is irresponsible to give any kind of information that doesn't make sex look like a horrible thing. I reject this argument based solely on its simplicity and lack of context. Plus, the fact that the media has done an amazing job of explaining to children since before they can talk why sex is not a horrible thing.

This study (The Journal of Political Economy's The Effects of Sex Education on Teen Sexual Activity and Teen  Pregnancy) looks at the relationship between access to sexual education and sexual activity in teenagers from the 1970's. In the theory section, it says that "rational individuals become sexually active at the first age at which the perceived benefits from sex exceed the perceived costs." The map of my sex knot, the one I lay out to the next generation, is going to highlight the emotional costs of an unhealthy relationship with sex. I am assuming the kids will not have trouble figuring out the physical aspects on their own, so physically, the focus will be on using protection ALWAYS. The emotional side of things is what the sex knot is all about. It's easy to have sex, it's much more difficult to understand the effect sex has on you. Some people can handle the emotional effects, but many people don't understand what they are doing to themselves. Most people can't identify whether the sex they want to have is healthy or not. And society (read: the parent) doesn't help by just giving a single, limited context rule. We have to do better than that. And we do better not because it will help people follow our rules, but because it allows for love and maturity instead of rules.

12.10.2012

the sex knot - part 1


Marc and I get together with a group of Christians who speak English every week. We have been meeting regularly for about three months now, though the roots of the group go back nearly two years. I call it the English Fellowship Group in my head but it does not really have a name. There are a lot of interesting things about gathering this group in Denmark, but the main one is its inherent diversity. We have eight regular attendees that represent seven different countries, six different denominations and three separate local Danish churches. It's really amazing to have a discussion together about anything. We've been able, so far, to just spend our time talking without much structure. We are getting to know each other still, so there are topics that we just don't touch. Mostly, those topics involve sex.

In the past year, God has really challenged me to see the role sex plays in how I think about others. Because of this, I have realized (mainly through debates with people about abortion and homosexuality) that the relationship people have with the idea of sex is what often defines where they stand on a list of other topics. Now when I start debating with someone, I don't feel like they can really understand my personal position on these issues if they don't understand how I hold the idea of sex, and moreover, the struggles that I have gone through with the idea of sex in order to get to the place I am at. Sex, unfortunately for me, is not what people want to talk about when they are using the bible to prove why abortions or same-sex marriage are concepts God does not agree with.

My assumption is that people don't want to talk about sex because they don't know how. And they can't without automatically feeling uncomfortable in their own skin (I can't either, yet). It is hard to understand how you truly feel about a topic when, in public space, the first sensations you have are to cross your legs and clench your butt cheeks together. But,is that not really the beginning of the problem we have as people with our relationship to the idea of sex? we can't get comfortable enough to think about it. Maybe we like to feel sexy, but start talking about penetration and the impact of penetration on our emotional lives and we can't get out of our own way in order to enter a open and honest discussion. What do you really think about having sex? What has having sex taught you about yourself? What has having sex taught you about other people? Ok, now relax all your automatic defense mechanisms and actually try to answer.

The culture I come from (developed and westernized) has made huge strides in the last 40 years. Generally, we can now talk about the physical aspects of sex in a purely clinical way without too much nervous giggling or feeling naughty. As teenagers, we seem the most capable of being open and honest with ourselves about what we think when it comes to sex- but when you are incredibly curious about something you don't have a lot of time to waste on inhibitions. As we become adults, and the sex we have had or have not had teaches us, we seem to become more awkward. It is an awkwardness that comes from not knowing where to start. How do I describe what I have been through? It is a perpetually jumbled essay of ideas and influences that we've never learned to express. It's just a knot in our brains. And we can leave it a knot, but then we doom the generation that follows us into having a knot as well. If we choose to work on the knot, to try and unravel it, even a little, we open up more options for our children.

As humans we have two basic choices for how to learn about things: hearing how others have done them or doing them ourselves. No one ever talked to me about the emotional side or pleasurable side of sex. I learned about those things through doing them myself. I don't know anyone who hasn't learned about those things from doing. The only shared experiences I have ever heard are from peers- people in the same place as me in life, learning exactly as I am learning. I never had a person from another generation, from another walk of life explain any part of their emotional sex life to me at all. Maybe my Dad did a little bit, but definitely not before I had started learning on my own. I look back at my experiences now and I can see where learning from someone else would have significantly benefited me. I work really hard to remember this because I want to do things differently. I have a personal interest in my own child having more information than I did. But, I also feel like so many of the world's problems could be helped or even totally solved just by people learning how to share their emotional experience with sex... yes, I really did say world's problems.

Part 2 

11.30.2012

over a rainbow

Have you ever had a project that consumes you in the most positive way? It's not too overwhelming but it's not easy. When you think about it at all, it just makes you feel more alive inside? But you don't feel pressure let it consume other parts of your life, it just takes up the time you have for it and nothing more?

This is where I am right now with the book I am writing. I just feel destined to complete this novel; to tell this story. I enjoy thinking about it even when I'm not writing it out, but it isn't all I'm thinking about. I am so excited to watch as the story slowly takes its form. The characters are becoming real people to me. I am forming them out of bits of myself and bits of my perceptions of other people. Sometimes I am exaggerating things, other times I'm really taking an exact experience in my life and expressing its essence. I'm taking moments of my life and the lives that have touched mine and replaying them with only words, reorganizing them in ways that they could have occurred but didn't. Every moment that I write this novel, every moment that I think about writing it, I feel more myself than I have ever felt before...ever.

I think it helps that my life is full of things that I generally love to do. Yes, sometimes I am challenged by being a mother, or learning to speak Danish. I feel like I need Marc's assistance to complete any house project if only because the work can feel lonely. Sometimes I can't figure out how to finish my sewing project or make a website design do what I want. But, I still love what I am doing. I think the love comes out of how much I am always actively learning. My brain is never bored these days.
Writing my book or a blog post that has been brewing in my head, it's exponentially greater than all of those things. I'm learning and loving what I do like everything else, but attached is a higher feeling of purpose. I was made to write words, I was made to inspire other people with those words. I have known for a time that this is what I'm supposed to be doing, but writing the novel has reinforced this within me even more so. Such that, at this point, I am feeling a deeper connection with God every time I am in a writing session. Like the time I send writing words was time that He planned out for me before anything ever existed. I know it sounds so prideful, so full of hubris, but I am honestly more humbled than anything else because I have the privilege of experiencing this feeling.

Sometimes I wrestle with the idea that I won't succeed. Right now I'm telling people that I am writing a book, and then I will say I have written a book, and then I might say I am selling a book. And somehow, eventually, the words I am making; the ones that tell me "writing is my purpose" are going to have to tell other people that as well. I don't want to need approval outside myself or outside my family, but what is the point of writing something if I don't try to share it with strangers. And in this world, sharing means making an exchange. To show people that I value what I'm writing and they should value it too, I have to ask them for something in return. This is tragic to me, really. 

If everyone was able to live how I am living right now... If we valued our time that we are alive as much as we value the numbers on our bank statements, people would know my words were worth something before they read them or exchanged anything for them. Imagine a world where every time a person is doing something, that something is the best and most important use of the time they are using to do it. It doesn't logically work in the world we live in now, unfortunately. In this world you have to spend so much time and energy convincing yourself and others that the things you are doing are important, you end up with less energy and time to spend actually doing those things. But sometimes you get to live in a special, limited-time-offer bubble where the things you are doing are the best things to be spending your moments on. It's truly like traveling somewhere over the rainbow but the worst thing that could happen is you have to click your heels and go back home.


11.15.2012

what makes human life?

This is a picture of an embryo my husband and I made back in 2009. It is just over eight weeks old and has a visible heart beat. It spontaneously aborted itself three weeks after this ultrasound.


The biological definition of life is incredibly broad because biology is the study of all living things- from simple bacteria to complex humans. Biology defines life from a stand point reversed. "I know it is alive now, so let me step back and figure out the parts it needed and the processes it went through to achieve this state: life that I can prove." Those parts and processes become the bullet points for what gives something life. This is the only way we can apply the scientific method biologically. The problem is that humans can't know everything about the parts and everything about the processes, so we end up with bullet points that create a broader definition of what biologically is a life then is actually true. This applies to defining life in general, but has major implications when we're talking about defining human life.

This broad definition of biologically alive would apply to the embryo in that ultrasound. But the problem is this: even before our embryo was biologically considered life, it was determined unable to become a human life. Miscarriage, or spontaneous abortion -the medical profession's irking name for it, is generally caused by a chromosomal abnormality that results in the embryo or fetus eliminating itself. This basically means that the sperm or the egg, or the initial, single-celled, combination of the two (called a zygote), is damaged. And, eventually, that damage will limit the development of these parts, such that they will never be able to complete the processes involved in becoming a human life. The damage is probably done even before conception, with the problem being in the egg or the sperm. But, we have to include the zygote because all we can scientifically determine is that the combination of the two has a problem and it has been there from the absolute beginning. Even though there is conception, there was no potential for human life. 

The embryo in my uterus was biologically alive, but it was never going to be a human life. It just did not have the parts required to perform the processes. Therefore, it could never actually be considered a human life, not even from a biological standpoint. This is a paradox because we don't know the biological determination in reference to the "human life" definition until after it has come to be. What happened in my conception, where egg met sperm and made nothing, is what happens in anywhere from 10% to 75% of human conceptions, depending on who you ask.

So, I am having a really hard time with what I have been hearing from the pro-life side of the abortion debate since the US election. In the past week or so, I have heard too many times "life begins at conception is scientific fact."  Yeah maybe general life, like trees and mushrooms and viruses have, but in terms of human life, this is just not true. I am shocked because the response seems to be silence. Silence is usually understood to be agreement! Well I formally DISAGREE!

[I actually decided to write this post after I saw Mike Huckabee on The Daily Show. In the interview portion only posted online he said that a pro-life view is scientific because "biologically, life begins at conception." All Jon Stewart could say in response was that it was a loaded statement. Well you know what you needed to say Jon: the biological definition of life is way to broad to indiscriminately use it to define, without exception, a human life.]

The point is that just because something is biologically alive, it does not mean it has potential for human life (even when it is made up of only human parts- like these beating heart muscles UCLA made, or the embryo my husband and I made). Humans are not skilled enough to determine the exact moment when human life actually begins, although we do have it down to a window. And, I would argue that point is probably different for every combination of sperm and egg, so expecting anything but a window from science is unrealistic. There actual answer to when human life begins will never be a nice sound bite statement like "life begins at conception." But, this isn't about pro-choice vs. pro-life for me. It's about abusing science to present beliefs as fact, and how the abuse of the science impacts women.

When people, outside of their own personal beliefs, proclaim that human life begins at conception, they stigmatize the large population of women who have had a miscarriage or will have a miscarriage. Saying "life beings at conception is a scientific fact" is a perverse statement that puts women who have had a miscarriage in a position of having to defend themselves. Sometimes what they are made to defend is extreme, like the woman in Ireland who recently died because she had a miscarriage but was denied the life saving medical procedure of an abortion to remove the rotting leftovers of the thing inside her that was never going to be a human life. 
Sometimes what they are made to defend is just their experience. The thing inside me was never a human life because it was mathematically and biologically predetermined to never be able to become a human life. That is a fact, not a belief. Another fact is that I am actually thankful that pregnancy was not a human life, because without my miscarriage, I would never have had E or moved to Denmark. I blessed to be able to grieve and move on. I want every woman to have the right to the same opportunity.

11.06.2012

James Deen

When I was pregnant with E, my biggest fear about having a boy was the penis. I was worried because I only understood the penis in one way, a "sex" way. How would I clean it? or even touch it? How do I not stigmatize this part of him? even though in my own head it is totally stigmatized. My husband and I discussed my concerns frequently, especially after the third trimester when I was convinced that I would have a boy. We did not find out the sex beforehand and I only admitted my suspicions to Marc because I felt like I wouldn't know what to do with the boy parts. I realize now, that I will always be concerned about E's penis because he will always be concerned about it. Apparently that is part of living life with your genitals hanging off you. I still don't totally get it, I probably never will, not completely. But E's penis and what he does with it has to be on my list of things I care about, at least until he is married. Even then, grandchildren, so.

I'm not a big fan of pornography. I can't make that statement without admitting that, yes, I have watched porn. Before I really understood what sex was, I was sexual. And, I have watched porn. I'm sure the average teenage boy with internet access these days has seen a lot more than me. But, I have seen enough to say I don't like pornography. I don't like to watch it or read it because women are objectified. And sometimes, it is very hard to tell if the women are OK with being so objectified. And also, I have issues with women who are OK with being objectified. Watching porn for me is not hot, it's a human issues crisis.
But then a week ago, or so, while hanging out on the internet, I read about this porn star James Deen. It was just a woman on reddit saying she was with a bunch of work colleagues, and she saw him and couldn't tell them because it wasn't "professional." I didn't really care. The only thing that seemed remarkable to me was how much women seem to like this James Deen guy. I figured he must not be like a normal guy in porn, or something and did not give it much thought beyond that.
Then I start seeing his name all the time (thanks Baader-Meinhof). So, without really trying, I learn all these internet facts about him. All the things EVERYONE knows. He wanted to be a porn star since he was in kindergarten. He has pretty eyes. He has very awesome parents. He is in a normal movie with Lindsay Lohan. And, seriously, you can't find a woman in the porn industry or outside of it that has anything bad to say about this guy. So last night, I checked him out, like as in watched his porn on the internet. I did it because I was curious. And then today, there was a James Deen AMA on reddit. So I get it now. I get why all the ladies love this guy. And, I recommend checking him out, if anything just because he is a really interesting contradiction. At least he is for me. His whole life, it seems, revolves around sex, and yet it doesn't consume him. He is all about showing love, like genuine love for the people around him. (Just read his twitter feed).
Sex without commitment is not healthy. Sex is not a healthy thing to be focusing on all the time. Relationships that focus most on sex are lacking a healthy expression of love. I do believe in these statements as general rules for human life. I do believe that most people can not be a healthy human being, able to connect and show love to other human beings, while focusing most of their attention on the next time they are going to have sex with said human beings. Sometimes, sex comes out of love. But never does love come out of just sex. I think James Deen is an exception to these statements. And, if there is one exception there are more.

Why do I care? because I have two year old boy. And while I would love for him not to even be interested in having sex until he is 30, I know that he will be a sexual being long before I am ready to see him that way. I still want to help him to make good decisions, regardless of my limitations. One day my son is going to want to search the internet for pornography; to tell myself this is not inevitable would be deluded. So when that happens, I want him to only be watching James Deen.
Because even though James Deen is living a lifestyle that I can not understand, he is also clearly showing love and respect to the women living that lifestyle alongside him. In everything he is doing, he is first showing love for others... and not in a wink-wink sort of way. If you read anything he has to say about sex, like people asking him how to be as awesome as he is, he brings it back to communication. He says treat your partner like you would want to be treated, and he clearly lives this with the partners he has. I can honestly say I am impressed by this guy. I don't know if he, his personality and attitude, are an exception within the porn industry.  My guess is yes.
My husband and I can be a lot of things to our son, but there are limits for us in terms of "sex role-model". Limits that I experienced with my own parents as a young person. Limits that I see now led me to make decisions that were not smart. As parents we can not always be demonstrators and we can not be controllers. We have to accept that our role, when it comes to E's sexuality, stops at information and encouragement. Encouragement for him to respect other people. Encouragement for him to not care about sex more than anything else in his life. Information to understand what a truly healthy relationship is and the role sex plays in that. James Deen, the porn star, is going to help me provide that information to my son.


10.18.2012

recording my daily life for the internet, in bursts

How long do you give yourself to adjust to new situations? new schedules? new responsibilities?

I don't think I give myself enough time when I look at it from the perspective of life events. What has happened to me in the last month and a half since E started in dagplejer? From what I can remember I worked and ran everyday for two weeks and then got sicker than I have ever been in my life. I got better and then got sick again...and then again! We were worried about E getting chicken pox, and instead he has been the only one of us to go through the last month and half basically unscathed. E has been sick for a day or two at a time, but then he gives Marc and I what ever he has and we're knocked out. Marc and I have been trading off who is the sick one for a few weeks now.

In between taking more sick days off then ever before in my life. I have been worrying a lot about the house and the huge list of things that need to be done in the house before winter. Technically, some things should probably have been done before it started getting cold and rainy outside, but that has already happened... So anytime even the slightest bit of sun shines, I feel like I need to go outside and do some hard labour. I don't pay close enough attention to the Danish weather forecasts, which literally change every six hours, so I'm basically deciding on the spur of the moment if what needs to be done outside is more or less important than what I have in front of me.

I basically stopped running after I got sick because I felt like I pushed myself too hard in the beginning and am afraid of making myself sick again. Plus the weather has been blah, and I have lost that feeling of habit. I don't think "get dressed in running clothes" when I get out of bed in the morning anymore. I will get back into this habit, I keep promising myself.

I have stopped waking up as early. I think part of the reason I got so sick initially was that I was not listening to my body when it was telling me how much it needed to relax. Because I have narcolepsy, relaxing normally ends up turning into sleep. I know that if I wake up early and then try to relax later in the day, I am going to be asleep. I'll miss out on the rest of the time I am home without E and then wake up five minutes before I have to leave to get him. Waking up like that is horrible. It makes me feel very stressed about having E home again. My mind is focused on the things I should have done while I was sleeping, not on hanging out with him. Then I think, "whats the point of picking him up right after he naps if not to spend time with him?" so I feel exponentially bad about myself all afternoon.

There is this "putting myself on video talking about breastfeeding" project inspired by my sister, which has a huge learning curve I did not anticipate. It's not just trying to find the most flattering lighting or camera angle. And it isn't just about the video editing afterwards. I have learned that when I speak, I am preachy. I think I am being helpful and explaining stuff when I talk, but when I listen to myself I am like "what the heck am I doing? that's not even relevant, it is just bossy." More on the effects of that vis-à-vis my life in a future post. Regardless, the video is something that is taking up a lot more time than I want, but I can't get it out of my head so I just want to get it over with.

In the midst of all of this I have framed out almost my entire novel and am in love with the story. It seems like writing for myself comes too easy and I'm worried that is because I actually suck and don't know it yet. But, my heart says that even though I could and should be spending more time on writing the novel; the time I am spending is going well and I am doing what I am supposed to be doing with myself. The reason I want to spend more time is because of how good it feels to be writing as I am now. If I finish the 1st draft of my novel sooner than later, the accomplishment will feel amazing and I will be ready to add one more thing to my plate: danish classes at a school.

It seems like this blog is always right there along side the novel for priority, but I desire to blog less. For the past weeks I have prioritized writing time to my novel and I have done no blogging. I don't feel bad about that, though all the blogging tips and tricks websites will tell me I should. The blog feels like it has a direction for me, but I know that it needs more structural work and content explaining the actual direction/intention to the readers. I will take the time to do that eventually. I don't feel like I'm going to put any effort in promoting this blog on the internet until after my first draft is done anyway. I have been thinking about how I will go about it and everything I need to do between now and then. I'll probably have a blog intensive week or two before the holidays, but right now I care so much more about writing this novel.

So, all of that plus the weekly danish lessons online, choir practice, new english-speaking fellowship group, teaching myself computer programming and full-time social life means that I am spending more time worrying about what has not been done than I am spending enjoying what I am doing! And that is unacceptable in the long term. But it is acceptable while I am still finding balance in this new life. It's been two months since I started experiencing regularly scheduled alone time, with only half of that have E actually napping at the dagplejer.

What have I learned in this time where I have swung from one side of the pushing myself continuum to the other?

  • I need a schedule, a plan for the weeks ahead. More than just a to-do list; a to-do-then list. I think I want to start having "theme" weeks for my work.
  • I need to push harder than I have been pushing, but not as hard as I was pushing. So running three times a week or walking everyday instead of running... and making time every day to write again no matter whats on the schedule.
  • I need to keep telling myself "there will always be excuses not to write, but my passion trumps them"
  • I need to not blog consistently... I think bursts of content might be more my style. If I can get readers to expect that from the beginning, I think that will be good for me in the long term.


thisclimb: recording my daily life for the internet, in bursts.
me and my to-do list for the coming weeks... and all the excitement for it I could gather.

10.17.2012

he doesn't know what he's missing out on


As a narcoleptic, sometimes I have to ask Marc to do weird things at night...


I know what you are wondering, but that's not really the point.

9.22.2012

removing our brick chimney


Marc and I have spent the past few weeks working to remove a brick chimney. The chimney was used to vent an oil burner for heating the house. We switched the house to natural gas when we bought it, so we didn't need the brick chimney any longer. 

Here is a before and after comparison of the house:


If you are thinking about removing a brick chimney, here are some tips. The story of what we did gives the tips a bit more context.
  • A mechanical chisel is a good moral booster because the labour is hard work, but you can do the entire project with a manual chisel and hammer.
  • Focus on breaking the mortar at the corners/ends of the bricks. If we separated the mortar at both brick ends usually the brick just popped off the mortar line in the middle.
  • Remove material from the inside to the outside. We had a layer of normal bricks surrounding a layer of refractory brick. It was basically impossible to remove the regular brick before taking the refractory brick down first.
  • Try using a spray bottle to wet the mortar if you are finding it difficult to break the bricks from it. You don't want lots of water running down the chimney because of soot and dust, but getting the mortar moist seemed to help us break it up.

And this is the story of us taking our brick chimney down:
Our friend (and possible super human disguised as a Danish electrician) Jørgen started the removal process. I was discussing with him how the chimney needed to come down before any other work is done to the back building, but we didn't have the tools or a ladder so I didn't know when we would be able to do it. I was also telling Jørgen how we were planning to borrow safety harness so whoever is taking the chimney down could be secured to it, since the chimney was so high. He thought that was pretty funny. A few days later Jørgen calls me and asks if we had eaten dinner. He said if he and his wife, Jytte, could eat with us then he could help us start taking down the chimney that night. No problem for us! A little while later, Jørgen walked into the yard, put the ladder up and just started working. He took a 45 minute dinner break and continued to work after that. At almost 10pm, I stuck my head out of the bedroom window (where I was level with Jørgen). I said "It's really dark, can you see?" Jørgen said he could not see, and then proceeded to work for another hour! He took two thirds of the height off the chimney in the four hours working with just a hammer and chisel. The next day, Marc and I worked for 2.5 hours and did not even get down half of what was left. So we decided Jørgen had super powers.

I did a lot of internet research on removing brick before we started this project. Marc and I had it a lot harder then I was expecting. Obviously we were not as skilled as Jørgen, but I think the mortar lower down the chimney was also much stronger. After the first few rows on the first day, breaking apart the chimney got a lot more difficult, even after borrowing a mechanical chisel as well. And, for a good section of the bottom, the mortar would not break before the bricks did. Mortar is supposed to be weaker than brick, so that really puzzled us. We were frustrated at the pace of the project.

We started the project trying to save whole bricks so we would be able to clean them and use them again. We stopped doing that. We were always waiting for good weather, but we gave that up eventually also. The last day we worked on the chimney, it rained the entire previous night and there was more rain planned for the afternoon. Marc and I took turns starting early in the morning, one destroying chimney and the other entertaining E. Suddenly the mortar was much easier to break and we were getting whole bricks off again. I really think it was because the mortar was wet, and there is something from my civil engineering education that says this makes sense... but I can't remember the scientific explanation...Something about water weakening the bond between the cement in the mortar and the brick itself because the brick is a smoother surface? maybe? don't quote that! In any case, it was as easy as the internet had made it sound. I have since tried to find internet sources suggesting that wet mortar is easier to break apart and have come up empty. I really think it was the rain, but when we take the chimney down inside the building (we only removed the exterior section so far) I will be doing a wet vs. dry mortar destruction test.

This chimney removal was pretty simple in terms of logistics. The bottom of the chimney is split between the furnace room and a bathroom. Jørgen put a hole in the chimney on the furnace room side the first day so that all the little rocks and rubble could fall down the chimney and into a wheel barrow (the wheel barrow is not in the picture). We also really did not need to worry about covering the hole or keeping rain out during the weeks it took to get the chimney down because the furnace room is unfinished (but not for long!). Water running down the sooty inside of a chimney is usually a problem, but it wasn't for us. Even though it did take us a few weeks to finish, we only actually worked about 8 hours beyond Jørgen's four. Between the rainy Denmark weather, getting really sick and having lots of end of the summer partying to do, finishing the chimney wasn't a big priority and that's why it took weeks, not days.

We still have work to do within the building. Right now it is split into three rooms, a bathroom, laundry room and furnace room. The plan is to make it all one big bathroom/laundry room with the new natural gas burner tucked nicely in a closet. It will probably take a few years to save up the money to realize that dream though. In any case, we are aesthetically pleased by the lack of the chimney on the back of our house. And, we're pretty proud of ourselves for persevering through the hours of hard labour and frustrations. Next, we teach ourselves how to lay brick because the wooden door on the back of that building is totally going to become part of the wall.

9.18.2012

innocence of muslims



I don't know very much about Islam. Growing up in the US, I didn't assume everyone was a Christian, but I also didn't think about it much. It's only after moving and living in two different countries that I even got a glimpse of the gigantic nuance that is the modern Arabic world, and that glimpse was mostly in University through the eyes fellow students whose parents had left the middle east when they were young or not even born.

In the last few years, while living in Denmark, I have been exposed to this new teaching in Christianity. It's the idea that Jesus came to the Earth, not just to save humanity from their sins but also, as God on Earth, to show us how to live with each other. I haven't studied the teachings enough to totally understand the origins, but I have heard some great talks about it from people like Shane Claiborne, and lately have been reading essays by N.T. Wright when I get the time. I have also, much to my surprise, experienced backlash from some Christians to the idea. It seems that if your main message focuses on Jesus' love as displayed by his life and is not "you are a sinner that needs salvation" then it is worthy of scoffing at for some people. This shocks me because Jesus' message has always been about loving everyone- it is our interpretations that start secluding people and apparently there are Christians out there that prefer to feel superior. I don't understand it, but I am trying to.

In any case, with people killing other people over an apparently cheap and horrible trailer, made by duping actors with an alternative script and unveiled to the world by a guy who is by entire the definition a fraud. I just thought it may be a good idea to do an internet round up which turns into me pleading for humanity to hold themselves to a higher standard.

The Muslims getting upset about the trailer are a significant minority. Here is a video of a Muslim guy that needs to go viral in the US just to counter balance all the propaganda making Islam seem so extreme. Also, this video is awesome.



The entire mess comes down to pride. All sides are focused mostly on their egos. Here is an article that talks about the struggle Islam has. Maybe the majority of Arabic Islam wants the benefits of a modern, western society but they don't want help to get there. And if I were them I wouldn't want any help either, because history has shown them that, whenever another culture comes and mixes in with their culture, they die. The developed western world is smart enough to know better, we've lived through enlightenment, yet we don't support the people who are trying to break the negative cycles, we just worry about our own egos.

 Actions like blacking out Youtube from the entire country of Pakistan, or requesting the Google take down the video entirely, is not going to do anything but keep people of the world from continuing to misunderstand each other. When you don't understand the other side, you are more easily focused on yourself. It's a choice the the modern western world can more easily make than the modern arabic world; we, at least, have the tools to be able to understand their point of view, if we choose to. 

But we don't even choose to do it on our own soil for our own fellow citizens. Active atheists choosing to advertise their beliefs are shut down with death threats. the group American Atheists wanted to display the following images as billboards at the recent conventions for the Republican and Democratic parties. 

Atheist group removes billboards targeting presidential candidates' religious faith

They were denied space in Tampa and forced to remove the one installed in Charlotte. Instead of having a discussion about why these billboards make simplistic and totally ignorant arguments, they were just removed. 

I think humans are better than this, especially ones granted basic rights and freedoms such that they can be tolerant without fearing for their life. We need to look at each other and find the things we have in common, we need to stop jumping on bandwagons. If you look at another person and think they don't deserve what you have, then fix your heart, it is in the wrong place.

9.14.2012

it's a resource, not just a source of pain

If I ever have a dream about any school I have ever attended, I always wake up and feel unbelievably happy that I am all grown up. Then I feel even more happy that I am married to a wonderful man and we have our sweet boy. I never have good dreams about school, even though I did have some good times. I rarely have any dreams about my university days and I have wondered why that is... But, I think I know now it is because being at University was on my terms.

I went to a small, private grade school (age 3-10) where I got limited social development because for the last two years I was the only girl my age at the school. All the boys my age wanted nothing to do with me unless it involved things like lying to get me in trouble. I had a best friend in my grade who moved to Texas when I was 9 and after that my best friends were five or younger. When I dream about my grade school, it's always in the setting of those last two years and I am constantly yelling at the teachers and my mother things like "can you not see that I am unhappy here!" "why don't you help me?!"

Of course, I suffered the effects of that lack of social skill in the public middle school (age 11-13) I attended, but I did have some good friends. There were many two-faced kids as well, but that comes with the age. I think I only had one true mean girl who harassed me, and I still relish shutting her up in grade 8 by calling her a bitch to her face in front of her friends and asking her what she thought she could do to me, really? She had no reply. She picked on me because she thought I would never stand up to her, so after that she just talked about me behind my back. I was also still tormented by boys who thought it was funny to play with my affections, but this time they were at least nice to my face. When I dream about middle school, it's always me on the basketball or volleyball court playing against the girls I used to play with, the tormenting part being that people think I should be back on their team! yikes!

And high school (age 14-17). I had to change high schools because my mom remarried and we moved into my step dad's house on the other side of town. Both my mom and my step dad worked at my high school. After two years at the school, I basically decided to be myself and not what other people wanted me to be. I spent those last two years alienating all the friends I had made in the first two, and I still don't care that I did that. The teachers and staff always treated me like my parents treated me special so they had to make up for that by giving me a hard time. When I dream about my high school, I'm always walking the hallway after the class bell has rung... trying to avoid being caught by a teacher or security guard because I would get in trouble. My torment is less about the people and more about the place. Regularly, I will plant a person from later in life in my high school, and even if we're not students, we can not be caught in the halls!

For every set of school years there are things that consciously bother me now that I am an adult. And they all boil down to why was I there? If I could go back and tell my mom what she should do for me to make school the best for me, I would make a lot of decisions that are basically the opposite of what she made. I've realized that is because my mom made decisions as a parent that were best for her first, and then convinced herself (sometimes) why they were best for me as well. I am not mad at my mom for this, I know she did the best she could. But I realize that this mentality that she had, putting what was best for her in the primary position, it hurt me. I have pain from it, significant pain. I really can't think back on any part of my childhood and not know that this pain was there in some form, building and building as a grew up.

I have realized that every time I make a choice for E over one for myself, I'm healing that hurt inside of me. It is important for me to be at home, not in an office. It is important because I want my child and all of his future siblings to know they can always come home and I will always be there. I want the flexibility to work with my child as he grows up. I want the time to be able to explain to him the complexities behind the decisions that are being made on his behalf. I want to allow myself to answer to my family before a boss or a bank account- I can't do that unless I am working for me. So, the value in what I am trying to do may not be reflected in dollar signs. I'm ok with that if it means I can be the mother that I didn't have.

I cried when I walked home from dropping E off at dagplejer the morning I made this revelation. As we walk along the main road that connects our street with the street E's dagplejer is on, E always has a great time. There are big trucks and tractors to see, there are little stones to pick up and storm drains to look in. Without fail, E starts to cry at some point between when he sees the dagplejer mor's house and when I bring him inside.
This morning E started to get upset a bit sooner. He was clearly anxious about what he knew was coming. I told him it was ok to be sad because it is hard to leave mom and dad during the day. I told him it was hard for mom and dad to leave him too. But, if we didn't leave him, he wouldn't have so much fun with all the other kids. I told him if he ever was not having a good time, he could always come home. These are things I have said to him in some way or another every time I have dropped him off, but today he heard me and he calmed down. He didn't hesitate at the driveway and he knocked on the dagplejer door. He wasn't happy when I was taking his shoes and jacket off, but I was able to get him excited to show off the toy car he brought. For the first time he walked himself into the playroom and left me at the front door. No tears (and he was hysterical the day before). After his dagplejer mor and I exchanged a celebratory face, I said "bye babe, see you later" and left.

I cried on the walk home because it is all I have ever wanted: easing a child's pain with understanding; an understanding that puts them in the important place, an understanding that their best interests are the main focus. I cried because I am better than my mother at this, and that makes what I went through as a child a resource not just a source of pain.

9.13.2012

the set up

I have been at home without E for about a month now. This last week Marc and I have been pretty sick. I was the sickest but, by the magical powers of antibiotics, I recovered quickly and now Marc is the sickest. Marc has been home from work for three days, and since I am recovering too we've been mostly sleeping and passively surfing the internet. The problem with all our inactivity, at least for me, is that it feels like we're not earning what we have. I know how false this statement is, but it's the culture I grew up in. I'm reprogramming... working out the bugs from a land where sick days are not appreciated or accepted.

For me, taking sick days off right now is a higher challenge because I feel like everything I do everyday has to be working towards this goal: an insane idea that I can make income on my own terms and do it based on something I only think I can be good at. It's a freedom I shouldn't be entitled to have unless I can back it up with dollar signs. Just thinking that makes me angry at the world. This world that only sees value when it comes as a paycheque. But that is another rant, another idea. This is the set up to a very significant, hopefully life changing revelation I have had.

The fact is I care about making money not because it affects my self worth, but because we want resources to be able to make major improvements to our home so our family functions better; we want resources to be able to bring people to visit us; we want resources so we can put back into our extended family instead of withdraw from it. I have given worrying about it all up to God and his plan. But I like to think about how we are going to do the next project, what we need and how to get it. So, I walk a fine line between caring and not caring if I make money. We are not in need of basic necessities as a one income family, but we have to stretch to have anything extra and make sure we don't over reach. Another fine line walked between want and need, always keeping in mind that there are so many people in the world that can't even get what they need.

So, here I am and I'm not afraid to talk about it. When I try to communicate to other people the border line that we walk- this carefully choreographed dance to an almost zero bank account balance at the end of the month- it is always illustrated with my main concern: People want us to come visit, and we can't afford it. It feels like we're failing our families because we really don't like to make the trip back to North America, and now we have the freedom to save up for it before we go- but that may take a few years at this rate. Maybe it is because visits (the want of them and the timing of the next one) are the number one thing I talk about with my mom and my sister- to the point that I sometimes wonder if we don't have anything else to say to each other... maybe it's because I feel a greater responsibility to return regularly since we have decided to live in Denmark for good. Either way, thinking and caring about how and when to make the next visit consumes my energies. And I know if Marc and I were just living for ourselves, we would not be going back anytime soon; we wouldn't even be thinking about it. I feel like a slave to the ex-pat lifestyle when I would rather just focus on becoming a new Dane.

My conscious considering all that combined with my subconscious tormenting me with dreams about my middle school and high school years brought me to a realization, which will be revealed in my next post :)

happy climbing!

8.27.2012

I don't like the taste of chicken pox

E turned 2 a couple of weeks ago. Unfortunately, Marc and I were very sick in the days leading up to E's birthday and planned party. While I probably could have pushed through the pain to give E his two year old celebration as originally planned, Marc was too sick to participate. And we were both concerned about spreading disease. We took into account that our son does not know his birthday as different from any other day yet and decided to cancel the party. We ended up having a few smaller gatherings to celebrate E over the weeks following; it was still nice and my guilt about cancelling his initial party has totally dissipated.

A huge theme in our lives for the past few years has been avoiding social isolation. Sometimes we are so busy doing things with friends now days that we joke our social life is too filled, but we know what it feels like to not have a social life. And, out of thankfulness for our blessings, we never really take it for granted. I am always sensitive to the people we have met that have not been as fortunate as we have. Because of this sensitivity, I took E to a birthday party this weekend for a little boy, D. We have known D's parents for awhile. They just had a second baby two weeks ago. Even though I wanted to have a lazy Sunday afternoon with Marc and E, I decided to let Marc have time by himself (read: time to play video games) and I took E to Ikast. Ikast is two short train rides away. We live life without a car which means sacrificing flexibility to the train schedule, but the trains run hourly so its not a big deal.

We arrived half an hour after the party started (train schedules make us late too). I was surprised to just find D's parents and another guy that D's dad, Noah, worked with. It was not the toddler party I was imagining, so I was glad we decided not to skip it. E found some toys and got to playing by himself while I enjoyed some adult conversation and tried to explain to everyone what I'm doing with myself these days without sounding too wierd. D was napping and so was his new little baby sister. Another couple with an older child (about 4) arrived a half hour later. Initially, the older boy deemed E too small to be allowed play with the toy shark he brought. But, after a bit of time, the two started playing very well together. D's mom, Violetta, remarked that E was "so mature." I shrugged my shoulders and said E seems to play well with others and that I don't really have anything to compare him to (which is the standard line I use whenever E is complimented).

Soon after we were treated to some chicken wings flavoured with a spicy Buffalo Wild Wings sauce. As Noah is a fellow American in Denmark, he is excited to share this import with me. Oh how we miss the endless variety of preservative filled and delicious food choices! 'Merica! At this point Violetta is talking about how the first two weeks have been having two children. Stressful and sleep deprived, having a new baby is hard! Oh and on top of that D got the chicken pox, so he has been home all week.
WAIT WHAT?!
We have already been there for an hour, E has probably touched everything D uses on a daily basis -even the diaper changing pad. I don't know if the other parents were as shocked as I was to find out that these parents planned a party for their just turned two year old in the midst of him having one of the most contagious childhood diseases, but the damage had already been done. All the parents confirmed they were immune, though neither child has had them. Then Violetta says the common line: "of course it is better for children to have it young. You know D only had a fever for two days, it wasn't so bad." sigh...

As if to prove his parents were not lying, D awakes from his nap and joins the party, his face and neck are covered in scabbed pox. We welcome D with the presents that we brought. As E has just had his 2 year celebrations, he is very excited about wrapped presents but understands they are D's and only encourages D to open them. With the presents opened, the three boys proceed to play separately. But soon, D wants the new toy E has. A small argument, then I help E to give up the toy and find another. "These are D's new toys, you have had your turn. You have to share." E sulks a bit, but is easily distracted by another toy. Eventually the original toy in question is free for E to play with again, as D has focused himself on the chicken wings and chips. But the chicken wing in his hand is not good enough when D sees E with his toy again and he attacks. D grabs E and claws at his face. Three shocked parents intervene. D receives a time out and I comfort E while checking for injuries. He seems ok, but his face is covered in cookie crumbs and chocolate smudges, so I'm not totally sure what is going on there. E wants to play again. D is in his time out cage... a baby gate-fence originally used to separate the open concept living room from the apartment's entrance way makes up two sides of a time out area in the corner of the living room... I feel like the situation has been handled swiftly and efficiently. 

The time out ends soon after though, and D comes right at E again with no provocation. E is just eating chips. I grab D and tell him no. I feel like maybe I have overstepped my boundaries, but I need E to know I have his back. This is not a "learn by handling it yourself, child" situation. The boys are separated on either sides of the living room and each given a toy to distract them. After a few minutes, I feel comfortable enough to give E some space and turn my back to grab my beer. Before I can turn around, D is across the room and tackling E from behind and, again, clawing at his face. I am beside myself! Noah has pulled D off E and I bring E into my lap to comfort him. I grab a baby wipe and clean E's face in order to see what is chocolate and what is not. E has two scratches that are slightly bleeding. He is screaming because the baby wipe burns. When Violetta asks why E is crying, I tell her he has scratches all over his face which I am cleaning. She seems to think E has been scratched while at his dagplejer, not from the three assaults he has received in the last 15 minutes from her son. Before I can correct her, D dumps the bowl of chips on the ground starts spreading them around on the floor... ya know because to dump them does not create a big enough mess.

I check my phone and see the next train leaves in ten minutes. If I don't leave now I have to be here another hour- a seemingly insurmountable situation for me to handle. I call Marc, pretending to be returning his call. "Oh I guess we can come home now...The next train leaves in ten minutes, but we haven't had cake yet....I know you wanted to have dinner early.....Ok, we'll leave now." Marc is understandably confused, as his end of the conversation is that we don't need to come home yet; we should stay and have cake; dinner can wait; what are you talking about?! I hang up the phone and announce that E and I should go. This is now a totally awkward situation. My child has just been attacked three times and suddenly I just need to rush out and catch the next train. No time to even really say good bye, just grad my stuff and run because, even though they live across from the train station, I really have no time to try and exit gracefully.

The last time we hung out with D and his parents, they were at our house warming party. I was busy hosting, but found out in the days following that D repeatedly slamming our DVD player had, in fact, broken it. D also unloaded a juice box all over the living room, which no one bothered to clean up or tell me about (my husband and mother included). I found out three days later because "where are all these ants coming from?!!" D's parents make the excuses that you make for your child when he is a toddler terrorist. "He doesn't understand what he is doing." "He doesn't realize how much bigger he is than the other kids." "He got bored at his dagplejer. His dagplejer mor was crazy; she was always sending D home saying he was sick or tired, but he wasn't."  So I know I am not the only person to feel like telling these two parents they are doing it wrong is not the right way to handle the situation. We have to give D a chance, maybe having a baby sister will help his social skills. Although I was not afraid to say "I want to leave this party because your kid is ridiculous," I didn't feel like that would be constructive, and it wouldn't help me catch the train.

So I am standing there awkwardly. E is in his backpack on my back, where D can't get at him. Though D did find an opportunity, as I was gathering our belongings after putting E in the backpack, to get one last attack in and push the whole thing over. Seeing helpless E on the floor like flipped turtle gives me a final dose of motivation to catch that train before it leaves. Noah is saying "But we haven't even had cake yet, are you sure you have to leave? you should stay." The other family is just staring at me. The older child secured himself and a lego toy within fort Mom and Dad on the couch when D started his rampage. The one time D went after the older boy, Noah warned him the the boy could beat D up. So the family, they are just staring at me. The mother is daring me with her eyes to leave if I can. And I, feeling sooo awkward, find myself saying something about how I have a hard time telling my husband no, and then I am "coming to the realization" that making the train now would be impossible, so yeah I guess I should stay". Though I know when I here the ding of the railroad signals a few minutes later it was totally possible. I could have been on that train.

So I have to regroup. I say I need to call Marc to tell him we're not going to make it home yet and I go outside with E still on my back. I tell Marc everything that has happened. I tell him how horrible I feel for not protecting E better. I have to stay here another hour, how am I going to pull it off? Marc counsels me and we decide that D has a restraining order. I will be the enforcer. No need to go off on Noah and Violetta, I will control the situation and E will know he is safe. I go back inside and sit down next to Violetta. I confess to her that I don't feel totally comfortable and am not sure how to handle the D vs. E situation. She tells me D doesn't understand. Yeah... ok... and here comes the cake. We sing and Noah is encouraging D to blow out the candles. D doesn't get it. I learned earlier that D didn't have the concept of "blowing" down yet when he wanted to make bubbles by sticking the wand in his mouth. I reluctantly allow E to approach D and his cake. E and Noah blow the candles out as D watches and claps for them. I am glad that I let E help so that I don't have to think of an excuse why we can't eat this cake..."um I don't like the taste of chicken pox..?" E is back in my protective zone before D can remember that it's fun to try and scratch E's eyes out.

We eat the cake. The older boy and his family have maintained their stronghold on the couch. D has not attacked E for almost ten minutes because of all the cake excitement which E, minus the candle blowing, has spent happily sitting on my lap. The older boy decides he wants to play with D's toy piano and brings it to his mother. D saunters up, seemingly just to watch, as the mother plays a song over her son's shoulders. Then D grabs the piano with one hand and smacks the boy in the face with the other. The boy starts the cry, his parents say he is tired and are literally out the door on their way home two minutes later. Lucky, little car drivers. For the next half hour, I play with D and E. Turning the five foot restraining order against D almost into a game. Pulling E out of D's reach whenever he gets close enough to swipe. Adding in some fake body slams, tickling and encouragement for the boys to jump and dance on opposite ends of the couch, I manage to thwart D's unrelenting attacks and E's retaliation. They get close enough to smack each other one more time and E walks away with one more scratch down the left side of his face. But, my boy took it in stride and heeded me when I told him not to touch D anymore. As I am repeatedly encouraging D to be gentle, getting smacked in the face myself, Noah and Violetta are telling me I should be a teacher or a dagplejer mor. I am happy enough to just be a person that cares enough to protect my son without ostracizing another child or their parents (no matter how greatly it may be warranted).

Maybe I shouldn't have let the social niceties of the situation rule my actions so much. It felt like the right thing to do at the time. I know E walked away from that party with 100% trust that I would protect him from harm. He was still upset even when we got home. As we had our night time nursing session, I apologized to him that my best still left him hurt and promised to try for better next time. He cried a little, remembering how D treated him, then settled back in to that constant source of comfort he has had since his first day of life. He woke up this morning with a smile on his face and kisses to give away. I'll let you know in a few weeks if he has the chicken pox.

the "damage"

8.20.2012

doing my dreams

Today I start a new way of life.... again. E is in dagplejer! He started this morning. Dagplejer is part of the Danish government's system of child care and education. As a mother, I had three options of what I could do with E when he was big enough to spend the day away from me. I choose the option of keeping him at home and not trying to work. We could have sent him to a vuggestue, which is an institutional day care. "Institutional" makes vuggestue sound a lot more sterile and prison like than it is- a vuggestue is daycare at a school; the same type of school that E will start in nine months when he goes to the Danish version of kindergarten called børnehaven. The third option besides keeping a child at home and sending them to a vuggestue is, obviously, sending them to a dagplejer.

Dagplejer is daycare in a local woman's home. Our dagplejer mor (literally: daycare mom) is a short 5 min walk away from our door. One women will have three to five kids in her home during the day where they play, eat and nap. It's normal to start your child in dagplejer at 8 months old in Denmark, but we started E now, right after he turned 2. We choose a dagplejer over a vuggestue because we specifically wanted E to get used to being away from me during the day. We decided to start him at the børnehaven would be overwhelming for E. Imagine going from being alone at home everyday with just your mom to being in a school with 80 other kids. And this is not a "sit down at a desk and learn to read or write or glue something to something else" type of school. This is a school complete with ball pit, dance music and tree forts in the forest. So, we felt like a good step in between would be a dagplejer where E can process the idea of being away from me everyday without so much background noise.

So, in my first two hours of freedom, I have run :-) and done the normal morning chores. Now I am writing. Marc wants me to do my dreams (that is his line, not mine :-) so I am going to spend time writing everyday. I am going to write a book. I am going to re-vamp my blog. I am going to start putting some effort in getting page views. Because right now this blog is about me. Me communicating to whoever cares enough to want to hear what I have to say. But I want to be a writer. I want to call myself an author and I want to be self-published (though that is another topic all on it's own). I don't want to scrounge for whatever will pay me. I have done that as a technical writer for a few years and it's almost worse then not writing at all. I want to write about what I love and I want to push myself into realms of expression I have never had to be in before.  And I want to be able to do that forever.

The problem is the forever part, because eventually I will need to have a financial incentive to keep tapping on the keyboard in front of me. I hate it, but it is the reality. Our family basically lives paycheque to paycheque. Anytime we save up some money, it goes towards travelling and we don't even save up enough money to cover all of those costs. We are blessed by our mothers and siblings who cover the bills that we can't. But eventually, we won't be able to say to them "we can't pay that because Catherine has been trying to be a writer..." Eventually, I will have to be an income earner. period. So I hope today is the first day that I can work towards doing what I am truly passionate about (obviously that is writing) everyday for the rest of my life.

I'll keep you posted on how that turns out.
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