Monday, July 29, 2013

En Media Res

Got up this AM and previewed an Eminem playlist. On iTunes they are called albums but albums, to my mind, are made from cardboard and they are bigger than a CD case, and they have both the information the artist decided to provide on the front and back covers, but much more importantly they have the wear marks of the listeners. The places where the cardboard has worn thin because of the hands that have held it. Where they held it. Are they album lovers who handle the cardboard cover with reverence and care? This would be indicted by only slight wear marks on the edges, depending upon the person, on the top and bottom or on the back and the closed side. Allowing the album, the disc, to slide out with as little contact with the cardboard as possible, protecting it from any residual dust or extraneous interaction with the outside world that might contaminate the world revealed once the disc meets the needle on the turn table.

I am not an album collector. I have saved albums that were meaningful to me at some point in my life that I have packed away and am always surprised to find after a move. I’m not sure they are in any condition to be played. But just touching the cardboard takes me back to the time in which I was in love with the music inside of it.

A quick note on Eminem, I do not listen to him regularly but I enjoy some of his music. I do not buy his music for the same reason I don’t buy any hip-hop or rap, Eminem, like many other artists, tend to intersperse songs that contain vitriolic disdain for women in general, or one woman in particular, with songs about other topics, so I never know when one of those songs that sounds like a few of the abusive men I have dated, lived with, and left behind will pop up and hit me like a sucker punch to the gut. I like hip-hop, rap, and slams, as a rule, I just won’t pay for the pain of listening to music that stirs up those memories. This last sentence is also an indicator that I spent some but not all of my son’s life as a single parent, more on that later.

The phrase I used for the title today, en media res, is a literary and theatrical term that means “in the middle of things.” When I used this phrase in an earlier post I meant that I would begin in the middle of my life somewhere and not at the very beginning moving chronologically toward the end. While listening to Eminem it occurred to me that what I was listening to Eminem ON was media. The same word. It means middle. There is something in the middle of Eminem and me. It is the mechanism by which I gain access to his music and he gains access to my money. In teaching English, we often use a variety of media; there are many High School and college level classes designed to teach people how to use and understand various media. The short list of media is: television, movies, radios, billboards, magazines, books, canvas, telephones, and all of the new media that is meant to complement the traditional media I just listed. The function of this media is to be in the middle effectively, which means invisibly. How often to you sit down to just look at your television without turning it on? How often do you notice what your television looks like or what is on top of or beside it while you are watching it? I use my laptop as a television and I only notice the machine itself when something has gone wrong with the connection and I can no longer see what I was watching  “through” it. When I listen to music on it-like Eminem, or I just have to say, Red Hot Chili Peppers, I am only partially aware of the media I use to hear and/or see it. I am focused on the places it takes me.

CDs, MP3s, all the other technologically sophisticated delivery systems still serve as the medium between the creator of the content and that inner world that is unique unto each listener or reader. Meaning is made by the relationship between the words and sounds of the artist in concert with the technological media used to reproduce it; there is also the meaning, or modification of an old meaning, which occurs when I hear those words and thoughts through both the media and the lens of my own lived experiences.

 In my experience, listening to music alone allows me to visit memories, which is valuable in and of itself. Listening to music with someone else is to open my innermost self to them. I think this is why some people are concertgoers and others are not. Some of us just do not want to share that experience with a room full of strangers.

When my son and I were young, sharing music was the only way I could share myself with him. Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, “Our House” was the song we played when I was scared or lonely. At that time in my life I had to use media in order to communicate. I did not have the verbal or emotional skills to clearly and directly communicate with any other human. I lived in a primitive protective cocoon that allowed me to stay safely distant and alone, so very alone, with my fear and anxiety. My son and I would listen to that album over and over again on some days and only to that one song on other days. I wanted to tell him that we were safe, even though I did not believe it. I wanted him to know he was loved, even though I did not know how to show it. I wanted him to know he was protected, even though I was not strong enough to do it. I needed a medium to translate those positive thoughts into words but leave out the tone of uncertainty and fear that lived inside my head. I did not want him to hear that part. “Our House” was the message and the album was the medium through which I attempted to accomplish this.

I love the anger and passion in Eminem’s sound. The words are important. They tell his story, but the sound, the intonation in concert with the rhythm, the beat of the background sounds, that is what I hear. That is the something that touches my own life experience. The raw fear, exclusion, marginalization and in the case of the songs I heard this AM, the revenge, the self-righteous, “so there”, in your face, “f*** you” of one who has succeeded in gaining a form of success that is righteously foreign to him. He sounds like he understands the media that made him rich and famous. For me, this calls attention to the media he is using and allows me to think about the media I have used to be successful in my world. It reminds me of how often I had to achieve success, defined by someone else, through media defined by someone else. That kind of success does not satisfy me but it is Real success to so many people. In fact, listening to Eminem this AM I began to think that maybe I could use media to achieve success that is real and meaningful only to me. What would that look like? How would that feel? This blog is a small start and even though I am writing to and for myself most of the time-it feels good and right.

I did not have the words, in those early days, to understand that media is a medium that allows people to communicate with one another or that I could use it to meet my own needs. I had to use the medium of the record album to share the song of my heart using words that someone else wrote. Crosby Stills, Nash and Young, Willie Nelson, Alicia Keyes, the “Peppers” of course, and most recently The Black Keys will never know how successful they were in my life and how their words taught me how to speak to the only person in the world who, ultimately, defines my success, my son. He is my success, not my failure, as many media would have me believe. I have worked for decades to go heart to heart with my son and I believe we have been successful. Today we use media as shorthand. We say things like, “did you see that movie”, “please read this book” “I like this song”, “look at that stupid commercial”.  I think it is understood that when we share those communications through media that we are doing so in the knowledge that we are sharing our hearts with one another.  Now that I have just written this line, I want to be certain of it. I will ask him and get back to you with his response. Meanwhile, go ask your child(ren) or parent(s) how she, he, they use media to communicate their hearts to you. Once you know the answer, please share it.

Friday, July 26, 2013


Up with the birds this morning. Still having a lot of pain but I was able to sleep and awaken at a reasonable hour.  I am going to introduce a new but related topic today. I have been in Knoxville, Tennessee for the past two days undergoing tests with Dr. Jeffrey Dell. He is the leading specialist in the United States (US) on interstitial cystitis (IC). This is a fairly new diagnosis that, according to his study, at least 35% of all women in the US and a smaller percentage of men experience. IC is usually misdiagnosed in the early stages that occur during in a person’s early twenties. There are many theories about its cause. I will include below a few websites I found helpful and appropriate.

Yesterday, the tests done by Dr. Dell confirmed what Dr. Robert Echenberg of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania diagnosed three years ago. I have IC, which means that I need to pee every 8-12 minutes on a bad day and on a good day I pee every 30 minutes. It means that it feels like my pelvic area has been filled with broken glass and every time I move the glass shifts and cuts. It means that I have muscle spasms in places I did not know I had muscles. On bad days my core muscles spasm so hard that I cannot stand up straight.

The test Dr. Dell administered yesterday found 2 Hunner’s ulcers inside my bladder (that really hurt). Think about skinning your knee and having that abrasion on the inside of your bladder and every time your bladder gets the tiniest bit of urine in it, it feels like acid is burning through your entire genital region. This is not imaginary pain as so many doctors told me as I tried to find treatment and relief for well-over 7 years.

There are many theories about what causes IC, again, check out the links below, but a large percentage of women who have IC were very athletic in their younger years and were taught to “play through the pain” so when they felt the vague sense of fullness and ache in their pelvic area they ignored it until it started to stop them.
Sometimes it takes an injury in later years to awaken the IC monster. It is almost always linked with pain during heterosexual, vaginal, intercourse. Here is how it is related to teen parenting, it is almost always associated with trauma and/or stress; the trauma of vaginal births at a young age, rape or sexual abuse, and/ or sports related groin injuries.

It almost always presents as a urinary tract, bladder or kidney infection that comes back negative for bacteria. Doctors informally refer to this as honeymooners syndrome. It means that as couples first have sex they exchange naturally occurring bacteria that live in their bodies with one another and, for women, the bladder usually tells the body that it had been attacked by foreign bacteria, which it has. The body will then start to treat itself for the infection, for that is what it is. Treating with antibiotics is the usual process for addressing urinary, bladder or kidney infections but if you have IC the pain will stop while you are taking the antibiotics but it comes right back when the course of treatment is finished. Thinking back to the discussion of statistics, I wonder how many teen mothers are also survivors of rape or other sexual violence. If you know it share it. Closing thought on IC for now: if you have any of the symptoms I have described and doctors are telling you there is nothing wrong - go to another doctor. If you are on public assistance of any kind, you may feel that your options are limited, I know I felt that way, but the doctors who work in this area are extremely compassionate and may very well work with you on payment options. It may take a lot of persistence and legwork but it is well worth it. Read through the information on the websites linked to below and if you have any questions you can post them on this blog. We can offer the help of the community in the form of sharing our experiences. Please do not confuse what I have just written as medical or legal advice.

It is surprising to me that I can write as much as I do in 30 minutes. This may be because I am working out what is true for me and so I am not focused on the clock; I am focused on the thoughts. Make no mistake, what you are reading is NOT what I wrote in 30 minutes. This has been revised and rewritten several times. No one can write a perfect first draft. THAT is a myth. You may even find typos in what you are reading because at this point I have no one to proofread and edit for me, so I do it myself. On a side note, proofreading your own work is not effective because your brain “knows” what you meant to put on the page and that is what it “sees” even if it is not there. It will read right over typos. Cool, huh? Yeah, but also frustrating. Writers need at least two pairs of eyes.

I think that writing a blog that I make public is a lofty goal. But, I web surf and I see that anybody can write a blog and almost everyone does. The number of blogs on the Internet is somewhere in the millions. There is a blog for everyone, it seems. I do not want to shift the focus of this blog by introducing my IC. If the statistics are even close to being accurate then a lot of teen parents are on public assistance of some kind, are probably feeling trapped in that lifestyle and may be living with the pain and shame of IC. Yes, I said shame. On the questionnaire Dr. Echenberg uses to determine if someone has the potential need for treatment of IC he asks if you ever feel like this pain is payback for something you have done and if you feel shame about that experience. My answers were yes and yes.

I felt that because I had used my body inappropriately, getting pregnant too young, partying, being raped by a stranger, and being abused by a family member. I was deeply and truly ashamed of all of these experiences and held myself responsible for them. Shame was my constant companion. It drove my decisions and my behavior. It made me feel “worthless”, my grandmother’s favorite word to describe me even as I worked on my Ph.D. and I believed her for way too long. I no longer believe the pain of IC is a reflection of my character.

When I thought about it, I was a young athlete. I lettered in track and swimming as a freshman in high school, I played intramural softball well into my thirties. I had a lot of injuries to my groin, knees and ankles. I found that there were a number of reasons I may have been predisposed to suffer with IC being a teen parent was the least of them.

I am glad I have a goal, even if it is lofty. I am glad that I awakened at a reasonable hour. Let’s all have a fulfilling day-whatever that means. Check out some of the links below.

This provides a very good overview from a top-notch medical institution

This is a well-respected national association; also look for support groups in your area.

This is the ichelp page on Hunner’s ulcers

This link goes to the site for the Institute that Dr. Dell runs

This link goes to the site that Dr. Echenberg runs

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

We are All Statistics but We CAN Choose the Survey that Reports on Us

All surveys are rhetorical because they are produced to persuade those who are surveyed and those who read the survey results that something is probably true. Growing up, I always told my son that we “would not be statistics” meaning pretty much what I reported in my last posting titled “Statistics”. I did not want to be in that category of 15-19 year olds who were unmarried parents whose children were born into and raised in poverty only to, probably, grow up and do the very same thing. I have changed my mind. I DO want to be a statistic.

I want to be the statistic of teen parents who raised themselves and their children out of poverty (if that is where they started) and who raised their children to believe that it is their job to leave the world in a little bit better shape than it was in when they landed upon it.  I’d like to read THAT survey. I’ll look for it but, again, if you know it-share it.

I decided to do the blog because I promised my self that I would write for 30 minutes everyday and I wanted my writing to express my most honest thoughts. I can only be honest about those things that I know in my heart of hearts. Everything else is rhetoric. Don’t misunderstand me; I appreciate rhetoric. When I use the word rhetoric, I do not refer to the loose interpretations of the word that are in general use today, but as Aristotle defined it. Language used to persuade. He did not specify if it was for good or ill, just that it was using words to persuade someone of something for some reason. For a long time I thought that every utterance made by a human being was rhetoric, and for the most part I still believe that. However, I have come to believe that there are some words that are used to convey fundamentally honest thoughts that do not need to persuade anyone else of anything. They simply need to be expressed.

Since I can remember I wanted to be a teacher and a writer. As I grew up I read voraciously. Reportedly, I taught myself how to read by looking through the canned food in the kitchen cupboard. I tend to believe this because until I moved out of my mother’s house and into my own, I believed that carrots were only available in cans!

I have been teaching, formally, in institutions of higher learning for 25 years give or take a year. I tried teaching middle school. Any smaller and the children are just too easy to break and I had my own teenager at home, so middle school seemed reasonable. I also truly enjoyed my son at those ages, roughly, 9-12.  It was a terrible mistake. While my own son was a joy to behold as he moved into puberty, half boy-half young adult, the kids in the public schools were just mean. When one female sixth grader called me a “bitch” during math - and I realized I could not call her one back - I figured that I was probably not cut out to teach K-12. I also prayed that my own son did not turn into one of these surly monsters when he got to school. He probably did.

I decided that I would teach K-12 teachers, and maybe they would have the patience that I did not have, and the tools to help that student understand why she was so mean to me. I think it had less to do with me and more to do with her, and that an effective teacher would have been able to help her understand all of that. I was not that teacher. I was not able to help a 10 year old understand where her animosity and her vocabulary came from. That experience had a lasting effect on me and as a result, I have come to believe that the least amount of learning that a human does in a lifetime happens inside a classroom. Effective teachers are those who set their students up to think OUTSIDE of the classroom (also known as THE BOX).

I believe that life experiences are valuable. This has not always been the case and it is my sincere hope that anyone reading my words has confidence in the value of their own experiences. I also believe that many people are capable of learning from the mistakes made by those around them and they, therefore, do not need to make every tragic mistake a human might make in a lifetime, on their own. Just take a look at the people around you. So many of them can show you what not to do.

From time to time I will be offering pieces from my journals in the interest of saving someone the expense of a humiliating or tragic mistake. I offer myriad misfortunes that dot the map of my journey through life. I also have some high points in there. Some I was able to identify as high points in the moment; some took years to be appreciated. I am a slow learner. My life, as interesting as I believe it to be, is most interesting because it parallels the lives of so many “O”thers (those who do not for any number of reasons fit into the stereotype of the typical American-also a nod to Edward Said). I do not consider myself unique, nor do I think of myself as special. In fact, I detest that word. Think about it. Special needs, Special Education “Special Girl/Boy”. They all connote negative experiences, some in the eyes of society and some real up close and personal.  So, please never call me special.

I think that by making public my words that I will garner response. Some good, some not so good. As John Scalzi, author of, Your Hate Mail Will Be Graded: A Decade of Whatever, 1998-2008, has done, I reserve the right to appreciate or reject any and all comments. Please know that I honestly do believe that all of the comments will improve my writing. Feedback is: response, reply, reaction, resistance, repetition. While sometimes painful it is always useful, to someone. Sometimes it is not the person at whom it is directed.

So, as my friend who left this stage before her role was complete so often chided me to do, I am going to tell you my story. She believed that a person’s story, as well as, the way they told that story was a critical component in useful intercourse. By that I mean, of course, the exchange of discourse on any topic. My beliefs, your beliefs, her beliefs are the foundation upon which rests all other statements we make on the millions of other topics that make up our daily existence. The story we tell ourselves, about ourselves, and the stories we tell other people are not always the same. The ways in which we tell those stories also span genre. My friend believed that as teachers of other teachers it was our obligation to bring this concept to the attention of our students and colleagues (colleagues usually do not appreciate this and provide negative feedback). In order to do so, we both agreed that we had to be prepared to do this ourselves. I think the beginning of our relationship was so fraught with anger and tension, and the close bond that we developed over the years can be traced back to this set of beliefs in one way or another, so I suppose I have to say that I agree with her, which, if she were still on the planet, she would really enjoy and I would do grudgingly.

Grudgingly then, I move forward to tell my story using my full capacity for honesty and my best grammar. I will span genre, and, while I may forget to tell you, from time to time, that I have switched tracks I will try to provide an indicator when I anticipate a change.  We begin en media res.

Sunday, July 21, 2013


July 21, 2013

As promised, I found information that can help us understand what we are talking about when we use the term teen parent and we can get a sense of the number of Americans we are dealing with. Statistical information is not exact information. It allows for an understanding of measuring things-in general- they cannot ever provide exact numbers for a variety of reasons. Good statistical information always informs the reader of the variability and reliability of the data provided. This source from the Center for Disease Control’s (CDC) division of vital statistics is based upon surveys and not on census bureau data. This means there are a lot of variables. For example, they could not have surveyed every home in America. So, aside from this information coming from the Center for Disease control, which surprised me, the numbers are pretty much what we hear on the evening news. I have included the link to the document I am quoting so you can find yourself in their numbers and see how you or persons like you are being tallied into statistical data.

Overall, the CDC report on “Intended and Unintended Births in the
United States: 1982–2010” written by William D. Mosher, Ph.D.; Jo Jones, Ph.D.; and Joyce C. Abma, Ph.D., for the Division of Vital Statistics in July of 2012 concludes that teen mothers are considered to be those females who give birth between the ages of 15-19. The report suggests that the numbers of births to American women in this age group has remained fairly constant between 2002 and 2010. Overall, “teen births” account for 11% of all births in the United States. About 2,283 of those births, annually, are attributed to unmarried females aged 15-19. Women aged 15-19 who were married accounted for 3,103 births in the years between 2006 and 2010. Further, "only 23% of births to teen mothers were intended.” About half of ALL pregnancies were terminated through abortion.

“Birth to white women of any age are less likely to be reported as unwanted…this may be related to levels of income or education.” So, we see that while the CDC has captured this information in order to determine use or non-use and forms of contraception in the American female population, they are also keeping track of what color the babies are. The report states that most unwanted pregnancies in the age group 15-19 occur in black and Latina populations and because those ethnic groups also tend to be, statistically, the poorest Americans, the majority of babies born to women aged 15-19, in the United States are born into poverty. “In 2008 (the midpoint of interviewing for the 2006–2010 NSFG), the poverty level was $14,489 for a family of two and $22,025 for a family of four. (This analysis is limited to women aged 20–44 because women aged 15–19 often do not know their family’s income).  This last bit of information suggests that women 15-19 who have children continue to live in their family home with their parents and siblings. I will need to do more research on that but, again, if you know it please provide us with the information.

It would also be interesting to know how females under the age of 15 who give birth are classified. I would also like to know if there is a certain percentage of recorded births in the age 15-9 group that can be attributed to rape, incest, or any kind of sexual violence. I will continue to work on pulling this information together but, again, if you know it-share it.

I was emancipated at age 16 in order to apply for welfare and food stamps to support my son and myself. When I left St. Anne’s, I did return to my home with my parents and siblings who really didn’t seem to mind that I had lied to them for two months. They were confused and my youngest sister was furious. Having been the family baby up until that point and only being 12, she hated that this new baby had been brought into the house. She has long since given that up and loves her nephew as much as she loves her own child. This was not an easy or smooth process and I will share stories with you about how it happened. Incorporating me into the family, as not just a sister and daughter but as a mother was not simple, easy or smooth. It turned out to be best when my son and I moved into our own home. It was a dingy one-room storage shed turned into a home but it was ours and I loved it mice, cockroaches and all.
For more information on the statistics I provided above go to:

Saturday, July 20, 2013


July 20, 2013


Thirty-Eight years ago, I gave birth to my son after 72 hours of labor. He was beautiful and I wanted him to be with me always. This event occurred two months to the day after I became a resident of St. Anne’s maternity hospital in Los Angeles, California. I had been instructed to give the baby up for adoption.

I had every intention of following instructions. The mound in my abdomen had grown into a huge burden. It was heavy to carry around and awkward to maneuver. At one point “the baby” kicked so hard that I had time to count all the toes and determine that I was seeing a right foot. It was not a magical moment as much as it was a painful moment and it was also an awkward moment because I had been standing in back of someone seated on a couch and when “the baby” kicked he hit her in the back of the head with sufficient force to rock it forward. She thought I had hit her “upside her head.” Embarrassed, I pointed to the still extended foot to which she responded, “still” with foreboding in her voice. I left the room to find some place where this thing could act up and not put me in danger of physical harm.

I was fifteen years old. Just weeks away from being sixteen, an age that sounded infinitely more mature. I begged the doctor to put age sixteen on the birth certificate but he said he had to produce an accurate document and that it was my own fault that I was not older when I had gotten myself into this position, which would have been funny, if it hadn’t been trying to shame me. I was still in the delivery stirrups-wide open to his assault on my character and his judgment of me. Shame became a theme in my life but I would not recognize it as such until much later.

I had a firm belief that I would not live past age 21. I’m not sure where this idea came from but it was firmly held. In my teenaged narcissism I figured that giving birth was a good experience to have before I died. It was an abstract thought with no attachment to reality and no thought given to the human being who would be orphaned if I kept “it” but who would provide someone a lifetime of joy if I followed the instructions I had been given.

Back in the day, there was no largely available way to predetermine gender, so expectant mothers expected babies- generic-not boys or girls or humans with names. I do not enjoy the predetermination of babies that technology now provides. I prefer to be surprised. However, I do feel much more comfortable addressing the emergent being by a gendered pronoun. “It” just feels wrong. I much prefer he or she and even before predetermination became commonplace I would use those pronouns interchangeable just to avoid the “it” word.

I won’t use this first blog to share the “discovery” story of how I told my parents I was pregnant and their response, except to refer you back to the first paragraph. My residency at St. Anne’s is a part of that story. It was believed that because my condition would be confusing to the other kids- my siblings-one brother and two sisters, all younger- I needed to be removed from the house. It was decided that I would go on a “vacation” to visit a friend who lived in Texas. This way when I returned as just plain `ole me no one would be confused.

Weekly phone calls home would reinforce this plot line, and every Friday evening I would tell each sibling, in turn, how much fun I was having in Texas. The trauma of standing in line to use the pay phone each Friday night only encouraged my disassociation with reality and while I was in the phone booth, I could actually believe that just outside the door of the pay phone booth was my friend’s living room in her home in Texas. It wasn’t a “magic place” but it was a short escape from the reality of my life and I took it. The instructions were to convince my siblings that I was on a short two-month visit with my friend and I was having a great time.

I followed instructions, I went to St Anne’s I caused only a small amount of trouble and I believed until the very moment of delivery that this child would soon belong to people I would never know. This, again, was back in the day when open adoption was a possibility but was discouraged by professionals, I am still unsure of what that profession is. But, they didn’t like the idea of a continuing relationship between biological parent and adopted child. . It was for this reason that the staff of the delivery wing of the maternity hospital did not allow delivering mothers see the children they delivered. However, on this day, someone was not as thorough as she should have been, and yes, back in that day most nurses were women,

 Maybe it was due to the 72 hours of labor but once I looked over at the covered bassinette and saw a tiny penis wiggling around in the folds of the blanket, I sincerely believed that this child would be adopted. Later a counselor told me that statistically women change their minds about adoption when they learn they have a boy more frequently than when they know they have had a girl. I am organizing some statistics for a future post that will tell you if that is factual or not. Better yet, if you have those statistics, please post them here.

I was not supposed to see my son, whose name I had already chosen although I knew that name would be changed by the new mommy and daddy. This was also back in the day when single people were nearly always considered unfit for adopting a child. 

I had not really gotten a proper look at the owner of the penis when I began to tell anyone who would listen that I had changed my mind. They all responded by telling me “you all say that. Tomorrow you will feel differently.” But I didn’t. So they allowed me to hold and feed him, thinking that this would overwhelm me, and it did, but I didn’t change my mind. The only thing I have ever been absolutely certain of with my whole being in my entire existence is that I was meant to be this baby's mother. For good or ill, and there was plenty of ill, it was my course in life, even if it did end at age 21, to provide for this little human and to take him through the world as best I could.

I have lived long past age 21 and my son is now an adult, married and contemplating children, who I believe with every fiber of my being, will be born to be my grandchildren. I will follow this post with more specific stories about me. I want my son to post only when he is comfortable doing so and anonymously, if he wishes it.

This is a forum for both parents and children, and I invite you all to share your stories.

For today, this blog is born and I want to use it to wish a Happy birthday to my beautiful boy.