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Welcome to Lauren’s blog!

This is the post excerpt.

Hi everyone!

Welcome to my blog! I’ve been writing several blogs over the years: two are private and one well, I just outgrew it and realized it was too milquetoast even for me. I’m brazenly going where I’ve never gone before. I’ve held back for too long my true thoughts and feelings on many things, and I’m just bursting.

I LOVE feedback so please don’t hold back. I can take it. If you agree with me, AWESOME!! If you don’t, well, I’m hoping my writing will sway you to at least have an open mind and consider another way of looking at things. We learn from each other.

Enjoy!

13 Myths You (Hopefully Don’t) Believe About Abortion

 

  1. Women “want” abortions. Nothing could be further from the truth. Women seek abortions in a desperate attempt to end an unwanted/unintended/unplanned pregnancy. It’s the hardest decision a woman will ever make.
  2. If Roe v Wade is overturned, it will end all abortions forever. No law will ever stop women from getting abortions. It will make it harder. Not impossible. Abortions will never be stopped as long as there are unwanted pregnancies. It is legal elsewhere in the world. But only wealthy white women will be able to get them. It will only stop legal and safe abortions. More women will die but they won’t stop trying to end their pregnancies by any means possible. (see https://www.nytimes.com/2018/05/31/opinion/sunday/abortion-banned-latin-america.html)
  3. Outlaw contraceptives and you’ll reduce the number of abortions. The complete opposite has been proven to be true. The less available birth control is the more unwanted pregnancies will result. Duh. (see #11)
  4. Women can be forced by the government to remain pregnant. Only if they’re chained to their beds like in The Handmaid’s Tale. See Myth #2.
  5. The unborn baby has more rights than the mother. No it doesn’t and it shouldn’t. A living, breathing person should always have more rights than someone who doesn’t yet exist. A fetus/unborn baby cannot survive outside the womb before 24-25 weeks (https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fetal_viability). The Supreme Court of the United States ruled in 1973 that “criminalizing abortion…violated a woman’s constitutional right to privacy” (Justice Harry A. Blackmun, January 22, 1973, Roe v Wade).
  6. Women who seek abortions are mostly teenagers. Of the 1.2 million abortions that are performed each year, roughly half are over the age of 25. Only about 17 percent are teens. About 60 % have given birth to at least one child prior to seeking an abortion. A disproportionately high number are black or Hispanic.
  7. Women who seek abortions are selfish.  Bringing a child into the world that isn’t wanted is an incredibly cruel and selfish act. Unwanted children are at increased risk of juvenile delinquency, psychiatric disorders and long-term resentment of the child by the mother (see https://m.huffpost.com/us/entry/6926988) Most women who seek abortions already have children and are concerned for the emotional and financial welfare of their existing children.
  8. Women who seek abortions are promiscuous, immoral sluts. If they are, then so are the men that fucked them. It takes two to make a baby folks. (check out this recent Twitter sensation https://www.scarymommy.com/twitter-anti-abortion-unwanted-pregnancies/)
  9. Men are not affected by abortion. Men are people too and have a variety of emotional responses to the women they’ve accidentally knocked up, but most not only encourage their partners to get abortions but feel guilty and relieved afterwards. Men and the women they impregnate should be able to decide for themselves whether or not they’re ready to become parents. Not the government. (see https://melmagazine.com/8-men-on-what-it-was-like-when-their-partner-had-an-abortion-4f55c9671d0 also https://www.google.com/am/w/www.vice/com/amp/en_us/article/m5794/abortio-affects-men-too)
  10. Pro-Choice means anti-life, anti-religious, anti-human-rights, anti-God.  The religious right made it a moral issue in 1979 with the self-named “Moral Majority” with Jerry Falwell. Prior to that it was little more than just another medical procedure. The evangelicals’ self-righteousness has no place here. We have the right to religious freedom which also means we have freedom FROM religion. It’s called the First Amendment.  To force everyone to live by YOUR beliefs, that’s call tyranny. If you are an evangelical Christian and find yourself with an unwanted/unintended/unplanned pregnancy, no one’s forcing you to have an abortion. But they think they can force a non-believer to remain pregnant. How about “You do you, I’ll do me”???!!
  11. Women use abortions as a birth-control method. The majority of women who have an abortion have only one, but the more restrictions there are on available birth control methods, the more abortions women will need to have. A 2012 study of more than 9000 women found that when women go no-cost birth control, the number of unplanned pregnancies and abortions fell between 62-78 percent (see “Trump Contraceptive Move Could Lead to More Abortions” https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.nbcnews.com/news/amp/nca808581)
  12. Abstinence until marriage prevents abortions How many of you reading this are never-married virgins?? Yeah. I thought so. (see “Abstinence only Means More Abortions” https://www.google.com/amp/s/salutemag.com/2018/03/07/column-abstinence-only-means-abortions/amp/)
  13. If men were the ones to get pregnant, not women, they’d overwhelmingly support giving up their rights to control their own bodies. Did you laugh out loud just reading that???????!! Of course they wouldn’t. Nobody tells a man what to do. Men tell women what to do. America is a patriarchal society. Women continue to be treated like second-class citizens. Men would NEVER allow laws to be made to control their bodies, their lives, their choices, yet they think nothing of doing it to women.

Truth: the abortion debate is a fiery one that’s been exacerbated with the confirmation of yet another conservative to the Supreme Court. No matter which side of the fence you’re on, be knowledgeable. If you truly believe abortion to be immoral, just know that by making it illegal, it will never stop women from going to extreme measures to end their pregnancies. Restricting access to abortions and birth control simply endanger women. 

Source: https://yalelawjoural.org/feature/before-and-after-roe-v-wade-new-questions-about-backlash

 

So what IS Burning Man??

I should be packing right now instead of writing this.

As the days grow close to leave for our three-day road trip to the Nevada desert where Burning Man is held, there’s so much to do to prepare. First and foremost, it’s held in a barren desert 1584 miles away, and this is not the kind of camping you can just run to a 7-11 if you forget anything. The nearest store is 100 miles away. There’s no cell service. There are no trees, no insects or animals, and no campfires. No electricity, no running water. Just literally a 4-square mile flat surface covered in an alkaline baby-powder-like white clay dust called the “Playa” (Spanish for “beach”). You bring literally everything you will need to survive the seven-day extreme camping experience. Last year the highs were in the hundreds and the lows in the 50’s.

So there’s camping equipment, food and water for each person for seven days, proper clothing and all the necessities you can think of. Think “survivalist” and short of catching your own food, you’re in an environment that’s trying to kill you the entire time you’re there. We subsisted pretty much on canned tuna (out of the can, mind you, eaten with a cracker) and PBJ sandwiches and applesauce.

Last year, our first “Burn”, we had joined a small camp, but we were pretty much on our own. For example, one of the biggest stressors we had was our shade cover. With daytime temps at 102 for the entire week, and with sudden wind gusts of up to 75 mph, your shade structure will literally save your life during the day and if it comes out of the ground it will kill someone. Hammering into the rock-hard surface of the Playa is quite a challenge. We did have a couple wind gusts and our shade structure kept flying up in one corner or another and threatened to pull out completely.

This year we’re thrilled to share an established camp with approximately 200 campers and not even have to even think about a shade structure as it will be there when we arrive. We had biked past them last year on the way to the Playa and saw what an awesome set-up they had. Everyone’s tents were tucked safely under an enormous black tarp that was secured so well it could easily withstand the angriest dust storm. We contacted them and were excited and thankful they had room for us!

You may be asking yourself, “why would anyone go to such a place?” and, “What IS Burning Man??”

It’s not a festival or an art show or a hippy drug scene or a place where a bunch of bands play. It’s really indescribable, but I’ll try.

It’s a barren place where 70,000 people come from all over the world to create a city called “Black Rock City” just outside of Lovelock, Nevada. This city sits in a half-circle formation, with made-up roads and street signs and made-up addresses (this year, the theme is “I, Robot”, and all the street names are various robots from literature and TV and movies). Most people camp in tents but there are those who “glamp” instead and come in RV’s. There are always a smattering of celebrities who fly in to join established camps (we call them, “plug-and-play”) but to really get the most out of the experience, you should sleep in a tent you put up yourself.

I was trying to talk a friend of mine into going with me this year as I was able to acquire two extra tickets, and thought it would be super fun to go with friends. She said to me that it didn’t sound like a very fun “vacay” to her. And it’s funny how we all have our own ideas of what a “vacation” is. To her, it’s a five-star hotel with a pool and cocktail service; to me, it’s wearing pasties and goggles, using a porta-potty, not showering for a week and riding around on my fat-tire bike exploring the art and the Temple of the playa at Burning Man.

It gave me pause to think, and I’d say that more than anything, Burning Man is a spiritual retreat. It’s a place where there’s universal acceptance and love. It’s a place that’s “governed” by something called the “10 Principles of Burning Man” https://burningman.org/culture/philosophical-center/10-principles/

You don’t even use your “real” name. You are given a “Playa” name by someone while there and what you do in the “default world” (back home) no one discusses. You leave behind your “real” job/career, and all your baggage. You get to dress anyway you want. Ties and suits and the costumes we wear every day to be societally accepted are traded for pasties, tutus, Indian headdresses, T-shirts/shorts and often, no clothing at all.

Imagine a world where people give one another things and expect nothing in return. The first time I was given something was the first day we arrived; at the gate, we got hugs. We biked out to see the “Man”, who’s 75 feet tall and is burned the final day of the event, and we’d parked our bikes to go inside the structure he was built in. A woman was standing aside the entrance and asked me if I’d like a necklace she’d made. I said, “sure!” and she put it around my neck. It was so fun! I was like “wow!” And that was just the beginning.

My favorite gifting moment happened was one morning, I think it was our third day there, we were starving and hot and exhausted as we’d barely slept due to the constant thump-thump-thump of music all night long. We’d biked to get ice (one of two things sold there–ice for your ice chests to keep your food cold and coffee at Center Camp) and we were riding back down one of the “streets” and there stood in the middle of the street was a woman dressed as a wizard. I thought she was a mirage. As we approached, we saw she was holding out a platter of fresh-baked cinnamon rolls. She was giving them away. She never said a word. She stood there smiling, and we took one each and said thank you, and I burst into tears. It was one of many gifting moments that brought me to tears. How was she able to bake cinnamon rolls in this unforgiving desert?? And how sweet they tasted in our much-weakened physical and emotional state.

One night we biked out to the “Ditrikt” area, which is where all the fun is–flame throwers, the “Thunderdome”, all the crazy and there was a camp that was offering free grilled cheese sandwiches! Sure we had to stand in line for about an hour, but we chatted with others in line and made new friends, and when that sandwich touched our lips, let me tell you, it was orgasmic.

Another time, a camp was offering a free slice of pizza. When you’ve eaten nothing but canned tuna for four days, let me tell you, it sounded like heaven. We waited in line again for a long time, but the caveat at this camp was you had to agree to let them spank you. Seemed a small price to pay.

I got to choose the weapon–a small board or a plastic wiffle bat? I chose the board. I was hyped by this point. It was no small spank. My butt cheek was bright red for the rest of the day.

Mmm. It was worth it. Pizza will never taste as good again as it did that moment.

And so on it went. Every day spectacular things like this kept happening.

So there’s the half-circle area where all the camps are, and all day long there are are events and activities offered by many of them, ranging from yoga at sunrise to “Strip Karaoke” (yes, I did that one hehe). You can attend a class on how to give proper oral sex to a woman and AA classes. There’s absolutely something for everyone. You’re given a booklet at the gate with all the activities and addresses and times for everything; it’s impossible to do everything you want to do because there’s just so many fun things all going on at the same time.

And then there’s the Playa, where all the art is.

The art installations are beyond phenomenal. Most are so gigantic, as you ride your bike up closely you become so awed by the enormity of them as well as their significance. Many you can climb on as if it were a child’s playground. One was a 2-story life-like doll with hair that flowed in the wind, who was led on a crane and spoke to the crowd as she danced her way across the playa. There was a castle shooting fire and a giant jellyfish made of stained glass that when the sun hit it just so, it was a kaleidoscope of colors. There was a 2-story sized metal hummingbird that had a lever you could pull up and down and make its wings flap. And many, many, many more. As you ride out with all the other 70,000 or so people to see all the art, it’s quite a spectacular experience.

As the sun sets and everyone’s bikes are illuminated , it becomes a whole different scene. My favorite are the art cars, or more commonly called, “Mutant Vehichles”, which often have a DJ spinning tunes with awesome sound systems. We didn’t realize this until the last day that they’re for public transport! You can leave your bike somewhere and just jump on and ride it and rock out with whoever else is riding when you jump on. My favorite was a “shark” car–like all the others, it was lit up with thousands of LED lights that blinked to the bass sound. We rode around a little and then jumped off and got on an art car that was an actual boat–a yacht and the theme was Jimmy Buffet and the DJ was of course playing nothing but Jimmy Buffett and they had a bar on board and offering free margaritas! So many smiles everywhere we went.

We heard everything from Frank Sinatra to Raffii and everything in between. Lots of EDM which I love. The pulse and energy of the playa is tangible. You can be anyone you want to be at Burning Man, and for me, being stretched emotionally and physically beyond what I ever thought I was capable of, was life-changing. I wrote in a journal every afternoon so I wouldn’t forget what I was learning about myself. There were so many amazing moments of pure joy and I didn’t want to forget any of them. In my suffering, I found a self-acceptance and love I’d never felt before. Who am I really with all creature comforts stripped away??

I came back a more grateful and alive person; I remember seeing my friend Kelly for the first time after we got back and when I saw her, I just threw my arms around her and hugged her and sobbed. I had a new appreciation for how much my friends mean to me. She was a bit taken aback and asked me if I was okay. I was more than okay! I was alive! I felt great! She asked that question I still can’t answer; “how was Burning Man?” and I just smiled through my tears.

My take-away from Burning Man is this–all we need is each other.  We don’t need “things”, we need experiences. We need joy and touch and fun and music and food and dancing and conversation. “Imagine”, as John Lennon wrote, “a brotherhood of man”.

I can’t wait to go back! I leave in 3 days!!

I’d better go pack now!

Ghosting ain’t nothing new

If you millennials think you invented “ghosting” well haha I’m here to tell you you did not. I’d say you have perfected it though.

Back in the day, if a man lost interest in a woman, he’d stop calling her. All we had back then were landlines, and then–answering machines! I remember when they were invented: it was so fun customizing your “greeting” and people got very creative. Everyone tried to be cutesy with recordings like, “Hey! I’m out doing something amazing and exciting and can’t get to my phone right now! If you want me to call you back, you have to leave me your number!” Because back then, there was no way of keeping someone’s number other than writing it down somewhere. My favorite recorded greetings were snippets of popular songs that I felt reflected my awesomeness, such as, “She’s simply Irresistible” by Robert Palmer. You know, a not-so subliminal way of reinforcing that dating me was a good idea.

Gone were the days when someone could lie and say, “Well, I tried to call you”, when the phone would ring and ring and no one would be there to answer. So now there was no excuse! If you called someone and they weren’t there, you could leave a message! This was exciting new technology! It was so fun to be gone now and come home to see the bright red digital number of how many missed calls and messages that were waiting for me while I was out in the world!

Some answering machines only allowed you to leave a 30 second message and others several minutes, and it was common for a person to have to call 2-3 times in a row to finish their message! You could make plans, cancel plans, and and it was the birth of ghosting. Suddenly we could talk into a machine and tell someone things we wouldn’t be brave enough to say to their face. Like, “hey, last night was great but my ex and I got back together.” Or worse, he’d stop calling. Simple as that. There was nothing worse than having a great date with a guy and then coming home from work or school and no “missed calls” from him. I remember that painful feeling well. I’d obsessively make sure the machine was plugged in and turned on, and days turned into weeks with no contact from said guy. I eventually got the hint, but not before I cried tears of anguish and frustration wondering what happened?? Did I misread everything??? How can I be beautiful and amazing and a great kisser on Saturday night but spoiled chicken by Monday??

The 21st century equivalent of “not returning missed calls” is called “ghosting”. And now we have texting, which to me, is really like leaving messages on an answering machine, except if you’e got your “read” on, that person knows whether or not you read the message and basically chose to ignore it. I remember well checking and double-checking to see, “is it plugged in?? Maybe he called and there was a black-out!” Or the dreaded, “did I even have it turned on???” Because back then answering machines had to be turned on and off–“on” when you left the house and “off” when you got home. And when someone called and called and you wanted to “ghost” them, you simply turned your machine on when you were actually home and “screened your calls.” And you’d sit there on your couch, watching TV, and hear the landline ring, and cringe while the person you just had a fabulous date with calls and calls and leaves desperate messages while you sit and listen, because there was no way to turn it off without them knowing you were sitting right there.

Pretty cowardly, weren’t we? We all did it. I did it mostly to debt collectors and cold sales calls. And my mother, rest her soul. Her timing wasn’t always good.

And so fast-forward to the 21st century where we’ve got the technology to ignore one another in many different ways–Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat for starters. We can “unfriend” and “unfollow” and ghost one another several different ways. Technology has given us the ability to treat each other shittier than ever.

I’ve done it myself–deleted, unfriended, unfollowed people who either never read the messages I sent them or took so long to respond I forgot I’d even written them. I assume I’m so far down their ladder of importance they probably wouldn’t notice anyways.

Going clean and swift with all methods of contact is probably the least confusing, the metaphorical ripping off of the Band-Aid. What does it mean when someone won’t return your texts, yet looks at all your Snapchat stories? Are they still interested or not? There’s this mucky-muck purgatory we get put in that keeps us from grieving and moving on. Do we hold onto hope that maybe you DID get arrested or in a major car accident and are physically unable to contact us? We go from being terrified something bad happened to you, to praying something actually did to explain your sudden lack of contact.

I really don’t get how hard it is to say, “hey, I met someone; if things don’t work out maybe we can chat again soon, you’re really awesome and I really enjoyed getting to know you.” Especially in a text, because it’s a way to let someone down easy and give them closure. It’s better than hearing nothing, and it’s a way to sidestep actual contact with another human being when you have to tell them something they don’t want to hear, which is, you don’t want to date them anymore. Make up a story goddamn it! Thats what white lies are for. Tell us you had a job change or hell, try the truth. “I really enjoyed our time together but I think maybe we want different things/met someone new/ we’re not a match.” Give us closure so we stop hoping and checking our fucking phones.

It’s cowardly and cruel and rude. There’s really no other way to look at it. Because if you’ve been dating someone, and it’s going really well (sex or no sex)–if you’ve got back-and-forth messaging going on and then POOF you disappear without a trace, that person is left holding their phone in their hand, staring at it constantly the way we used to stare at our answering machines, looking for clues. We’re left wondering what we did wrong. Why won’t you talk to me anymore?? Our self-esteem takes a brutal beating.

The “not-knowing” never really goes away. We get stuck in a limbo of self-examination and rumination, and the only way to really recover fully is to label that person a poor communicator at the very least, and at most, a douchebag. Otherwise nice people do this, and it’s frankly, shitty.

Basically ghosting is more about you avoiding feeling uncomfortable at someone else’s expense. It also is a sign of a lack of maturity; it confirms that you’re really not worthy of me anyways. I would never do that to someone I had an intimate relationship with, whether it was two dates or two months. Have the decency to end it like a grown-up.

I asked a twenty-five year old guy friend of mine what he thought about ghosting and said he does it too. Everyone he knows does it, but after talking awhile, I gave him pause to consider how the other person felt. He felt horrible, but said something really interesting–that sometimes (especially guys) ghost because in this right-swiping world, there’s just so many options, and he isn’t really “not interested anymore” but rather just distracted for the moment by someone more available. Or sluttier.

He said ghosting is a way to stop contact “temporarily”. So giving hope to the ghosted is intended. “I might come back” he told me,  and I said, “Yeah but would she have you after you treated her so terribly???”

He nodded and sighed, “Maybe the girl that gets ghosted is the one that got away.”

Hmmm.

“Monogamish”

I have always been interested in people and why they do what they do, but recently I’ve become curious about marriage, monogamy and non-monogamy. Why do so many marriages end in divorce? Is it just a matter of choosing the “right one” or are we being set up for failure? Maybe it’s because I’ve been married now (happily, I might add) almost a quarter-century. I look at my role models–my parents were married just shy of 59 years when my mother passed away. How happy were they really, I wonder? What goes on between a husband and a wife behind closed doors is what I’m really curious about. And not just the sex they’re (probably not) having.

What I’ve come to believe is that our Western view of marriage is actually harmful to relationships. Seriously, how can one person be “everything” to another human being??? We expect the Disney “happily ever after” which is nothing more than a set-up of unrealistic expectations.

Even though we live in a time of blended families and legal gay marriage, the belief that there’s just “one” out there for us that will “complete” us sets couples up for disaster. And holding hands with this belief is that we will never be attracted to another person of the opposite sex ever again now that “the one” has been found.  This person, this “one”, will be your best friend, your confidante, your only sexual partner. The person who helps clean up after sick kids and sick you. Brings home the bacon and fries it in a pan. You’re a whore in the bedroom and Martha Stewart in the kitchen. You’ll never gain weight or let each other down because you’re “in love”. These are just some of the myths and expectations that lead couples to think they’ve failed at marriage and lead them to divorce. How many of these do YOU believe????

It’s a fact that modern marriage does not work for most people. In fact, recent statistics show gay marriages are just as likely to end in divorce as heterosexual marriages (http://brandongaille.com) . So what’s going on??? Why can’t people stay married?

Maybe that’s the wrong question to be asking.  Maybe we should be asking whether people should get married at all; if maybe marriage is an out-dated concept (it IS an “institution” after all, and I don’t know about you, but just thinking of it as an institution kinda makes it sound scary). Think of it as it truly is–marriage is a business contract first and foremost. You don’t need a contract (hippies of yesteryear proclaimed this an unnecessary “piece of paper”) to have a romantic relationship with someone.

First of all, too many women focus on their Disney wedding and not enough about the hypothetical “happily ever after”.  Our society reinforces it with bridal shows and event planning and finding the ‘perfect dress” and the “perfect venue” not to mention choosing all the food and the song list for the DJ. How many couples sit down and actually discuss what monogamy really means to them? I know we didn’t; monogamy is our society’s default setting and it’s just assumed we all know what that means. Couples today have challenges my parents’ generation didn’t have (and mine didn’t until a decade ago) thanks to technology. What IS cheating today? “Liking” another girl’s Instagram pic? Wishing your ex a happy birthday on Facebook? Having coffee with an attractive married co-worker? The lines have gotten blurry and couples need to have these conversations whether they’re just dating or considering marriage. It’s not as black and white as it may seem.

We have been brainwashed to believe that we are only capable of loving one person at a time, and that we are monogamous by nature. We are NOT, and that’s probably the biggest reason most marriages fail.  Did you watch the most recent “The Bachelor”? Did he not fall in love with two women???? And being that Disney produces the show (no big surprise there) he MUST choose only one. And all the scandal is about the damage he did in doing so–one woman’s soul crushing vs. the other woman’s joy at being “chosen”. I personally despise the show’s entire premise as completely unrealistic and ridiculous. However, I would give anything for it to end with all three of them getting engaged and living happily ever after. Not polygamy folks, polyamory. Quite different. I’m guessing Disney wouldn’t like that very much.

We try to fit into boxes that we can’t fit into and drive ourselves crazy trying to. Add the fact that we are terrified of telling one another we have the hots for the gardener or the hot new IT chick and you’ve got a simmering pot of shit waiting to boil over. “You must not love me anymore” we cry hearing this and run to the nearest divorce lawyer. This is why most people are “serial monogamists” and hurriedly seek a new relationship thinking they’ll find something different. Rinse and repeat.

I’ll never forget a friend of mine who’s husband punched another guy in a bar for “looking” at her, “his wife”. I was horrified. And this is what is reinforced in our society! Our spouses are our property–look at the verbiage we use! “Taken off the market”, “She’s mine”. It really doesn’t sound romantic to me at all to be referred to like a piece of livestock. We also think we have a right to know our spouses’ every thought. I know I did. We think we should have all their passwords and access to their phones. We don’t trust; we play detective instead. And don’t get me started on religions that punish those for “committing adultery in your mind.” Complete rubbish and completely disastrous to any marriage. Fantasy is healthy. Sharing fantasies is healthy and sexy.

Why get married at all? Do you believe that it’s necessary only if you plan on having children? Or do you believe that everyone “should” get married? Moreover, what does 4,5, 6 decades with the same person— “til death do us part”–really look like to you? And does that “piece of paper” really make a difference, other than cost you around $30,000??

I remember that feeling of having “joined the club” when we got married. Society sanctions marriage in financial and social rewards. “Just living together” belittles the emotional tie between two people in assuming that they’re not serious: “shacking up” as Dr. Laura would say, as if we’re still living in the 1950’s. Goldie Hawn and Ken Russell were the first celebrity couple to buck the system and lived together over two decades without the “benefit” of marriage. And they’re still together today. 35 years going strong. No “piece of paper”.

It’s my hope that today’s young couples who’ve been raised with technology, who’ve had multiple sexual partners before deciding to “settle down” are able to have the kind of conversations my generation didn’t think to have until we had to have them. In this right-swiping world we live in, where there’s more choices and opportunities than ever, it’s my hope that couples will decide for themselves what kind of a relationship they want to have. We need to support more and judge less. Why does a relationship have to end in marriage to be legitimized?  Why do couples ask, “where is this relationship “going”???  Does every relationship have value, or only if it leads to “I Do”??

We’re in the 21st century now folks. It’s time for our relationships to be more flexible and less rigid and expansive to include all types of partnerships, not just the “man/wife” and “gay/gay” models the political agenda is force-feeding you.

******

P. S.  I urge every one of you to read a great new book out called “Stepping off the Relationship Escalator” by Amy Gahran.   https://offescalator.com

You can also follow Amy’s blog at https://wordpress.com/read/feeds/79349178

Enlightenment

It’s time to write something! LOL I’ve had the flu AND pneumonia for the last 2 weeks and my friend asked me, “oh!! So you’ve had lots of time to write in your blog!!” To which I responded, “I WISH!!! It’s kind of hard to write when you’re curled up in a fetal position with a fever between 103 and 104 for four days straight!!” I’m on my second round of antibiotics with a new ailment–a terrible sinus infection, and my pneumonia wasn’t gotten rid of with the first round of antibiotics.

I don’t know about you, but when I get sick, I get spiritual. And fortunately, I really don’t get sick often. Which means I really don’t get spiritual often. I don’t get colds. I get sinus infections seasonally, but I’ve been a pretty healthy person my whole life.

Laying on the couch shivering, crying for relief, seeing the daylight outside and realizing how much I’m missing out on. I missed seeing both my adult kids last week; we had to cancel a gig, and I am supposed to be in beautiful sunny Southern California right now visiting my father and family and friends. But I’m not. I’m here. On the couch. And I’m super annoyed being sick and immobile.

I go inward. I realize I couldn’t do cancer. It’s given me such an appreciation for those who’ve suffered through cancer or any other chronic illness. I’m too much of a wimp. Because I actually felt like I was dying that first trip to urgent care. I gave up. I was too sick to care. I just wanted it all to end. Of course I just wanted to feel better but the mind goes to scary places with such high fevers. I hallucinated all sorts of strange things and places I can’t really remember now, but as I’m finally feeling better, I feel like I’ve been on a spiritual journey.

I believe the mind and the body are connected, and we don’t just get sick from “germs”. The immune system becomes compromised, and something’s gotta give. In my case, I think I was not only just having too much fun (what can I say? It makes life worth living!!) but also, stuffing down some feelings I didn’t want to feel.

So my body said, “hahaha Lauren, I’m going to MAKE you feel and think the things you don’t want to think and feel. You will do nothing but feel and think for two weeks.”

And it did.

Suddenly, I found myself crying a LOT. It was almost like I was pregnant again! Crying over every little thing, and coffee smelled and tasted horrible. And this is someone who drinks coffee all day long. What the fuck was happening to me??? Everything felt more profound than it ever had.

What I realized was, I hadn’t grieved enough over becoming an empty nester. I had tears, sure, when both my kids moved out, but the daytime silence must’ve been getting to me more than I realized, as I made sure I was home less often. Busy, busy, busy is the way I like to be, and I’m never bored. I have a full life–I love my band–I have a great group of friends and family and I’m never at a loss for something fun to do or someone fun to do it with. Spontaneous trips out of town, dinner out, a hike, a bike ride or just an impromptu trip to the mall, I’m always up for something fun to do.

But having been a stay-at-home-mom for 22 years, I hadn’t realized that I was directionless, as happy as I claimed to be. And we had decided to sell our home and move to the big city in a cute little condo, and I hadn’t let myself feel how sad saying goodbye to our home was really going to be. So the Universe directed me where I needed to go, and that’s where I’ve been for almost 2 weeks now.

Prior to becoming sick, I started doing a lot of cleaning and un-cluttering. There’s so much that goes into preparing a house for sale, and without realizing it, a lot of feelings had welled up that I kept down like holding a beach ball under water. Certainly they were destined to pop up. I started to think about how much I missed the simple days when my kids were little and I didn’t even know how much money was in the bank because we didn’t need any. We had so much fun anyways. Walks with little kids is miraculous and can take hours as they stop to notice every bug and leaf on the way. I used to take them to Pet Smart and we’d be there for hours watching all the birds and guinea pigs and mice and fish. And it was free.

And in realizing they were never moving back home I believe was the precipitous moment that caused that first domino to fall.

I know in my head that I’m so lucky to have raised two kids who are ambitious, smart, and love their independence. And when I’d get sad for them I would tell myself, “Hey Lauren, you could still have them here, smoking pot and playing video games.” So yeah, I’m SO proud of both my kids and know they’re just like me–there’s no way they’d ever move back. I never did and I know they wouldn’t either. And that’s a good reflection on my parenting that I did something right.

But I still miss them.

And it’s funny, when you’re in the thick of raising little kids, people tell you to “treasure these times because they grow up so fast” but your head is spinning because you haven’t had enough sleep for years, you need to go to the bathroom but you can’t, and if you do you always have someone with you. You neglect yourself for so long it becomes a habit. I remember those years quite well. I loved every minute of it and don’t feel like I gave up anything. I got to be their mom, every single day. It was me that drove them to school and it was me that picked them up. When they got sick it was me that took care of them. My husband and I agreed before we started our family that we’d never put them in daycare. And we never did. And I know we made mistakes and looking back, daycare wouldn’t have killed them. I should’ve made time for myself and not martyred myself like I did, but I didn’t know any better.

So now I’ve got all this free time and this big house to myself, and it’s a double-edged sword. I love and value my independence and feel extremely lucky that I don’t “have” to work. I have the time now to work on my writing, which is what I’ve always wanted to do. But there’s this huge void in the silence as I accept that this chapter of mommying is over. I’m sure it’s not unlike retiring from a career you loved. Your identity is wrapped up in that job and when it ends, you have to redefine yourself.  Suddenly, a new purpose needs to fill that void.

So that’s what I needed to grieve, the loss of my 22 year career being somebody’s mommy. And I know that I’m still their mom, and they still need me, just not the way they did, and that’s the whole point. I raised them to NOT need me in their daily life anymore. They’re successful, independent people with their own lives now.  In the words of my daughter, we now get to be “best friends”. It’s wonderful. Seeing them so happy allows me to live my own life. I’m so grateful.

So I’ve sweated and sobbed and felt the pain of closing the happiest chapter of my life these last 2 weeks, and I’ve come out of it sober, caffeine-free, and seven pounds lighter. As the meds kick in, and the fevers have finally stopped, I am looking around me seeing the beauty of my life and the wonderful chance I have now to redefine myself and this next chapter.

Time to re-visit my bucket list–I’ve realized that I want to travel more. I want to go everywhere and do everything. I want to see animals and other cultures. I want to learn a new language and learn about Eastern religions. I want to live minimally and shed the things that no longer suit me.

We’ve decided to wait on selling the house. My husband admitted he had similar feelings of sadness cleaning his office. So many happy memories; were we really ready to let go? We will do the necessary repairs we’ve put off and enjoy a quiet home with nothing broken for the first time in decades, and when Christmas comes, there will be room for everyone. The condo will have to wait.

Thank you illness, for the spiritual path you led me on. I will pay closer attention to my feelings are try to feel them as they come up, however painful they may be.

#NeverAgain

How can anyone NOT be inspired by the #NeverAgain movement?? I literally get chills seeing and hearing these impassioned young people. It reminds me of the anti-Vietnam movement in the 60’s I’ve only heard about.  And already, they’ve made quite an impact.

I’m not going to bore you into giving statistics about gun violence and all. You already know them.  My problem is with those who are so extreme in their beliefs, SO closed-minded and can’t possibly fathom giving an inch to solve this problem such as those who think assault rifles should be accessible to anyone, any age. These NRA-loving gun zealots are black and white thinkers who just keep reiterating that they don’t want their “right to bear arms” infringed in any way.

Hmmm, so that means that there shall be NO laws made to protect children who sit in school from being hunted down and slaughtered?  Do you think “doing nothing” will stop the next school massacre? Because if “guns don’t kill people, people kill people” then we just need to accept that ‘these things will happen and there’s not a goddamn thing we can do to stop it”?? What could be more insulting and patronizing then metaphorically just patting these kids on their heads and saying, “thoughts and prayers’ till it happens again again??

Well, young people aren’t buying that crock of shit anymore. And good for them. Something must give. There’s nothing like watching your teenage friends shot down in cold blood to move you to action, and knowing it very well could’ve been you.

I implore for REASONABLENESS. Isn’t there a middle-ground at all? Can’t we agree that children shouldn’t be able to buy guns at all? Does anyone really think we should all be able to own weapons that only the military ought to have? Is there really a need for anyone to be able to buy assault rifles? Just because you “want to own a rifle” for hunting in my opinion doesn’t usurp our collective need to protect children in classrooms.

I get it–you gun-lovers believe your Second Amendment rights are being stomped on when we cry for a ban on assault weapons. I HEAR YOU. Now, do you hear US??? It really boils down to this–the most common weapons used for mass shootings are semi-automatic assault rifles. Does anyone truly believe that anyone should own them for self-defense? Of course not. It’s not about self-defense, although the gun lobbyists will attest to that. With rapid-fire capability that bump stocks give to an already deadly machine gun, it helps kill more people quicker than any gun our Founding Fathers could’ve conceived of. All they had back then were muskets.

It’s the unreasonableness of the NRA and it’s members that frighten and anger us. Any REASONABLE person can admit that there’s no need in our society for assault rifles. There just isn’t. And if they refuse to outlaw them, then make it harder for anyone to get one. How can any REASONABLE person have a problem with that??? Jesus Christ people! It’s harder to get a fucking abortion or a driver’s license than it is to get a fucking rifle. Why is that? Our nation is FUCKED UP.

I believe these young people ARE being heard, as our very own NRA-loving president had the courage and REASONABLENESS of mind to push for a ban on bump stocks. THIS IS WHAT I’M TALKING ABOUT. It’s no secret I didn’t vote for Trump, but tell you what, this impresses me big time. He’s also said he thinks teachers should be armed as well. I’m not sure I agree or disagree on that, but at least he’s listening and trying to come up with solutions that will protect our kids. It’s up to Congress now to pass it through. Will they do the right thing? What if they don’t?

No parent should have to lose a child while they’re sitting innocently in school. The gun lobbyists are content to just watch these children die time and time again and just say, “it’s not the gun that killed them, it’s the person.” How about it’s BOTH????!!!   If this disturbed individual had had only a knife, it’s a no-brainer that there would’ve been fewer funerals this week. Explain to me again how guns don’t kill people?? 

I agree there were major breakdowns in stopping this young man from gunning down his classmates. The FBI as well as many others knew he was violent and mentally disturbed yet did nothing. There’s that. And it’s reassuring seeing that a mother turned in her child and so did a grandmother when they had reason to believe they might be a danger. This is progress. But still the bottom line is, guns are too easy to get, too easy to buy, and the ones that do the most damage are readily available basically to anyone who wants one.

Any REASONABLE person would acknowledge this and agree that laws can be enacted (and enforced) that might just reduce the opportunity for a troubled teen to be able to go and shoot his classmates and teachers. More extensive background checks including what some other countries do in talking to co-workers, parents, friends, etc. In the meantime, I believe we should have armed guards in front of every school EFFECTIVE IMMEDIATELY as well as implementing metal detectors and/or security systems like we have at our jobs that allow us into our workplaces. Schools are targets because they’re vulnerable and unprotected.

And I KNOW the pro-gun rally is going to say, “If you outlaw guns, only outlaws will have them.” We aren’t trying to outlaw all guns. BE REASONABLE. WE’RE TALKING ABOUT SEMI-AUTOMATIC RIFLES ONLY.

Aren’t our young people worth it??

To many of you, I guess not.

It wasn’t YOUR child after all.

#NeverAgain

The cure for bystander remorse…it’s never too late to do SOMETHING

I must’ve left my Spidey-Sense back in Wisconsin, because when I saw and heard an angry African-American man with a large front tooth missing yelling and scolding a group of us to “climb aboard this train”, I obeyed. After all, he was wearing a neon-green safety vest, and he was standing in the open doorway of the MARTA train. He must be the conductor we told ourselves. Being a typical confused tourist, we collectively entrusted him that yes, we did need this particular train to get to our destination, namely, our hotel.

“The Gold Line Goes to Buckhead and the Red Line goes to Noble Springs” or something like that he announced angrily and loudly for us to “get on here” as if we were unruly elementary school children. Being tourists there in Atlanta this last weekend, we appreciated the navigational help, even though he could’ve been a little nicer to us. We got on, and as soon as the train started moving, the joke was on us as this man was not a conductor at all, he was a street-smart panhandler whose M.O. was to round up a bunch of people who didn’t know any better into one train car with his “help” and then ask us all for a “donation”. I felt duped and stupid, and hoped that we indeed were even on the right train at all. (Fortunately we were). We chuckled at his chutzpah and gave him nothing as we saw a sign on the train that said “It is illegal to panhandle on this train.”

A few months ago, on a trip back to Southern California where my father still lives in the house I grew up in, I noticed that the panhandling there had also gotten more creative.  I’d just left the airport in my rental car, and I was sitting at a red light waiting to get onto the 405 freeway, glancing at my phone when something caught my eye. A wild-haired, thin young Caucasian man was walking in and out of the traffic lanes while strumming an acoustic guitar. It was quite a sight: he seemed oblivious that he could be hit and killed at any given moment, and snaked through the cars like a carefree snowboarder gliding down a mountainside. It was though he hadn’t a care in the world and was actually onstage performing for his fans.  The long light offered me the chance to marvel at his performance while I was terrified at the same time I’d be watching his sudden demise. Yes, we were all stopped, but I knew the light was going to change and I was scared for him because he didn’t appear to be paying attention!! He traipsed over to the median, never having made eye contact with any of the drivers, an open guitar case on the concrete with some coins and dollar bills visible. Wanting to hear his music but savvy enough to know better than to roll down my window, the light turned green finally and I drove off, deep in thought about this young man and who he was, how he got to the state he was in, and did he have any actual talent?

I then wondered, where were the window-washers? Oh how I hated them. You’d be stopped at a stoplight and suddenly seemingly out of nowhere someone would spring out in right in your driver’s side face with Windex and paper towels and they’d be cleaning your windshield. It’s frightening and an invasion of your personal space. You’re trapped in your car at traffic lights and being held hostage by someone who is now demanding money because they did something for you you didn’t ask them to do. The incessant panhandling is one reason I don’t miss living in California.

I will always be impressed though with Hispanics, because they’re too proud to stick out their hands and beg for money. They will always create something, usually of beauty, to sell instead.  You will never see a Hispanic person standing under a traffic light median with a sign begging for your money. They will set up a table by a well-trafficked walking path, with a tablecloth, and their wares. You will never see a cardboard sign.  I was in Mexico City once and the impoverished children I encountered peddled “chiclets”–chewing gum.  I’ve never seen a Hispanic of any age panhandle; they have too much pride and self-respect. It’s admirable and I will often buy a bouquet of flowers from a (usually older) Hispanic woman selling them.

Here in Milwaukee, you’ll see mostly young white men holding signs at traffic lights claiming they are veterans. I hate the feeling I get of being a smug, entitled bitch sitting there in my sports car waiting for the light to fucking hurry up and turn green. I had my years of handing money to beggars and have been lectured that most of them just go and buy drugs. I think, “get a job!” And don’t tell me you don’t think the same thing.

And then, about a half hour after the “non-Conductor experience”, I witnessed something I can’t unsee.

I’d never been to Atlanta, and we were there for a family celebration (my husband’s brother and his wife reside there). The beautiful downtown high-rises and fancy cars I kept seeing mask a dark underside I was soon to experience.

We were travelling via the “MARTA”–or Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority-a rail system that covers 48 miles and has 38 train stations. It serves approximately half a million people a DAY, and Wikipedia tells me that it’s the largest public transportation system in the United States not to receive state funding.

The one-hour ride was extremely unpleasant–the air smelled putrid with the stench of urine. I was immediately nauseated, and it didn’t help that we stood the entire trip, swaying as if we were on a slow roller coaster. I held onto the handrail with my arm because I was afraid to touch it with my bare hand.

The windows were fogging up due to the many souls breathing the confined space and the rainy conditions outside our cell. At every stop I gasped for the fresh air that would blow in as the doors blasted open and shut; people got out, and more came in. Seeing my desperateness to “hurry the fuck up and get there already”, my beloved husband, phone in hand, following the map on his MARTA app, would say, “fourteen more minutes! You can do this!” and counted down at every stop. I cursed him for wanting to save money by not Ubering instead.

At a stop with about a half-hour to go, an alcohol-infused, Beetlejuice looking older woman with bright, drug-store colored hair got on at the same time as a darling African-American little girl about eight years old with Minnie Mouse hair. She was just about the cutest thing I’d ever seen. She had a cute pink Barbie backpack, and I realized it wasn’t a school day. I smiled at her but she didn’t look at me.

She didn’t appear to be looking for a seat; instead, she opened up her empty backpack and to the encouragement of the foul-smelling woman behind me, she walked up and down the aisles begging for money, all the while the Beetlejuice drunk yelled at us, badgering us into feeling guilty enough about our own abundance into giving this darling little girl money.

“She’s just trying to make a living now, go on, a dollar ain’t gonna kill none of ya!”

“She’s doing God’s work!”

“C’mon now, open up your wallets now, a dollar ain’t gonna kill ya!”

“Greed is a sin!”

The crazy-hair drunk was relentless, and she made sure she got one last dig in for those of us who didn’t “reach into our wallets and give” as she exited the train. I was furious. Clearly it was a scam–they got off our car at the very next stop and I’m sure they got on another one in an attempt to use this little girl’s cuteness and innocence to get money for this drunk old witch.

Oh, how I wanted to turn around give that woman a hard shove! With every word she uttered, I fantasized about pushing her off the train at the next stop and grabbing that little girl and whisking her off somewhere far away from that evil witch. It took everything in me not to turn around and scream in her disgusting face,”Eight-year-old little girls shouldn’t be out “trying to earn a living” you drunk piece of shit! SHE’S A LITTLE GIRL! SHE SHOULD BE AT THE PARK ON THE SWINGS NOT BEGGING FOR MONEY FOR YOUR DUMBASS!” I felt my heart pounding in my chest as I searched for the courage to do SOMETHING.

It still upsets me to think about her. No child should ever be used to beg for money for an adult. This was child abuse plain and simple. I thought about how effortlessly this little girl moved about the train, holding her Barbie backpack open for strangers to put dollar bills in. It upsets me greatly knowing that she thinks this is normal behavior. I wonder, how long has this been going on? Since she was old enough to walk?? I’m horrified to know she might be being physically abused as well if she doesn’t collect enough to suit this horrendous woman (who, might I point out, had the nerve to call US “greedy” and “sinful”). I can’t stop thinking about her, and how many more little girls like her are being abused and used to panhandle because who can resist such an innocent little thing like her? This woman was nothing more than a fucking pimp.

But even without the obviousness of being played as a tag-team with that witch, I still wouldn’t have given the little girl any money, because I knew she wouldn’t have ever thought of doing that herself without having been made to by someone else. Even if the adult was out-of-sight, he/she would’ve been there at the end of the train ride, grabbing her backpack to see how much she collected. I was distraught at witnessing this, and feeling so helpless. I wanted to grab her away from that woman and take her to a police station. Why didn’t I? I was frozen. Frozen with shock and fear that this was happening, and of course, worried that if I said or did something, harm would come to me. So now I’m several thousand miles away left with nothing more than frustration and anger.

I want to tell Oprah. I want Oprah to come fix it. I have bystander remorse. Instead of asking myself, “What would Jesus do?” I ask myself, “what would Oprah have done?” Because I KNOW she would have done SOMETHING. But then again, she’s ‘Oprah”. If she’d interceded, she’d have been a hero. The drunk pimp witch would’ve thought she’d seen Jesus in Oprah’s form and repented.   I want Oprah can come to Atlanta and ride that fucking Horror Express and find that Beetlejuice woman and whisk that little girl away safe.

I also realized that this is a way of life for many, many mostly African-Americans who live and work in Atlanta. I realized that these working poor don’t have a choice to Uber instead like I do. And if this was how I had to get back and forth to work everyday (I saw a young girl with a McDonald’s cap and work uniform on) I’m both glad that there’s reliable public transportation that’s (hopefully) affordable, but on the other hand, reading that MARTA doesn’t receive state funding, maybe that’s where the solution begins. Cleaner trains and security guards making sure little girls aren’t being pimped. In other words, ACCOUNTABILITY.

With it’s warmer climate, Atlanta suffers like any other big city with its share of panhandlers.  I can handle white men pretending to be veterans and homeless hippy musicians begging for money, but not a child. That’s something that shouldn’t be tolerated.

I think I will write a letter to someone so they know this is going on. I may be a few thousand miles away, but I can still effect change.

You deserve so much better, little cute Minnie Mouse girl.