Mandy: college graduate, super-sinful unwed mother, narcissist, graphic artist by day, disillusioned writer by night, also super-sinful liberal, feminist (need I mention?); mixed bag, you know.

This is an Unsolicited Parenting Advice-Free Zone. I bitch; you listen; isn't that how blogging works?!

Drinks will not be served. But wouldn't it be awesome if they were?
Blissfully Unwed

Free Chapstick and NO

Now that I’m in front of a computer all day instead of wrangling a toddler, it’s about time that I start writing things again. 

Usually when I go to compose a blog entry, I have a specific topic in mind, such as bitching about anti-choicers, mommy-judgers or men (is it just me, or did I just sum up all of my posts, ever?!). Today, though, I’m just checking in. 

Graham has a massive vocabulary now, but still prefers the word “no” to any other, for some reason. Does he want a nap? A snack? A million dollars?! No, no, no, no, oh, nooo! 

I got a pretty awesome job, with a refrigerator full of free soda, so I’m probably going to gain back all the weight I lost from not eating due to the stress resulting from NOT having a job, which, now, has morphed into stress due to driving in helltraffic every day. 

Between getting free fajitas and chapstick at the Tenant Appreciation Party at Park Central (see above to verify fanciness of said building) and giving my kid things he says he doesn’t want, there hasn’t been much else going on. It’s all taking things one day at a time, rebuilding our family and finances, the latter of which may never happen because I’m about as good with money as I am with keeping a straight face in church. 

Now that I think about it, I think I’ll write a blog about people who insert themselves into other people’s families as an alternative to addressing the issues they have with their own no-good spouses. THAT’S going to be fun. 

So, Jesus, Tampax Lied; My Period is So Not Happy

Dear Lord Sweet Baby King Jesus,

I’m not the type to ask for supernatural assistance every time my neighbor’s great aunt stubs her toe, but, today, I have a request.

Just because I’m not a big supplicator doesn’t mean that I’m not up-to-speed on shit. I know, for instance, that, according to Mark 5, verses 25-34, your impressive miracle repertoire includes, shall we say, the ability to dry up the red sea. Get it? Anyway, I know that, on every other occasion on which we have spoken in the past few years (omitting all the times I was like, “PLEASE JESUS PLEASE PLEASE PLEEEASE DON’T LET THEM CALL OUT THE DRUG DOGS”), I’ve asked for pretty much the opposite of this, but, this time, I’m going to have to ask you to work a Mark 5:24-36 on me. Like, stat, because, even though Shark Week just started today, it already feels like Shark ETERNITY.

I’m not very particular about the method by which you go about alleviating my menstrual misery. Even early onset of menopause, for instance, would be totes acceptable. There’s only one exception I’m going to have to ask you to make: whatever you do, don’t conjure up a pregnancy in order to call off this month’s period. I know you pride yourself in your sense of humor, and that this is just the kind of thing you’d find hilaaarious, but, trust me, it would really be kinda tacky. Besides, you need to save all your fertility spells for Beyonce.

If you choose to do me a solid here (and I think you should, because, per the aforementioned passage in the Gospel According to Mark, you dig impure women), I so promise that I will consider going to church. Really! Just not until the cramps have fully abated. A girl can only endure so much torture in one day. 

 So, good luck, and don’t fuck it up, or whatever your followers tend to end a prayer with, Amen.

I’m calling this one: “Things You Can Do When You’re Unemployed.” In addition to afternoon drinking, obvs.

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Behold: the results of donating plasma, as seen on my right arm. This is the same arm, which, as you may recall, was abused last Thursday by an incompetent phlebotomist. Much as I’d like to give this dude a pass by assuming that Octopharma’s employees suffer from low morale due to less-than-competitive wages, resulting in work performance that looks like, you know, my arm, I’m pretty sure that’s not the problem. Given the fact that a second phlebotomist came to my rescue and drew blood from my left arm with technical proficiency that would’ve made a robot feel inferior, I’m pretty sure that the maiming of my right arm was done by an individual who is also known as as That Guy Who Definitely Smokes Something Before Work, But We Can’t Figure Out What.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s an experience I’m happy to tuck under my belt, especially since the $30 I made bought me a fat bottle of wine and several new additions to my job interview wardrobe at Goodwill (I’ll wear your granddad’s clooothes), where I also found a ribbed tank so gorious, I believe that its fibers were cured in Jesus’ tears before it was sewn together. Behold!

Donating plasma is just of the many activities that I didn’t have time to participate in before losing the extra weight of my fundie Christian boss who did stupid fundie Christian shit like never missing an opportunity to bring any actual work that might be taking place to a screeching halt in order to correct any employee who dared to shorten “Christmas” to “Xmas.”

During my time of unemployment, for instance, I have not had to turn one pair of underwear inside-out because I’d run out of clean ones for lack of laundry-doing. I’ve prepared home-cooked meals for my family. I have maintained trimmed and styled hair (you would not believe how phenomenal it looks when I actually brush it). I’ve developed an exceptionally-close bond with all the pets in the house. I have even whitened my teeth with something other than Photoshop. Best of all, though: I have the selfies to prove it. Shall we?

I am not ashamed to admit that I have also taken two of the greatest photos of my butt that have ever turned my cell phone into a liability. I wouldn’t be ashamed to post them, either, but what little propriety I possess is standing in my way. I know; I’m a little surprised, too.

Mother Plans On Spending Nothing On Her Son in 2013; is My Hero

Hattie Garlick and Johnny, two: 'People Ive never met have said theyll take the challenge with me

See this lady right here? We have a lot in common. Her adorable child bears a great resemblance to mine (thus the adorable), she has a blog, and she has resolved to avoid spending any money on her son this year. Why the stingy parent business? I’m glad you asked.

I grew up digging through sale bins at thrift stores and yard sales for Barbies with clothes, battery-operated toys with still-charged batteries, or - and this was solid gold - a Polly Pocket toy with the Polly doll still inside. This gave me the impression that low-budget childrearing was the norm - right up until I had my own child to rear. Then, I stopped ignoring the images crowding my social media feeds of the latest and greatest accessories that my friends were buying for their offspring - offspring that couldn’t even ask for a snack yet, let alone demand expensive toyage.

I get it: consumerism is a powerful force. Sure, many of us don’t all feel all that compelled to buy our children this year’s version of Tickle Me Expensive as a matter of necessity. Be that as it may, though, most of us still want to avoid being known as the Goodwill Parent. And, in today’s “pics or it didn’t happen” world, it’s hard to give the impression that you’re buying the shit without actually buying the shit. And, if you’re not buying the shit, what ARE you buying, you selfish asshole?!

In the end, this whole thing comes down to every parent’s weakness: our desire to give our kids the best of everything. It’s a marketing strategy particularly effective on frightened and uninformed pregnant first-time moms, which is probably why it’s so played-out that it makes Call Me Maybe look fresh and exciting. But is a $50 pair of shoes for a kid who can’t even walk yet really “the best?”

I’m not sure what my takeaway would’ve been, had my childhood been ruled by consumerism. I do know, though, that I wouldn’t have learned that commercials aren’t a very good source of information if my parents had bought me everything I saw on TV. A go-kart that wasn’t rigged with a tiller engine and pool mat seats wouldn’t have taught me resourcefulness. Buying new, name-brand clothes wouldn’t have been a lesson in how to spend a little money and look a lot awesome.

Most importantly, there is my mom’s mantra, “You didn’t need new toys; you had each other! You were happy with sticks and dirt.” Without it, I wouldn’t understand the importance of family, and how much more valuable it is than anything you can get at Babies R Us.

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(Source: telegraph.co.uk)

More awesome things I didn’t share with you over the Holidays: Grizzy Graham had his first bubble bath. At first, he was a little perplexed, but, after extensive research in the form of a taste test and consultation with his dad (the one where he’s looking up like he just saw Jesus was taken when B walked into the room; go figure, the parent who didn’t even facilitate the bubble bath gets all the credit :P), he finally decided to join Team Fuck Yes Bubbles. And it was adorable. 

Good morning, followers! The Holidays are mercifully over, and I’m getting ready to set my 2012 In Review entry free. In the meanwhile, here: I made this. Originally, I just wanted to adapt a version of a Facebook cover I’d recently designed for my iMac wallpaper, but, in the end, this piece’s designage somehow ended up being way cooler than that of its source of inspiration. So, I thought I’d share. Because I’m awesome like that. 

View in High Quality →

Good morning, followers! The Holidays are mercifully over, and I’m getting ready to set my 2012 In Review entry free. In the meanwhile, here: I made this. Originally, I just wanted to adapt a version of a Facebook cover I’d recently designed for my iMac wallpaper, but, in the end, this piece’s designage somehow ended up being way cooler than that of its source of inspiration. So, I thought I’d share. Because I’m awesome like that. 

Murder by Proxy: How Missing the Point is Killing Americans and Fucking Up Our Kids

Normally, when Barry loses interest in a film and tries to switch to something else, I shrug and let it happen. But, tonight, I let him sulk, because Murder by Proxy: How America Went Postal just blew my mind more than any other documentary I’ve seen this year. It was released in 2010, but, obviously, today, an introspective on American killing sprees in the workplace - and beyond - remains incredibly relevant. Sadly, as the film points out, that relevance is probably gonna stick around for awhile.

"The enemy is the postal service. Well, you can’t kill the postal service…. The actual victims are pawns." Murder by proxy is the act of inflicting that ultimate act of vengeance meant for an enemy upon someone else. The film examined the working conditions in the Postal Service, beginning in the ’80s, during which time the term “going postal” was coined, because postal workers just seemed to be unable to stop coming to work with guns and shooting each other. The higher-ups insisted that these individuals were just bad apples, but postal workers had another story to tell: these violent outbursts were the result, not simply of the mental illness of their perpetrators, but of the abusive working conditions adopted by the Postal Service in the ‘80s.

"To suffer abuse in silence in exchange for a paycheck is the unwritten rule for many American workers." And it’s not any better today – a full 70% of Americans say that they are unhappy at their jobs. It doesn’t seem much of a stretch to think that the 2.5 Americans who die as a result of workplace violence every day are sharing their very own unsavory piece of that pie.

“When we tolerate the corporate practice of abusing workers with impunity, it belittles our society. It dehumanizes us… The mass murder phenomenon could not be confined to the workplace. It was only a matter of time before it spread to the rest of American society.”

Although this kind of alienation occurs frequently in the workplace, many Americans feel marginalized elsewhere in life, as well. A cursory glance at the profiles of various perpetrators of mass shootings reveals that this feeling of isolation and victimization that seems to be completely irreparable is responsible for many, if not most, of these killing sprees.

Here’s the thing: yeah, in America, we treat a lot of people like shit – in the name of capitalism, especially. That these people are marginalized, and the flaws in our society that cause them to be marginalized, though, is only half the problem. Yes, we know these people feel that injustices are being committed. Quite often, they are correct, and those injustices are in dire need of reparation. But what about the method which these individuals continuously utilize to take those reparations into their own hands? Is violence really a natural response to perceived mistreatment, or might that response be learned? Let’s face it: our society’s attitude toward violence is the other, unspoken half of this problem, and we ignore it to the tune of some pretty devastating fucking consequences.

I’m not here to talk to you about lax gun laws or violent video games. The question of whether or not these issues contribute to the prevalence of violence in our society has been debated more than enough, with each side loudly making its claims, missing, for all its obviousness, that these are not the cause of our problem with violence; they are symptoms of our problem with violence.

You can’t turn on the TV and flip through more than a few channels, at any given time, without seeing a good guy fighting injustice by incapacitating the bad guys. The weapons and the degrees of deadliness that are exacted differ, but the use of physical force to right wrongs is extremely prevalent, and most of us got our first taste of it in programming made for children.

Our high esteem of violence as a method of squelching enemies stretches far beyond movies and TV. Are men naturally predisposed to greater degrees of violence, for instance, or does a society that tells men that they are failures if they don’t physically confront that guy who just made a pass at their girlfriend at a bar cultivate a dangerous atmosphere?

I know what you’re going to say, “But you’re supposed to kill the BAD GUYS! Not a building full of postal workers or a schoolhouse full of children!” And you’re right. Technically, in at least most of our traditional attitudes towards violence, it’s seen as a solution in black/white, good/evil situations, in which the good guy has to defend the innocent from the bad guy. These situations abound in our media, but, let me ask you: how often does this happen in real life? How many times is the purely evil gunman taken down by the purely good gunman, with no grey areas, no what-ifs, no blowback, period? How often does the perpetrator of an act of violence feel they’ve made the right decision, only to discover later that it was wrong, or that public opinion found it to be wrong?

An individual must certainly be mentally ill to walk into a crowded room and start unloading a clip on its occupants. But even the mentally ill are not immune to the influences of society. Their motives and their targets are misdirected, but their behavior is in step with what they have been taught. Even down to ending a killing spree with suicide, as so many of these shooters do, is textbook hero stuff; how many films have YOU seen in which the protagonist, down to his last grenade, pulls the pin and clutches it, beckoning his enemies over to take as many out as possible before his own death? And let’s go back to that asshole in the bar thing: if mental illness is the only factor at work here, why are the overwhelming majority of these murderers men? Could it have something to do with the fact that our society associates violence with masculinity?

I don’t know how we, as a nation, should go about addressing this problem. I haven’t a clue. But, if you’re a parent, or a teacher, or an aunt, or an uncle – hell, if you interact with kids ever, at all - and you’re reading this, think about how you can pass on the importance of peaceful solutions. You can’t protect your child from every bad influence, and you shouldn’t feel that you must, but you can provide context. You can stress the importance of peacemaking, and teach them to value human life – even the lives of humans who treat them unkindly. You have a chance to help stop the cycle. Just as the abuse of a single employee can lead to a workplace massacre, an act of kindness can help to save lives. We have to start somewhere.

Photo Credit: Jessica Kirkham.

Let me tell you why Christmas is bullshit.

I know you all missed my compulsive blogging (ok, I ASSUME you missed it) over the holiday, but I think the reason for my fall from the face of the earth is pretty obvious: Christmas is fucking stressful and it kind of sucks. 

There’s this unspoken rule, among parents, that, unless you’re really low on money, or you’re saving money for a big purchase, you go big at Christmastime. We certainly could’ve. But, in the long run, we only got Graham a few things, and we didn’t really put much into Christmas at all. And, while I can go on forever about the commercialization of the holiday, when Barry looked at me like a crazy person when I shrugged and said, “Whatever.” when he asked what we should get Graham this year, I still felt like the most selfish parent, ever. As if love could be measured by presents - and for a kid so young, he won’t even remember this Christmas. 

That aggrieved response is nothing new. For years, I heard the same shit: “YOU DON’T LOVE CHRISTMAS? BUT WHYYY?! THE JOY ON THE CHILDREN’S FACES AND JESUS AND FAMILY AND BLAH BLAH BLAH!” But I can’t help it; I get it from my family. 

Every year, on Christmas Eve, my parents and siblings (and, now, our significant others and kids) come together to make pierogies and get drunk all day. No extended family, no Santa Claus, no bullshit, just Polish food and a handle of Sobieski. My parents have always given my brother and sisters and I presents, but, even a a kid, I remember being at least ALMOST as excited about our other traditions. Was the year we got a trampoline awesome? Hell, yes. But the year we got nothing but socks and underwear from the dollar store was great, too. Celebrating our heritage in a way that we only do once a year (obviously, I’m referring to the pierogies here, and not the drinking) is and always has been the common thread throughout all our Christmases, and it’s the part that, as an adult, especially, I most look forward to every year. 

Maybe I am selfish. Maybe I should stop bitching at Barry for spending money on presents that we could use for ourselves. Buying a lot of gifts is, after all, a part of his tradition, even if it’s not part of mine. But, you know what? Soon enough, our kid will be begging for bikes and video games and unicorns and whatever else expensive shit kids like. It’ll be a lot harder then to stress the importance of family gatherings over gifts. So, until that happens, I’m going to stop stressing over whether I bought my kid enough shit for Christmas. Maybe then, I won’t have to hate it so much, after all. 

The "Truth" Behind the Author of I am Adam Lanza's Mother: She's Not Perfect (SURPRISE!) →

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In the wake of yesterday’s I Am Adam Lanza’s Mother piece, a woman named Sarah Kendzior made the bold claim on her blog that Liza Long, the author of that piece, is less a victim of a mentally-ill child as she is just a terrible mom. As it usually happens, when one mother flings you’re-a-bad-mom mud at another, it was pretty much unfounded bullshit. 

Sarah used excerpts from Long’s blog to prove her point that Liza is an unfit parent who constantly fantasizes about harming her children. I’ll give you an example from one of those excerpts: "Your ‘I love to fart on you’ song may seem whimsical or even clever to you, my dear seven year old. But it makes me want to throttle you."  

Does this sound like a potentially abusive parent to you, or just an ordinary, stressed-out one? Because, to me, Liza sounds pretty damn normal. 

Actually, Liza’s blog, The Anarchist Soccer Mom, is pretty great. She’s a good writer, she’s funny, and, even better, she’s honest about the frustrations of parenthood. Any parent whose head doesn’t extend too far up their ass should be able to see that Liza’s seven-year-old isn’t actually in any danger of being “throttled” by her. She’s just frustrated - because parenthood is fucking frustrating. 

Liza’s blog also tells the story of her difficult divorce and its aftermath, in which she is struggling to parent child with special needs while dealing with her own issues, as well. When Sarah Kendzior included an excerpt about those issues, and headed it with, "On her own mental breakdown due to the divorce and custody battle, a constant theme in the blog," I cringed.

Since when is it not ok to talk about something that happens in 50% of marriages? Since when is it not okay to admit that, as it does to most of us, your divorce made you "stark, raving mad?" Despite expectations to the contrary, mothers are more than our children. We are ordinary people, with our own identities and problems that have nothing to do with our kids. We should never have to worry about being vilified because we talk about those things. In fact, we need to talk about them. It’s kind of a big deal. 

Remember in the second presidential debate, when Mitt Romney’s response to a question about gun violence was a vague and irrelevant walk down WTF Lane, in which he rambled about placing responsibility on parents and encouraging kids to get married before they have their own kids? Remember how, afterward, Obama responded by saying that he’d like to more thoroughly enforce current gun laws, in addition to implementing new ones to help eliminate mass shootings? Do you remember that?

What almost seemed like a side note in the presidential debate has, since last Friday, has stepped up to front-and-center. To be fair, I have no idea what Sarah Kendzior’s views on guns and how to keep them from killing people are. I do know, however, that she’s not helping. Publicly shaming imperfect mothers has never helped to prevent mass shootings, and it never will. Never. Casting judgement upon mothers who dare to speak out about their personal struggles not only doesn’t help - it makes everything worse. When will we give up on blaming the most accessible scapegoat, instead of asking what we can do, as a nation, to fix the problem? 

Oh, Santa. Whatever are we going to do with you?

One thing I’ve been thinking about quite a bit during this holiday season is something I’ve really never given a shit about before, Santa Claus.

I assume that I don’t have to fill you in on the story of Old Saint Nick, traipsing about in the homes of children at night, leaving presents, taking cookies, and chuckling. You know, as they’d call it in Supernatural (SHUT UP), “the lore.” Grown-ups everywhere seem to enjoy looking back fondly upon the time in their lives during which it seemed totally plausable for a fat fuck to make his way down their impossibly-narrow chimneys (where chimneys actually existed) each Christmas - much as they once believed that world peace was possible and that girls could grow up to do anything boys do. Except for me, that is. I never “believed in” Santa Claus.

My parents, I guess, figured that their kids weren’t idiots, and that, although their parents had convinced them, for a time, that the guy in the red suit was actually a thing, they decided not to foist that burden of three-to-five-year-old disillusionment upon my siblings and me. Or maybe it was because they wanted to take credit for the present they bought us, dammit. Either way, I totally get it.

Whenever someone poor-things me for my apparent loss of childhood illusion, I always assure them that I haven’t suffered any permanent damage. What I’d like to say, but don’t, because people can get pretty damn hostile about this Santa thing, is that knowing the truth all along was AWESOME. At the precocious and impressionable age during which most children are so excited about Santa’s arrival that their pants-accidents increase dramatically, my sister and I were goading our peers into telling us everything they knew about Christmas Jesus (BUT WHAT?! HE IS!), and then laughing behind their backs. Which explains a few things.

Of course, since our offspring will barely be a year old, come Christmas, the whole Santa thing isn’t really of concern to my partner and I, currently. But, someday, not too far from now, it will be. And, while I dream of telling Graham that all his friends believe a very transparent lie, but that he must never expose them to the truth, for ignorance is bliss, my partner has his own dream: a dream of our child LEAVING FUCKING COOKIES OUT FOR A CREEPIN’-ASS OLD DUDE.

When you think about it, this is a pretty damn delicate situation for me. For example, if Graham is told from the jump that Mommy and Daddy spend their hard-earned cash on his incredibly annoying noise-making toys, there’s little chance that B could ruin it by telling him that his annual holiday loot comes from an old guy in red. On the other hand, though, if B tells him it’s all Santa’s doing, and I chime in and say, “Wanna see which one of us can actually fit in the chimney?!” I ruin everything.

I MEAN. How do you deal with something like this? I feel that setting a precedent for lying doesn’t exactly foster the best of parent/child relations, but I also don’t want to disappoint my tradition-bound husband, whose memories of Christmas sparklies and happiness have clearly prevented his mind from drawing the obvious conclusion that I’m right. How do you handle this, followers? Do YOU tell your kids about Santa?