A soft voice that speaks volumes

“Why is he sad?” Azalea asked me. This was only the second time we’d met our young friend, who is the son of my fitness coach. It was a day to celebrate him, a child with Down Syndrome, and to raise awareness and money for the organizations that support families and provide enrichment opportunities and therapies for children with Down Syndrome. This was our first time participating in The Buddy Walk, which we were inspired to do because my trainer has been so supportive of my progress and uplifting during times when it would be easier to be sad. So when her son sat down on a bench with just a quarter of the one-mile walk to go, she encouraged our group to go on and that she would stay with him. (None of us walked on without them).

“He’s sitting down. He’s upset,” Azalea said in the way 2-year-olds narrate situations so awkwardly matter-of-factly.

After some others in our group tried without avail to coax him off the bench, I tried my best to encourage him. But, in my blatant attempts, I failed to recognize that he doesn’t know me. He’s met me only twice. And as loving as I am of other people, he has special needs that I have no experience accommodating. At one point, I made mention of just how many people were there for him, surrounding him. At another point, I encouraged Azalea to clap for him and cheer his name. Good intentioned as my attempts might have been, my naivety might have actually worsened his level of comfort during a time he was already feeling overstimulated.

“I want him to feel better,” she said, and so we walked hand-in-hand around the bench to where he was sitting. She didn’t get close to him, rather kept several feet of distance between them. It’s not the way I’d have comforted someone, but this seemed important to her, so I stood by her as she did it her way. I saw he was holding a bottle of water. I didn’t realize when I’d given him that bottle of water a few minutes earlier that he wasn’t able to open it by himself. He wanted to drink from a fountain, but the water was shooting out too powerfully and put him off. I had offered him the unopened bottle I’d grabbed and thrown into my bag before beginning the walk.

A friend sitting beside him on the bench offered to open the bottle of water for him, an offer he willingly accepted. Not only had I been clueless about the way to support him during an overwhelming time, but I realized in that moment that in trying to offer a solution, I’d actually created a problem for him. He didn’t need a reminder of how many people were surrounding him, or claps or cheers of encouragement. He didn’t even need a bottle of water he couldn’t open. What he needed, I realized in that moment, was a gentle heart and a calm, quiet ally.

“Will you walk with me?” She asked, barely audible even to me, and I was crouching next to her. I didn’t hear his reply, just her soft voice again. “He said yes!” Their quiet interaction was heartfelt and moving, and in that moment I had a bit of a revelation. My motivation had been to support my trainer and her family. It had been to raise money for a good cause and support people who need it. It had been to give back to a sweet boy whose smile lit up one afternoon months earlier we’d spent together at a pool. But I had a new reason now: to build connections between children with special needs and those without. My upbringing was one of acceptance, my constitution is one of openness, sensitivity and inclusion. But even now, I don’t have adult friends with special needs. We didn’t belong to the same clubs or athletic teams, and I didn’t have children with disabilities in my classes. So much of our current learning structure creates separation and division rather than inclusive opportunities for all children to interact and understand each other. To grow up knowing that when there is an overwhelmed child on a bench, you don’t clap or cheer or remind him of his overwhelming surroundings. That sometimes only a quiet voice can cut through the noise.

I promised myself I’d never forget that moment, not just because it was transformative for me, but because I don’t want Azalea to lose this part of herself that makes her so capable of connecting with other people. I don’t want this piece of her humanity to be conditioned out of her, or for her to forget how much power lives in her quiet voice. I’m going to seek out opportunities for Azalea to interact with children who are different from her in all sorts of beautiful ways so that she may look at anyone she meets and recognize a friend. And I’m going to tell this story of the boy on the bench to Azalea a hundred or two hundred or five hundred times throughout her life so that she will never forget her power of her kindness.

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On friendship

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It’s been a fun summer spent with friends of every kind – some in books in far-off places, some animated in some of our new favorite movies, some with whom we dance during music class. Some with whom we love to swim or run or play or enjoy lunch. Part of the summer was spent making new friends. Even this weekend at the library Azalea pointed to a boy she’d never met and said “That’s my friend.” In raising Azalea, I’ve always encouraged her to make friends with people who seem fun or interesting to her, and I’ve never given her any indication that approaching unknown people might be intimidating. So whenever she wants to share something with another child, or make friends, or make sure an upset child is okay, I hold her hand and try my best to exude confidence, never letting on how terrified it makes me to approach people. My neuroses will never (fingers crossed) be her own. “Hi,” she says. “What’s your name?” or sometimes she opens with “My name’s Azalea.”

She’s better than I am in every way, I remind myself during my own internal battle of emotions of feeling somewhat friendless. It’s as if at some point, I went off like a bomb and blasted everyone close to me outside the blast radius. The picture of myself inside my head is of me standing alone in a circle, while a crowd friends looks in on me from a safe distance.

That’s not the way I ever want her to feel.

I’ve been pondering the concept of best friends lately. Maybe because I seem to be hyperaware of all the goings-on in my life down to the minute details and can recognize the absent space where a best friend or two used to be. Or maybe it’s because I’m hearing or reading the term “best friend” everywhere of late. It’s bombarding sometimes, and others, the words are merely whispered to me in the wind.

That day in the library, Azalea and I shared a cupcake. We hadn’t planned to end up in Sweetwater devouring a cupcake, but sometimes plans are a bust and so you walk hand-in-hand down the sidewalk in search of just the right afternoon treat. We giggled and told jokes and shared an iced tea and talked about our day. About how meeting Princess Elsa wasn’t any fun after all. About how long our hair has grown. About some of our new favorite books. About Poppy. About how our cupcake is brown, and brown is her favorite color. About how that’s one of the things I think is most interesting about her.

During all my saddest moments in the past two years, she’s been there. She’s penetrated the forcefield. She’s infiltrated my armor. She has seen me sad, but she mostly sees me at my best, because she makes me want to be my best. Maybe that’s what “best friend” really means

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_MG_6066_v1Maybe that blast radius isn’t as big as I imagine it to be. Or maybe, just maybe, she’s the one confidently walking through the dust to hold my hand. Because I’ve never made her leery of approaching people. “Are you okay, Mommy?”IMG_6179

This summer of swimming or shopping running wild through a field to save Judy Hopps has filled my head and my heart with the best memories of the best version of me. I promised myself when Azalea was born that I’d try my hardest to become the mom she deserves. And in so many ways, in all the things we’ve done, she’s been the one guiding me. Pulling me back to the present. Keeping my mind from wandering while we lie on our tummies on a rainy day and work on a jigsaw puzzle. This summer, I’ve learned an important lesson: see the flowers, not the weeds.

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And it turns out I have a pretty great best friend after all.

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The beauty in slowing down

It was late summer, Kya was maybe 12 weeks old and I was taking her swimming for the first time. There was a woman there, maybe in her thirties, with a black lab named Jake. He was eight, she told me. I got in the water and swam with Kya, and she mentioned she couldn’t swim with Jake. She tried anyway and he got so excited he was pawing at her and dragging her down. She joked that she knew him better than to have attempted it. I liked that she knew so much about her dog, and yet I pitied her. Here I was with my brand new puppy, and her dog’s years were mostly behind him. When she asked how old Kya was, I felt guilty. I knew a part of her envied me.

That was 11 years ago.

I’ve thought about Jake every now and then. I only met him the one time, but knowing he was eight years older than Kya, I could think, “Jake turns 10 this year.” Or “Jake would be 14.”

The last 12 months have been the hardest Kya’s ever had to endure. Her stoic regality serves as a disguise for how her age has caught up with her. How the many years of athleticism have left her tired, sore and aching. The years of her life now echo as aches and pains in her senior body.

Coming to terms with this has been difficult.

My heart sinks when she is slow to get up or when she slips going up the stairs. When she knows she needs help getting into the car. When she doesn’t know that if she tries to climb up a rocky hill, she’ll get stuck and need to be rescued.

She’s exchanged her morning eagerness for quiet relaxation, her rigorous play sessions for leisurely walks. And now, as most things do, we’ve reached a point where this story is told again from another perspective. We met a puppy.

“He’s just a baby,” they told me. As if I couldn’t pick that out right away from the way he bounded through the grass and gnawed his own leash when he could coordinate catching it. They asked me how old Kya was, I told her she was 11. “Oh,” they said. And there it was, full circle. I was the woman in her thirties, they were the ones feeling guilty. The puppy barked crazily, rolled around on the ground when he couldn’t keep his balance. Kya maintained her ever-present sense of calm. We walked back home, side by side, at a slower clip than we used to. I wondered if they noticed how in-sync our steps are, how we know where we are going to go by reading each other’s body language. I bet they looked at her and thought about how connected we are, how well-trained and smart and gentle she seemed. How her behavior so strongly contrasted that of their untrained puppy. And even then I wanted to turn back and say to them “don’t pity me.” Don’t feel sad for me for living this life, with this amazing creature as my friend. Who nestled in beside me whenever I was sad or in pain. Who can carry on a conversation with me without speaking the same language. Whose graying face tells the stories of the places we have been. Don’t feel sorry for me for sharing all my secrets with her, for holding onto her when I was most vulnerable. No, don’t feel bad for me at all.

But I did feel envious, maybe not of them but of a younger version of myself. If I could go back and re-live these 11 years with Kya, I would. It hasn’t always been easy, but it’s taught me more about friendship than I’ve learned from any person.

Kissing Kya

Patrick Kissing Kya

(These photos were taken April 30, the day we put the crib together.)

Yesterday she stood still for a brief moment in the yard. Her eyes were pressed closed, her snout in the air.  I watched as she inhaled the smells that rode along the wind. I tried to imagine what was going through her head, wondering whether, like me, she is trying to enjoy the time she has left. The baby was crying upstairs. I was in a rush. But I let Kya stand there, regal as ever, breathing in the summer air. And I let myself escape my life for a moment to watch her. My wise, beautiful girl.

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Introducing Azalea Boo

Internet, meet my little Galway girl.

Born May 9, 2015 at 3:04 am.

Her hair is black and her eyes are blue.

Baby Azalea Me and Azalea

Patrick holding baby Azalea Mom and Azalea

Ashley kissing baby Azalea

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A letter to my one-year-ago self

Dear Whitney,

The picture your mind has painted of the near future has since been washed over with different colors and textures and patterns. Your life doesn’t look the way you imagined it would. But no amount of planning or visualizing can make you an expert at predicting what comes next. You should know that by now having become somewhat of an expert at planning your life out only to see it unfold in wildly different ways. You’ve spent nearly 30 years brooding about the past, living for the future and not always being present.

Right now you’re probably packing for your upcoming trip to New York and fretting about whether the blue party dress you bought is the right thing to wear to your cousin’s wedding. As excited as you are about this trip, there are heavy feelings you’re having a hard time explaining. You will come to realize it is because you’re going to visit with family you haven’t seen since your dad’s funeral. It is difficult to stir up that pain, but it will bring you comfort and joy to feel close to them again. You’ll think about your dad every day, and it won’t ever get easier to live without him. But you will recognize your dad in your uncle’s face in a way you never have before. And there will be peace in that. (Oh, and the blue dress will be perfect.)

When you go to Niagara Falls, don’t stand in line for the boat ride. Skip it. Otherwise you’ll end up standing there for hours, nearly peeing your pants and then thinking better of it and leaving to head back to visit with family. What a waste of 36 bucks.

Call your friends. Stop making excuses and reach out to the people you’ve let yourself lose touch with.

Keep writing. The timing of this letter is poetic in a way, because it’s been about a year since I’ve written a blog post. It’s been almost a year since I’ve written anything, and you will come to know how unsatisfying that can feel. How writing can be as easy as breathing, but the longer you go without picking up a pen, the heavier it gets. Every day. Just do it.

Don’t stress about getting pregnant. It will happen. Very soon. I promise.

Kya will be okay. There will be some tough roads for her, but she will endure as she always does. Her resiliency will amaze you. But you really should snuggle her more.

Enjoy your friends in Orlando. They’re some of the best people you will ever know, and you won’t always be a short drive away.

Celebrate with Kelsey when she finds happiness and love again. And when she has that third baby she swore she’d never have.

Hug your mom through the unfair circumstances that prove once again she is the strongest person you’ll ever know.

Place some sort of GPS tracker on your bike.

Stand back and take a good look at the extraordinary person your husband has become. You’ve always admired his strength, his work ethic and his ability to balance everything with such poise. Well, now he is really a sight to see. (And he’s as easy on the eyes as he ever was).

When the time comes, write down where you packed your iron. For the love of god.

Don’t even bother trying the peach-pear La Croix.

Take more photos for fun, take fewer for money. It’s easier to lose interest in the things you love after you’ve labeled them as work.

Be thankful. Your life is good. Enjoy it. Enjoy it when you’re with people you love and also when you’re alone. There’s freedom in solitude. There’s beauty in a quiet room. You’re ready to move beyond these things, but you’ll miss them.

These words have swirled around inside your head a thousand times, but here it is, number one-thousand-and-one: let yourself be happy. You have so many reasons to be happy. Life won’t always be easy, but that doesn’t mean it’s not still good. Great, even. And beautiful. Here’s what your life looks like now.

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That’s all for now, because some things are better left as surprises.

Oh, and Whitney? Be gentle on yourself, okay? No one gives or takes a beating the way you do. You’re strong and you can handle it, but that doesn’t mean you have to.

Love,

Whitney

 

P. S. Always use the hand rail when going down the stairs at Ashley’s.

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In sleep

I’m just like anyone who has to get situated before settling in for a good night’s sleep. And yes, I take pride in being a champion sleeper who can conquer 10 solid hours nightly. But doesn’t everyone have a routine? Doesn’t everyone suffer from some degree of pre-slumber pickiness? Doesn’t everyone need a fresh tube of lip balm, a bottle of hand lotion with an easy pump and at least 32 ounces (preferably 64) of fresh drinking water all within arm’s reach?

My night shirt has to be void of any bunching beneath me. When I had hair, it had to be sprawled up, spanning beyond the top edges of my pillow and couldn’t so much as graze my neck. And then of course I need a pillow between my knees and ankles and another to snuggle between my arms as a preventative measure should my elbows ever dream of touching. And then there’s the fidgeting. Because I learned long ago that if there’s an adjustment that needs to be made, better to immediately make it than lie there thinking about how much it’s bugging me. That itch on my head, the twist in my shirt.

Yes, all of this is true, and yet someone agreed to marry me. Someone who has the weirdest definition of snuggling of any person in the continental United States.

“Ouch! What are you doing?”
“I’m cuddling you.”
“With your elbows?!”

So in a desperate attempt to cuddle me without compromising the fragile microchip that is my sleeping situation, he’s become inventive. He’ll move his upper body as far away as possible, but touch the bottoms of his feet to mine. Or he will turn away and nudge his butt against my back ever so slightly. Once he outstretched an arm from across the bed and grabbed a fistful of my hair.

He tries. He really does.

Two nights ago, I awoke uncomfortable in the middle of the night. My head had sunken far into the depths of my pillow. It swallowed my face, caused my cheeks to flush and my forehead to sweat. As anyone in my position would do, I opted for the most obvious game play in this situation: the pillow flip. Only, when I attempted to execute the maneuver, I was thwarted by something pinning down the other end. In the dark I could just barely make out the sight of a sleeping Patrick clinging onto the far end of my pillow, smiling.

He hadn’t touched me, he’d been careful to limit himself – even in his sleep – to the measly outskirts. And yet he found joy in this, his newest technique in snuggling with his wife. His crazy, fidgety, particular wife. I laid there, the weight of my head sunken into my pillow, and watched him smiling. And I thought to myself, uncomfortable and unable to do anything about it, how lucky I am.

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The curtain saga of 2014

In the beginning.

That really feels like the only acceptable way to begin this post.

In the beginning, there were blinds. Horrible, hideous, loud, cheap-looking vertical blinds. They came standard in our apartment, typical for a rental, and we loved the apartment so much despite them that we figured they’d be an easy thing to replace.

That was five years ago.

Now, to be fair, not all five years (or even most of it) was spent planning or even discussing curtains. Though, every now and then Patrick would bring it up as if it were a matter of national security.

“Something needs to be done about the vertical blinds.”

I’d grown to hate them less, even though they weren’t appealing, they were functional and had just blended into the rest of the apartment. Excepting when our friend’s dog was over for a visit and would crash into them, causing them to clatter and sway, they didn’t really bother me.

My mom, as a thank-you for helping out with her curtains, gave us a gift card to Ikea so that we could finally realize Patrick’s wildest dreams for our apartment. Though, he’s not that wild, and his dreams for our apartment were actually very plain. “I really want the curtains to be the same color of the wall. That’s how upscale design is done.”

So then we went through the natural progression of Patrick’s ideas as they marched two-by-two out of his brain.

Now, all the ideas he has are for things like wall-to-wall, ceiling-to-floor curtains, which is unsurprising given his privileged upbringing and therefore expensive taste. He doesn’t just want curtains, no, plain old curtains will never do. He wants the Lazaro wedding gown of curtains. The Rolls Royce of curtains. The Wayne Manor of curtains. And when I’d have little concerns, like, “Well, I don’t love the idea of covering up that piece of art,” he’d have an answer. Like, “In France, they hang their artwork OVER their curtains.” And it’s like I can’t argue with him about it because FRANCE.

We took a trip to Ikea “just to look.” Yes, we drove all the way to Ikea just to see what they had and to feel the curtains up in person (Patrick had already scoured the Swedish offerings online and just wanted to do a tactile comparison).

I found a few things I liked, all were in different directions. One was a set of thin, flat sliding panels. Another was a set of dark color block curtains. Meanwhile, Patrick is comparing all of the curtains in the store to the measurements he had taken and was finding that in order to achieve what he wanted, we couldn’t just go with one of my ideas and buy something that was there and readily available. No, we would have to make our own, match the color of the wall exactly and find a light-blocking backing to sew into them. He was of course using the royal “we” because of the two people living in this house, he is the one who doesn’t know how to use the sewing machine.

Weeks went by, we took a trip and he talked about the curtains at least four times each day. “We could…” or “What if we…” and it grew more and more exhausting. We went to Ikea again, to look, and probably for a new scrub brush or something, and found that the color block curtains I liked so much (that had a light-blocking backing) also came in a more subtle tone, with thin beige and white stripes.

“They aren’t long enough to reach from floor to ceiling,” he said, because if this curtain debacle has taught me anything, it’s just how disagreeable my husband can be.

Weeks went by, decisions were made and we went back to collect our Swedish home goods (Patrick had, of course, written a detailed list containing every last fastening bracket). The curtains we picked were sold out. The sheers we’d selected for our bedroom were sold out. We grabbed a plan B for those, along with a few light-blocking roll-up shades for our bedroom and guest bedroom and some curtain wire from which we planned to hang the sheers. We bought a version of the living room curtains in a different color so that we could know how high to hang the hardware.

We had decided for the living room we were going to hang the curtains from copper piping, because if they weren’t going to be floor-to-ceiling (heaven forbid), they were at least going to have a good-looking rail system. We’d gotten the bug planted when we saw some friends over the summer who had used piping for their curtains, and it looked great.

Though, we didn’t hang the copper piping, because we realized there’s really no way to get the understudy curtains on and off without unscrewing the entire plate from the wall. It all just seemed like a giant mess we didn’t want to attempt.

So Patrick started with our bedroom, beginning with our roll-up shades. They were more than adequate at blocking the light, however, there were gaps around the edges and the light still came in. The sheers had tab tops, so they looked cheap hanging from the bowing wire. It looked more like we’d strung up a bed sheet over an exposed wire spiking out of the wall. Most of our decorating decisions are good. This one was not. Patrick was mad.

We were both surprised to miss our vertical blinds.

Long copper pipes laid on the floor for days, we were nervous to hang them up because of our first failed experiment. Even more, we had specific concerns about the copper piping, mostly that it would sag from the weight of the curtains. And OF COURSE we had to have wall-to-wall curtains, which required so many more panels that we were right to second guess not only the strength of the copper piping, but also the sturdiness of the wall and industrial soundness of the building.

We abandoned the copper piping idea and opted instead for a sliding rail system, which wouldn’t limit us to opening them only symmetrically because the curtains could be slid all the way across the seams from one side of the room to the other. And if you haven’t ever thought about this, welcome to my life, where making simple decisions can’t be made without first rattling off no less than 97 hypothetical scenarios.

We went back to Ikea, the curtains were still sold out.

Days later, I went back to Ikea to get all the rails, found our curtains were in stock, and also found some of the sheers for our bedroom that we originally wanted.

Patrick spent the next day hanging the living room curtains. This is not an exaggeration. He spent the ENTIRE DAY hanging the curtains. He hung the first bracket, then held the curtains up to gauge how long they’d hang. We both decided he should move them down one inch. He proceeded with the rest of the brackets, measuring and drilling and anchoring each one. When he finally had them up, he assembled the bar. When he had that up, we strung on the curtains.

And they were too low. By less than one inch.

We debated leaving them, wondering whether it would really be that big of a deal if they dragged across the carpet and didn’t hang properly. Piece by piece, he disassembled them, smoke rising from his ears. He transformed into the angriest version of himself that’s reserved for bad rounds of golf and, apparently, curtains. He’d drop a screw and let out a string of profanities. Like the world was ending, you guys.

At one point, he broke a globe on this lamp. I asked him if he wanted me to move the lamp, and he breathed fire at me.

When the job was done, 12 hours after he started, he decided that 11pm was the perfect time to steam them. So that’s exactly what he did. Then, after all that, he looks right at me and says, “Well? Do you like the curtains?”

“I love them.”

Because who would be crazy enough to say anything else?

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So long, summer

As the seasons begin to change, I’m washed over with a wave of nostalgia. And what better view is there of summer than standing on the first days of fall?

Sawyer on a swing

Milo carrying bubbles

Naylyn watering flowers Patrick holding Declan

Naked baby in the bath tub Mike holding baby Oliver

Naylyn and Declan lying in the grass

Theo making silly face

Patrick eating watermelon

Ashley holding Jude

Lucy blowing bubbles

Declan in the shrubs Jude and Milo in paint

Ashley and Sawyer with bubble gum

Jude in a diaper

Nate and Kelsey

IMG_9192 Naylyn in the vineyard

Milo in a blanket

Sawyer blowing bubbles in the grass

Jude in paint

Milo pinches Sam's nose

The stealthy pinch

Jude and Milo in the vineyard

Naylyn making a silly face

Milo in a tree Zack and Brooke play soccer

Sawyer in the bubble bath

Milo

Theo with a lightning bug

Jude in the bubble bath Sawyer eating watermelon

Naylyn wearing sunglasses

Milo sleeping in the chair

Sawyer and Naylyn running through vineyard

Sam holding Jude

Naylyn

Jude and Milo on the chair Ninja Sawyer

 

So long, summer. And what a wonderful summer it was.

Declan and Naylyn in the vineyard

 

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Mixtape Monday: Songs of summer ’14

Most of the music I listened to this summer was in my sister’s van. Driving around, listening to the satellite radio. Or sitting in the way way back next to Sawyer, because anytime we would go anywhere, he’d bat his eyes at me and say, “Whitney, I want you to sit by me. Can you sit by me?” And then I’d finagle my way back there and squeeze in next to his car seat and that’s the story of how I watched Frozen 147 times in three months.

Though, more than Frozen, the most-watched movie of the summer for us was Rio, which is quite possibly my favorite animated movie. The animation is good, but the sounds – the voices and the music – make the movie what it is. Plus it’s got a special place in my heart because my nephew Jude walks around going, “Reeee-oh! Reeee-oh! All by. All by.”

We were once in the car, just Ashley and me, and heard “You know what to do with that big fat butt! Wiggle wiggle wiggle.” And I don’t remember the last time we laughed so hard about a song. Maybe it was that time when she and I were driving around after my grandpa’s funeral listening to “My Band” by D12 and Ashley sang “please, won’t you please let me suck your cock” in front of my mom. None of us has ever been the same.

So we drove home after running our errands, I clutching onto the bag of Chipotle that would feed our whole family, both of us laughing and snorting. Talking about how ridiculous it would be to write or pitch or produce this song, and how impressive it is that it was executed with any seriousness at all.

Another time we were driving around and I wanted to look at the face of Sam Smith, who I was sure was a handsome black man with muscles for days and good taste in shoes. So I was surprised when I found a photo of him, and he turned out to look nothing like my mind’s image of him.

“You want me to show you?” I asked her, because she went so long without knowing what Bruno Mars looked like that she stopped wanting to know after a while. We both agreed he was more Boy George and less John Legend than either of us expected, but, good song nonetheless.

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Love doesn’t hurt

So much of the media coverage the past several days has been centered around Ray Rice and the details of his domestic violence case. About how they’re married now, or that his wife dropped the charges. I’ve seen a lot of talk about how smoking weed can earn a player a one-year suspension, but Ray Rice’s original suspension was only two games. So many people are talking about this, but so little is being said.

We need to instead discuss the right things, which is that this man hit his then fiancee so hard, she actually fell unconscious. Any other circumstances about the incident are irrelevant. I’ve heard people mention that she was spitting at him, that the attack was provoked, and that is not an excuse. There is NEVER a reason for a man to hit a woman that way.

For the most part, I know little about this situation: the complexities of their relationship, the character of Ray Rice. I hadn’t even known that the second part of the video (where he removes her body from the elevator after she is unconscious) had been circulating around the Internet since February.

The latest in this saga is that the NFL commissioner has come under scrutiny for denying having ever seen the video footage of Rice crash-landing his fist into Janay Palmer’s head. Whether or not he is lying about that is irrelevant to my point, which is that he saw the other part of the video and did nothing. In fact, what most people assumed when viewing this video out of context, is that she had too much too drink and had passed out in the elevator. And so for seven months Janay lived alone with this, and Ray Rice went about his usual life.

The problem I’m seeing here is that I know what it looks when a man tends to a drunk woman, and I know what it doesn’t look like. We all know, and yet everyone who saw this video ignored the glaring warning signs of what was really going on.

More sickening to me than the punch itself is the way he dragged her seemingly lifeless body from the elevator with such nonchalance for her well-being. Had this been a one-time act of violence, an angry lashing out, he would have reacted differently. He’d have been shocked by his own behavior. He’d have knelt down by her side to check on her. He’d have called her name, yelled for help. And when it came time to move her, he would have done so in a way that didn’t appear that she was nothing to him but an embarrassing inconvenience. He didn’t cradle her in his arms, or stay with her in the elevator until she came around. No, he hurriedly dragged her body, haphazardly, clumsily, until finally growing too frustrated to continue. And he left her there, splayed out on a tile floor in a compromising, undignified position.

Regardless of whether NFL commissioner Roger Goodell is being honest in his statement that he hadn’t seen the video of Ray Rice physically beating Janay Palmer, he admitted to having seen Rice drag Palmer from the elevator and didn’t feel compelled to act. In my opinion, he, we all missed the mark. Every person who viewed that video, assessed the situation, and did nothing.

Three women die every day as a result of domestic violence. THREE WOMEN DIE EVERY DAY AS A RESULT OF DOMESTIC VIOLENCE. This number is shocking, and that’s only the women who die. One in four women will experience domestic violence in their lifetimes, and this violence is beyond the physical assaults and rapes by domestic partners, it’s also psychological, economical. It’s about asserting control, showing dominance, belittling their victims so that these women come to believe they deserve it. Domestic violence is a silent oppression that often lands women in situations where they’re socially isolated, estranged from their families and have fewer social and financial resources than other women. I could go on and on about the statistics, because they’re out there, and they’re shocking. But the issue we need to be focusing on is how domestic violence spans beyond the physical hitting. Sometimes abuse doesn’t look like a knockout punch in an elevator. Sometimes it looks like a man making careless attempts at springing his fiancee’s unconscious body from an elevator, only to leave her on a dirty floor, cold and alone and requiring medical attention. And it’s our responsibility, everyone’s responsibility, to recognize it and to never, ever stand for it.

 

If someone is hurting you, don’t be ashamed, don’t stay a victim. You are worthy, you are loved, you are important and you are not alone. It’s okay to ask for help. http://www.thehotline.org/

 

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