January 2015 archive

My Promise to My Son

I promise
To love you unconditionally as all children should be by their parents.
To see your emotions as valid.
To weep when you weep.
To shiver as you fear.
To rejoice at your happiness.

I promise
To support your decisions no matter how differently I may have done.
To not judge when you do not take my advice.
To offer too much advice at times.
To hold you after you realize you made a bad decision.
To applaud you when you make decisions right for your own life.

I promise
To share my love of writing and reading with you.
To have your father share his love of board games and video games.
To support your exploration of the world around you.
To allow you space to find your own passion.
And not be disappointed when it isn’t the same as ours.

I promise
To treat you fairly.
To not favor any future siblings more or less than you.
To not offer disproportionate financial aid to another sibling than to you.
To see you as a person rather than a man.
To not see gender when making decisions.

I promise
To see you as my child and not just some bragging right.
To understand that you will make mistakes along with accomplishments.
To recognize that every human is flawed
And to not hold your bad decisions over your head.
To praise you for making decisions on your own.

I promise
To love your father.
To squabble with your father and make up.
To show him affection in front of you.
To model what a healthy marriage should be.
To try.

I promise
To love you if you are heterosexual.
To love you if you are homosexual.
To love you if you are transgender.
To be happy you have discovered who you truly are.
To love the partner you choose for your life.

I promise
To teach you about my religion.
To have your father teach you about his.
To allow you the space to pick your own religion.
To not be disappointed and refuse to talk to you if you choose differently than mine.
To praise you for making this decision on your own.

I promise
To be there for you.
To respect you in the good times and bad.
To keep your best interests at heart
And to understand you are an individual.
To be the best mother I can be
And to know I will make mistakes.

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The Library’s Siren Call

I have a confession to make, a confession no bibliophile should ever have. I have not been to the library in about three years until the past week. How is this possible for someone who reads on average eighty books a year? Easy. I love used book stores and e-books on my Kindle. There’s something about seeing the books on my shelves and being able to scroll through my Kindle. I love entering a used book store and being greeted by so many once-loved books, imagining the previous owner for each book I pick up. However, buying books is becoming a more costly passion than I need with a new baby coming, so I’ve turned my attention towards the local library.

Shower Invitation

A baby shower invitation made by my good friend Jaimi. She definitely knows me well, and this awesome invitation may have been the motivation for me going back to the library after so many years.

I signed up for a library card two weeks ago, but a wave of nausea hit me before I could check out any books. However, I finally checked out one of the many branches of my county library system last week and was pleasantly surprised. I was greeted by a friendly staff and an abundance of books (a much better selection than the branch closest to my house). I quickly found four books after perusing just three aisles. It was time to leave before I was enticed by more books. When I got back home, I cracked open my first library book (Zoo by James Patterson and Michael Ledwidge, which is an interesting take on the consequences of our rapidly evolving technology) in years and was hit by nostalgia hearing the crinkle of the plastic cover. Memories of story time in school libraries from years past hit me, and I remembered how no matter where I moved, I could find refuge at the local library. I even visited the library in Nebraska closest to my grandparents’ home every time my family would visit. It became a ritual between my grandmother and me.

As I quickly devoured the first book, I looked at my stack of four books. Finding this to be an insufficient number, I visited the library once more last Thursday although I had already visited it on Monday. I quickly found five more books and now have a list of books to check out after perusing their online catalog. Although they’re now missing the iconic library cards attached to their back covers, there’s still something special about library books and the library itself. Where else are you allowed to borrow something completely for free? Think about it. Everything has a price nowadays, and if you wanted to get technical you could argue that we pay for libraries through taxes. However, it’s this great service where you can check out books and even movies, and as long as you have them back by their due date, you don’t pay anything extra. If you’re paying for it already through taxes, why not take advantage of them? Not only do they offer books and movies but also free Wi-Fi, computer usage, and printer, fax and scanner access. One building that contains thousands of secret worlds bound within books. How could this not be a siren call?

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My stack of library books from the past two visits last week. On my second visit, I returned Zoo by James Patterson and Michael Ledwidge, so that book is not pictured here.

The Frustration of Procreation: Part One

This week I’m discussing two things that have been bothering me. I believe, at least for me, that writing is my catharsis, and because we all share in the human experience, I also believe what I’m going through is not unique to myself. It always helps to know that other people are going or have gone through some of the same stuff as me. I know I may upset some people with what I write, and as this is never my intention, I apologize. So with that in mind, here we go.

The first thing that has bothered me for a while is people’s reaction to my pregnancy and choice to procreate. For some people, I have received positive feedback, and I appreciate this. However, I cannot count the number of times a friend or family member will look at me with scorn, scoffing how having children is the last thing he/she wants to do. Some of these people then go on to tell me in full detail how much they dislike children and the people who have them and how their lives change because of it. I’ve even had people upset that I’m having a boy instead of a girl. I get so many jokes directed at me because of my choice to procreate and have felt such a lack of support from some of the people I thought would be much more supportive. This making-a-baby process is turning into a lonelier endeavor than I ever anticipated.

Procreation!

I believe in everyone’s right to have or not to have children. It is not only a choice but a right. I stand behind anyone’s decision not to procreate and fully support people in this decision. Honestly some of the people who have been so harsh in their assertion that they never want children make me happy because I can see how they would not make good parents and am glad they, too, have come to this conclusion. (Let me be clear that this is not the case for every person who has asserted that he/she does not want children. I can see some of these people as great parents, but I respect their decision not to bring life into this world.) It’s not for everyone, and a woman’s worth is not linked to her use or disuse of her uterus. Hell, I also experienced quite a lot of critique when Hans and I were not having children. With that being said, I try very hard not to critique anyone’s decision about children, and I would love that same support. You may decide that children are not for you, but I have made a different decision. Both decisions are right and in no way wrong.

I’ve found that certain people no longer want to be close to me, thinking in some backwards way that the decision to have kids is something that can be contagious. Friends have held me at arm’s length, even making me an example of how much they do not want to procreate, and then have said such hurtful things as having to sit in a further chair so that they do not catch the “baby bug.” WTF? I’m assuming such things are said for humor instead of springing from actual belief, or at least I hope they are. If you truly believe your decision not to procreate could be swayed by something as easily as sitting next to a “breeder” then your decision was not that solid to begin with. I am not a disease. This baby growing inside of me is not a mistake that can make others endeavor to make this same mistake. Stop making me feel as though I am diseased and no longer worth as much because of my decision.

The second thing that has bothered me is Hans’s work policy about parental leave or rather lack thereof of a policy on paternity leave. He is afforded no time off for his wife having a baby, and this is from a business that deals with human resources. In fact, this company is originally based in a country that allows quite a bit of parental leave for both parents, so why they have changed their policy for their American workers is beyond me. Let me be clear that we are not looking for a paid vacation or a handout. We believe raising a child is a partnership; it is just as important that Hans has time to bond with the baby as it is for me. I want my husband to be as active in my child’s life as I am and so does my husband. I am well aware that I will not be back to 100% health right away (recovery can take up to six weeks after bringing forth a new life), and I would be up a creek without a paddle without the aid of someone else. Thank goodness my sweet mother has agreed to come up for a week or more to look after both myself and our baby boy. Hans will plan to take off a week if possible and work from home for a month, but there are no guarantees to this.

I don’t understand how there can be no policies in place for parental leave. Currently, employers do not have to offer any paid parental leave for either mother or father, and the amount of unpaid leave for both is up to 12 weeks without his/her job being in jeopardy (although this only applies to roughly half of the population as the Family and Medical Leave Act excludes small businesses and most part-time workers). The United States is one of only two countries out of 185 for which data was available that doesn’t offer paid maternity leave to new mothers. The United States “ranks last among developed nations in providing government support for working parents… The nation that ranks first, Estonia – whose GDP, at $22 billion, is also a fraction of our $16 trillion economy – guarantees new moms more than two years of paid leave, while their jobs are guaranteed for nearly four years. Other nations with generous parental leave policies include Norway, which offers 35 weeks off at full pay; Poland, 26 weeks (100 percent pay); and Bulgaria, 32 weeks (90 percent pay).” It seems that we are a productive country but not a procreative country.

I don’t understand how a country that touts the idea of a nuclear family can have few if any policies to support this belief in the importance of family. People will go to bat against a woman’s right to have an abortion but will do nothing to help her after she makes the “right” decision and the child is born. How can we expect men to step up to be good fathers if there is no support for them? To be clear once again, Hans and I are not looking for a government handout. However, I do not think it is right that parental leave is not an option for Hans (and would not be for me in many jobs I’ve formally had). Paid leave has been shown to help “companies retain workers and lower the cost of turnover,” not to mention the benefits it offers to both the parents and child. Why then is paid parental leave nonexistent in our country, the supposedly “greatest country in the world”? To be great, we must strive to have responsible, intelligent people to continue to make this country what it was and hopefully will be in the future, and this requires not only parents who will raise their children to the best of their abilities but also the support of the government, showing that raising children is important and one of the nation’s priorities.

Fix all the issues

A New Look at an Old Favorite

the-princess-bride_reunion

I love the movie The Princess Bride. I’ve loved it since I was little when my maternal grandpa first showed it to me after he had recorded it on VHS from the television. My brother and I devoured The Princess Bride every time we came to visit my maternal grandparents, much like we did Mrs. Doubtfire when visiting my paternal grandparents. To be honest, I had no idea the movie was based on a book until I met my husband (a fact that should have been apparent by the opening credits). Hans had read the book The Princess Bride by William Goldman in a college class entitled “Great Books,” and indeed it was a great book for Hans that turned into one of his favorite reads. Hans had encouraged me to read the book, and we even bought it after he couldn’t find his old college copy. However, the book sat on the bookshelf, collecting dust until recently. I got a deal on audible.com and have been listening to books read by the author. One of these books was As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of The Princess Bride by Cary Elwes (and read by Elwes and other cast and crew members). I enjoyed listening to this book immensely and felt my old favorite had a whole new life. I wanted to keep this momentum going, so I picked up my copy of the book.

princess-bride

The book was the movie and so much more. Goldman did a great job writing this book and then adapting it into a screenplay. All of my favorite bits and lines were in the book, and there were new things added to the story, again giving my old favorite new life. I couldn’t put it down and look forward to reading this to my children as I look forward to watching the movie with them. Some minor changes from the book to the movie were improvements, such as changing the sharks to shrieking eels. (A change I imagine had more to do with eels being less expensive to make than sharks.) However, I missed Goldman not including the Zoo of Death and rather changing it into the Pit of Despair. I imagine this change, too, had to do with expense with making a movie and with time restraints. The description of the Zoo of Death and then Inigo and Fezzik’s making their way through it were both favorite parts of the book for me. I also loved Goldman’s sly jokes, puns, and satire sprinkled throughout the book as they had been within the movie.

I’m not sure what else to say about the book and the movie The Princess Bride but that it is such a great read that I recommend for anyone looking for a fun book to break up the everyday monotony. If you love the movie and/or book as I do, I encourage you to read or listen to As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of The Princess Bride. It will make you see the movie in a whole new light.

A “Serial” Problem

My husband has asked me multiple times to listen to the podcast “Serial.” I’m not big on committing to listening to anything, as I believe listening is a more difficult skill than reading, but I finally caved in to his request. I just finished the last episode of Season One today, and I can’t stop thinking about this. For those of you that have no idea what I’m talking about, “Serial” is a spin-off of “This American Life.” It focuses on the murder of Hae Min Lee and the question of what really happened with this murder. Adnan Syed is behind bars for first-degree murder, but did he really do it? This story of a true crime was told episode to episode each week for twelve episodes. At first, I didn’t think I would get into it. I’m not a fan of true crime stories. Yes, I like Criminal Minds and Law & Order, but I like them because I can remind myself that these are not actual events that took place. They’re fiction and far removed from reality. “Serial,” however, focuses on a real teenager who was murdered and dumped in the woods.

As I got into the series and listened more and more, I realized that the reason I do not listen to or watch true crime stories is because I empathize too deeply. The first time I watched the last recording of Hae Min Lee on YouTube I cried. I didn’t know how invested I was until I watched that video that my husband sent to me. The world had already become obsessed with this podcast, and I quickly did as well.

The last episode was a letdown for many people. Sarah Koenig, the host and executive producer, didn’t end on a definitive guilty or not guilty stance. We, as a society, are so used to conclusions being succinct and neatly wrapped up that this last episode left us disappointed. Why listen to this whole podcast if you don’t even find out whether Syed is guilty is not guilty? However, so many great stories are open-ended. When I read the epilogue of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, I felt cheated. The story was too neat and tidy at the end. I could have made up my own mind about what Harry and the crew did after the defeat of the Dark One. Open endings make us think. They leave us thinking about the story way past when it ended, and this is what “Serial” has done.

“Serial” is set up as more of a story-telling podcast than a journalistic podcast. We hear Koenig putting in her two cents about what she is feeling and thinking; in journalism, these feelings are usually exempt, reporting just the facts and nothing else. Perhaps Koenig’s feelings have swayed audiences into thinking one way or another about Syed. I know they did for me. I waffled about Syed’s guilt just as Koenig did. I thought he was not guilty and then guilty almost at the same time Koenig expressed her feelings. Because this was set up as a story rather than a journalistic piece of work (they even sell it as “one story told week to week”), we felt for the people perhaps in a way we may not have had it been simply a good piece of journalism.

But the bigger issue presented in this podcast is not whether Syed is guilty or whether Jay, the witness, was lying. The bigger issue is people’s ignorance or misunderstanding about reasonable doubt. Reasonable doubt is defined as the following: “The standard that must be met by the prosecution’s evidence in a criminal prosecution: that no other logical explanation can be derived from the facts except that the defendant committed the crime, thereby overcoming the presumption that a person is innocent until proven guilty. If the jurors or judge have no doubt as to the defendant’s guilt, or if their only doubts are unreasonable doubts, then the prosecutor has proven the defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt and the defendant should be pronounced guilty.” This means that the prosecutor must show how the crime happened without any doubt or logical explanation of another way it could happen. The crime happened this way and no other. Many times jurors go into trials with a prejudice against the defendant (whether this is conscious or not). They assume that he/she is guilty solely because he/she is on trial. In our court systems, we tout the line “innocent until proven guilty.” In most cases, though, it is really “guilty until proven innocent.” Syed’s case was full of reasonable doubt; there were many different logical explanations that could be derived from the facts. However, as admitted by a juror in the series, Syed was assumed guilty simply because he was being tried. People trust the police to do their jobs for the most part, and do not take into account that it’s more a job of clearing one’s desk than of uncovering each and every fact. Detectives are overworked and underpaid. They simply do not have the time and resources to uncover every fact and give it the attention it deserves. They tend to find one person to attach a crime to and do not look for alternatives or uncover more stones. Is this an excuse? No, but let me just say that everyone involved in catching a criminal and trying said criminal is human and, therefore, full of flaws.

Adnan Syed did not have a fair trial. According to how our system works, he should have been acquitted based on reasonable doubt. There should have been that one person, a person akin to Juror 8 in Reginald Rose’s Twelve Angry Men, who said this was too important a case to not review all the evidence. A person to say deciding a man’s fate in two hours that includes a lunch break isn’t really giving the case the attention it deserves. A person to say all the evidence here is circumstantial (meaning evidence that does not directly tie the person to the crime and that requires a leap of faith and reason to believe it is hardcore proof of guilt), and there is reasonable doubt. A person to remind every other juror that Syed was innocent until they all decided on the verdict of guilty rather than looking and pondering whether he could be proven innocent. Sadly, this person didn’t exist for Adnan Syed’s trial, and this makes me wonder how many other trials lacked a Juror 8.

Do I believe Adnan Syed killed Hae Min Lee? I have no idea. I want to believe Syed didn’t do it because I like to think of the good in people and keep that rose-tinted outlook that people are not capable of such heinous acts. However, I know this is idealistic rather than realistic. Part of me hopes Syed is guilty of Hae’s murder because I can’t bear the thought of him in prison for so many years for a crime he didn’t commit. At least if he is actually guilty than those years served are for a purpose. However, I am aware that our prisons are full of innocent men paying a debt to society that they do not owe. Our system is flawed, really flawed, but I can’t offer a solution besides the education of reasonable doubt and circumstantial evidence and trying to push prejudices aside. The one thing I am sure of after listening to “Serial” is that there wasn’t enough evidence to convict Syed. The state’s case was not strong enough. The reasonable doubt based on circumstantial evidence should have led to a verdict of “not guilty” regardless of whether Syed was guilt.