Miss Me With The ‘Lose That Quarantine Weight’ Bullsh*t

Listen, I’m going to get right into it: the year of 2020 can go down in the books for many of us as being the absolute worst of all the years. For some reason, we thought it was going to be litty titty, our best year yet, and we would finally get a span of 365 days where we’d feel whole, get rid of toxic shit in our lives, and put ourselves first.

None of that happened. Not even a little bit. We didn’t even get the year off the ground before our entire lives were changed and we had to adjust in ways we never thought we would. 

As parents, we are teaching our kids and working from home. We are disinfecting everything, masking up, and not able to see loved ones during the holidays. Nothing feels normal or right, and there’s nothing we can do about it.

To say it’s been a struggle is an understatement. To say we all need comfort however we can find it is obvious. And to criticize ourselves for putting on weight during a global pandemic is sickening.

Think about it: we’ve all had a lot taken away from us, and the one thing we’ve been able to do is cook, bake, and eat with our immediate families. We don’t need to punish ourselves for it, and we absolutely don’t need anyone trying to tell us the thing to do to lose the quarantine weight.

Of all the years, this isn’t the time to @ anyone with your crap about losing the fluffiness they’ve put on.

Don’t slide into people’s DMs and try to sell your weight loss supplements.

Keep your fucking MLM bullshit to yourself and don’t use this year as an excuse to build your brand, feed off of anyone feeling bad about their size, and sell more weight loss tea along with all the other fuckery that can dupe people into thinking they need to look a certain way.

There are people who have gained weight in 2020 and literally don’t care.

There are people who have lost weight and feel amazing because they finally had time to exercise and meal plan like they’ve always wanted to.

There are people who have run their first 5k.

There are people who haven’t worked out since March because they don’t want to go to a gym.

And guess what? In the grand scheme of things, none of this shit matters, so long as you are doing what feels right to you.

We have all lost enough this year; weight doesn’t need to be thrown into the mix.

We have all had a lot of comforts taken away from us like job security, seeing our people, sending kids to school full time, and being able to go to a concert or party. 

Some have cancelled their wedding or postponed a funeral.

Do we really need to take something else away from ourselves?


What we need to do is not look at a weight loss ad or read a message from someone we went to high school with about a weight loss supplement, and feel less than.

We need to enjoy ourselves. Maybe that looks like making a pie and digging in with a spoon by ourselves after the kids go to bed, or maybe that looks like starting to walk every day.

We need to recognize that we are all managing our stress the best way we can, we are home more, and there are a lot less options out there to keep us occupied. Eating is fun. It’s nostalgic. It’s comforting, and the tastes and smells can take us to places we haven’t been in a long time.

To take a shitty year and be targeted for gaining weight is only doing us a disservice.

Instead, we need to stand tall and realize our bodies are amazing as they are. I mean, look at what they’ve gotten us through. How many times did you think you weren’t going to make it through this year? But look — you’re doing it.

I know for me, the only way I’ve been able to keep my mood up is by baking with my kids. First it was bread, then it was brownies, then it was going out for ice cream every day we could this summer. It fed our souls, and it kept me from going to a bad place many times.

2020 has robbed us of a lot. I’ll be damned if it’s going to rob me of my melty grilled cheese sandwiches and the opportunity to eat a brownie over the sink when I need a pick-me-up. I’m not giving that up for anyone’s weight loss teas that taste like dirt and emptiness … nor am I going to feel like gaining weight during a really fucking stressful time is something to be corrected.

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Scotland Is The First Country To Make Period Products Free —This Should Become The Norm Everywhere

Scotland announced it will offer free period products to its population, and like a true idealist, I’m wondering when other countries will do the same. Since the United States struggles to distribute basic human needs like clean water, food, and health care to people who are struggling, I’m not holding my breath for us. But period poverty is a reality that many folks have to deal with each month, and that is on top of the stigma of bleeding in the first place.

Everyone should have access to what they need, and that includes sanitary products. It’s one thing to be stuck for a minute without a tampon or pad if you’re caught off guard, but it’s another nightmare to have to go a whole cycle without something to contain the flow of menstruation. That’s a reality for folks who can’t afford period products.

Before you get worked up about people getting something for free, before you become worried about big business losing money, before you spread your patriarchal bullshit—let me remind you that you probably get free shit all the time, whether you need it or not. Free Frisbee or t-shirt for filling out a survey? Two please! Free hot dog at the ballpark? Fuck yeah! Free lamp with a busted lampshade on the side of the road? It’s free, why not!?

We aren’t talking about people getting extra, or more than someone else. Just like people struggle to keep the heat on in their home, put food on the table, or pay their rent, some people can’t afford to buy sanitary products each month. There are programs set up to help folks make ends meet, and this is just another program to help folks live with fewer struggles. It’s not like tampons or pads or reusable cups are glamorous gifts to brag about; they are necessary for a person to be able to confidently and safely leave the house in order to work or go to school.

In case you were wondered about the logistics of an operation like this, here’s how Scotland is going to handle distributing period products: Schools and universities are now required to offer free period products in all bathrooms. (I hope they are offered in bathrooms of all genders because transgender men and nonbinary folks bleed too.) The Scottish government will make it mandatory for other publicly funded places to offer free period products. And if anyone needs period products for any reason, the government will make sure they can get them for free. The Period Products Bill was passed unanimously by Parliament, which means male members endorsed the bill too. The new law will cost the country 24 million pounds, which is about 32 million dollars.

Reproductive rights are often up for debate, specifically when lawmakers try to regulate a person’s uterus. Birth control, abortion, and menstruation are often viewed as women’s issues, but not all women have vaginas and typical female sex organs. Also, transgender men and nonbinary people need to be included in these conversations, because we are also impacted by what our bodies experience in terms of body parts that can achieve pregnancy or shed blood each month. The common theme in regulating reproductive rights, however, is that cisgender men are often the ones making the rules. It’s more than frustrating to be told what I can do with my body and what tools I should have access to by people who never experience the thing they are making decisions about. No uterus means no opinion that doesn’t support the needs of a uterus.

Having a uterus is more expensive than not. One study found that a woman will spend $6,360 on menstrual products during her reproductive lifetime, or about $13.25 per month between the ages of 12 and 52. This amount doesn’t factor in the cost of what the uterus does to our bodies. I have had cramps and headaches that have caused me to miss work and school. I have had hormonal mood swings that required medication to pull me out of depression and suicidal thoughts. I have had to throw away clothes and sheets because of blood stains. Some folks struggle with endometriosis, ovarian cysts, and endometrial and ovarian cancer. Not only are treatments painful, expensive, and time consuming, but they could impact a person’s fertility. The need for fertility intervention to achieve pregnancy isn’t cheap and is far from pleasant. And while not nearly as significant, the reality of period related cravings can add up too.

Folks aren’t asking for people to buy them new underwear, to cover the cost of a day’s loss of work, or for a stash of chocolate—though that would be nice—but people should have the right to free tampons so they can afford all of the other bullshit that comes with menstruation. Also, if this is strictly a women’s issue, then covering the cost of “women’s” products would help out with the whole women-getting-paid-less issue. Gender equality can’t happen without some equity, and if a bleeder can’t get to work or school because they don’t have the proper protection, then there is little room for fairness.

Free condoms and dental dams are easily accessed in clinics and doctor’s offices, and yet one could argue that a person doesn’t need those things. Just don’t have sex. Easy peasy. Oh? You think you should be able to have the sex whenever you want? Or maybe you think you should be able to protect yourself or others from STIs and pregnancy but can’t afford prophylactics. Bummer. Good thing there are plenty of places for you to find free rubbers and other forms of protection.

Short of removing my uterus—which isn’t usually something that would be covered by insurance unless medically necessary, and even then, good luck—I can’t control the shedding of my uterus each month and neither can half of the population. For the people who can afford to pay for period products, they likely will continue to do so. But for the others who are burdened every month by the cost of bleeding, the least a government can do is make sure they have what they need so they can get through the day without the stress of bleeding money too.

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My Stepdad Thought It Was A Hoax, My Mother Didn’t — And He Gave Her COVID

My mother and stepfather have always been conservative Republicans. But once Trump started his campaign in 2016, my stepfather got on board. Really on board. My mother, well… she was always so/so with Trump. But over the past four years, my step dad has gone further and further into Trumpism, while my mother has stayed where she was to begin with, a conservative.

At the beginning of 2016, this didn’t sound like all that big of a divide. But by 2020, it has started to feel like they are both living in two different countries, and that divide became particularly apparent in March, as the U.S. began shutting down due to COVID-19.

Both of them are in their mid to late 60s, and my mother has a heart condition. Both are retired, but as my mother stayed home, my stepdad went about his business, mask free — going out for coffee each day, or to meet with friends, or to go shooting, or golfing, or whatever. According to my stepdad, in early 2020 it was all a hoax, then it was an overreaction, and finally, it was not any worse than the flu, and the COVID death count was a huge over-calculation.

All the while, my mother argued with him to stay home so he didn’t bring COVID home to her. And when I say “argued,” I have to admit, my mother isn’t one to plead with someone. She’s the kind of woman to yell, and I have no doubt that their neighbors could easily have heard their COVID arguments — her asking him to stay home and stay safe, while he shouted back that she was caught up in fake news.

You might have predicted from the title of this article that in late November, just before Thanksgiving, it happened. My stepdad got COVID. Who knows exactly where it came from? It could have been from the shooting range, or the lowbrow café where he gets coffee most days, or perhaps the hardware store. And who knows how long he had it, and how many places he went to before getting tested, and how many other people he infected along the way? What I do know for sure is that he gave it to my mother.

Johner Images/Getty

I don’t want to make a broad generalization about marriage, but let me tell you one thing I’ve learned: If your spouse tells you not to do something because something will happen, and you do it anyway, and that thing happens, well… that might be one of the greatest marital sins. Yes, she was livid with him. Beyond livid. They both got very sick, with fevers, and coughs, and pale skin — and considering their age, and my mother’s heart condition, the whole family lost a lot of sleep. They live in central Utah, where the pandemic is raging, and ICU beds are close to being rationed. There was a very real fear that if they did end up in the hospital, there might not be enough available medical staff to care for them effectively.

It would be wrong of me to not say that what my stepfather did was beyond selfish, because it was. But at the same time, I can’t put it all on him. I can’t help but also blame many other decisions he made over the past year on the deeply conservative media he ingests all day, every day, and the rhetoric of our president. I’ve known that man for almost 20 years, and he’s a good guy. He loves his family, and cares for his neighbors. In a lot of ways, he was a father to me when my father wasn’t.

This is the situation so many people are finding themselves in right here, and right now. We are faced with looking at family members who have been so twisted by Trumpism, and deeply conservative talk show hosts — pushing the narrative that this very deadly disease is a hoax, or no worse than the flu, or an overreaction, and trying to decide if they are still the same person they were before COVID. It’s putting family members at risk, while changing our opinions of friends and families who — up until 2020 — were genuinely good people. In fact, they might still be, but they are making bad decisions based on bad information, and in the situation of my mother and stepfather, it put their lives at risk and their marriage in jeopardy.

I am happy to report that both of my parents are on their way to making a full recovery after contracting COVID. I was chatting with a good friend about the situation, and he asked if I thought their diagnoses would change my stepdad’s opinions on COVID. After thinking about it for a moment, I had this realization: Unless one of them ends up in the hospital or worse, I doubt it. He will say, “I got it, and I got better, so obviously I was right to believe that it’s no worse than a cold.”

Frankly, having one or both of my parents in the hospital, or worse, because of COVID is not worth changing one man’s opinion. At least not to me. And the fact that it would take that level of severity for him to change his outlook on a disease that has killed hundreds of thousands of Americans in less than a year, gives me serious pause.

But when it comes to having conservative parents, sadly, I think a lot of Americans are looking at a very similar reality.

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A Letter To My Husband, As We Navigate Infertility

To my overly patient and incredibly kind husband,

When I think of you, I think of my immense gratitude. I think of what my life looked like before, and how beautiful it is now. Not because it’s perfect, or because we have everything we could want, but because I get to share it with you. Honestly, this season has felt really difficult for so many reasons, but difficult together I can handle. It’s difficult apart that would be too hard to face.

When I think of our family, of our IVF miracle daughter and the other babies we’re still hoping to have, I think of you first and foremost. I think of the ways that we’ve come together. The things we’ve gone through to get to this point, and the things still ahead on our path. I think about the ways in which my heart can’t make up for the things my body has fallen short on, and the silent frustrations you’ve been forced to carry. I think about the passionate, fierce advocate you are for all things silenced and stigmatized — first, mental health, suicide awareness and prevention, and now infertility and fatherhood too — and I feel a lump in the back of my throat. How did I get so lucky to find a partner so encouraging, so compassionate, so faithful, so strong?

Courtesy of Amanda Osowski

I know that when we first met, we talked about wanting babies from the very beginning of our relationship. We’d stay up late at night, dreaming about becoming parents. We talked about all of the things we wanted for our littles, like siblings and support and community. We talked about how living with an autoimmune disease might mean something about if or how or how many times I could carry a baby, and we agreed that we’d find a way to make it work. That we were open to any of the avenues that built a family, as long as I could be Mama and you could be Dada.

When we started trying to get pregnant before, we were optimistic and hopeful. We naively thought that it would be fun and games, an increase in intimacy and a joyful route to our littles. I’m continually and forever sorry that wasn’t our story.

I am sorry that our route to parenthood meant you were asked to literally jizz into a cup, several times, for analysis and then for procedures. I am sorry that at those appointments, you were only offered “sexy” magazines or whatever you could find on your phone for inspiration, and that I was not able to be in the room with you, to support you or make the experience even slightly less awkward. I am sorry that you then had to watch me go through test after test, injection after injection, and procedure after procedure — for a long time with no success. I am sorry that making a baby was so much harder than we ever imagined it would be, that it was expensive and exhausting and scientific and not in any way romantic or enjoyable. I’m sorry that time isn’t our on side, and that luck isn’t either.

Courtesy of Amanda Osowski

But I also want to thank you, from the bottom of my heart.

Thank you, for riding every aspect of the highs and lows with me. Thank you, for cheering when my scans noted additional follicles, and my hormone levels rose accordingly. Thank you, for sharing your grief, and mine throughout the whole process. Thank you, for fervently celebrating when we finally found success, and for being the best parent to our little girl. Thank you, for not seeming to be disappointed, frustrated or angry that a BOGO baby wasn’t in the cards for us, even though we desperately had hoped for one. Thank you, for knowing that my patience and persistence is sometimes equally matched by doubt and discouragement, and for holding my hand through each season and “adventure” of this journey we’re on. Thank you, for sitting with me and my sadness, that not one single thing could feel easy for us as we started again to try to grow our family. Thank you, for letting me share with the world the hard and intimate details of our marriage, our relationship, and the things that we’ve experienced. Thank you, for believing and supporting that our story could help others, and that I too could help others in the process. Thank you, for your unequivocal and unending love, encouragement, strength and persistence.

When we took our wedding vows, we talked very seriously about how marriage was choosing each other every single day, not just at the altar in front of our friends and family, and not just in that beautiful white dress I wore while we were standing in the sand. That choose each other attitude is what has gotten us through every rollercoaster we’ve faced in the last several years, including infertility (both before, and again) and I’m honestly really proud of it, and of us.

I believe that forever is for real, and that we will make it there because we have and will continue to choose each other over everything.

I am eternally lucky for you, my partner, my best friend, my person.

Thank you for fervently believing in our family — both the pieces that do and do not exist yet.



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You’re Getting Coal In Your Stocking This Year, You Selfish Jerks

I don’t know about you all but I’m feeling all sorts of ragey lately.

And I’m sure a lot of other writers might skirt around this, but ya know what? Screw it. I’m just gonna come out and say it. I’m that ragey.

Ragey because we are quickly nearing 200,000 new cases a DAY in this country and people I know are getting put on ventilators. Meanwhile, I often go into full-on panic mode because I can’t keep this from imploding into a massive dumpster fire. You know, because it takes ALL of us to put the flames out.

Ragey because my family—and many other military families—might not get to go home for Christmas this year because people won’t just cool their jets for five seconds, wear a mask, and stop throwing freakin’ high school homecoming parties.

Ragey because our current elected government officials aren’t doing their damn jobs. They aren’t doing diddly squat to try and get our hospitals and doctors and overloaded health care systems more PPE and resources to fight COVID, nothing to make testing more streamlined, accessible, and efficient, zilch to help keep small businesses open, or even huge companies from laying off or furloughing thousands more employees.

If You're Feeling Ragey AF Right Now, You Are Not Alone
Courtesy of Emily Solberg

This isn’t about politics—I honestly don’t care what party you support, BOTH sides are complicit—this is about Americans who are currently homeless, jobless, and hungry, and NEED HELP NOW.

Ragey because rather than come together and figure out bipartisan solutions to all of this, we would rather just point fingers and squabble over ships that have already sailed and milk that has already been spilled.

Ragey because I can’t even pick up a newspaper anymore because I am so disgusted and appalled by the headlines.

Ragey because some people would rather believe that scientists, scholars, economists, doctors, statisticians, historians, and journalists must have been spending their entire lives trying to deceive them, rather than accept the truth.

Ragey, and also helpless and despondent, because I tried to make my voice heard, and I honestly feel like it fell on deaf ears.

Doesn’t anyone care about anyone else anymore?

Is that what we’ve come to? A nation of self-serving, apathetic, squabbling children?

Get your sh*t together, America.

It’s looking like coal in your stocking this year.

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I Finally Understand Why My Mom Was Always The Last One Out Of The House

I used to wonder why my mom was always the last one out of the house.

I thought for a while it was because she took the longest to get ready.

I figured she sometimes waited until the last minute.

I had the suspicion she didn’t want to go out in public without her hair done or lip liner on, even though I couldn’t imagine why a mom would care so much, really.

I only recently figured out the answer, having become a mom myself.

Because while the rest of us waited outside, all bundled up in the scarves and jackets and hats she had pulled from storage, or smothered in sunscreen she had smeared on our faces while we clutched the flip-flops and swimsuits she had doled out, and rolled our eyes about how long she was taking—

Mom was filling thermoses with hot chocolate,

I Finally Understand Why My Mom Was Always The Last One Out Of The House
Courtesy of Emily Solberg

and packing picnic lunches,

and making sure the bathroom light was off,

and refilling the dog’s water bowl,

and grabbing a spare change of clothes for us just in case,

and searching through the junk drawer for a coupon,

and taking a hot minute to use the bathroom by herself for a change,

and yes, maybe dabbing on a bit of lipstick.

And whenever she did finally appear, pulling on her jacket as she locked the front door, she was always met with an exasperated,

“Come OOOONNN, Mom!”

To which she would respond by shooting daggers from her eyes.

For the longest time, I didn’t get it. She had started at the same time we did!

Then I became a mom.

And it finally dawned on me that my mom wasn’t the last one out because she was lazy or disorganized or slow or overly concerned about her appearance . . .

It was because she took care of absolutely everyone and everything else before she took care of herself.

And that’s just what moms do.

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Dear Anti-Vaxxers: Stop Harassing (And Bombarding) Grieving Mothers

Unless you follow Bachelor Nation pretty closely, you may not know who Ashley Spivey is. She was a contestant on the show nearly 10 years ago now, eliminated by the 5th episode (meaning she was never a big player on her season). In recent years, however, Spivey has made a name for herself as an outspoken commentator on the show, even joining up with Reality Steve to host a weekly podcast.

Just this last week, Spivey’s followers cried alongside her when she announced that her baby CJ, whom she had been carrying for 30 weeks, had been stillborn, his cord wrapped around his neck.

It was the kind of news that deserved only compassion and love. But instead, Spivey later revealed on Twitter that she had been bombarded with messages from anti-vaxxers telling her the flu vaccine she had gotten a week before had been to blame for the death of her baby.

We “tried to warn you,” one said, referencing the attacks Spivey had received when she spoke out about getting the vaccine in the first place.

Forget that the Centers For Disease Control (CDC) advocates for pregnant people to get the flu vaccine in order to protect their unborn babies. Or that there is a wealth of data supporting the safety of receiving the flu vaccine during pregnancy. Let’s pretend we don’t know that contracting the flu poses unnecessary risks to both the pregnant person and their unborn baby (we do, and it does), or that it would even be possible for a vaccine to cause the cord to wrap around a baby’s neck (it absolutely wouldn’t be—the logistics of that don’t even make sense.)

What’s really disgusting here is that anyone would think targeting a grieving mother with “told you so” messages might be an appropriate response to an announcement of loss.

It’s disgusting, but not totally surprising. In fact, I’ve dealt with something similar myself.

Nearly four years ago now, my then 4-year-old daughter began experiencing a host of scary symptoms that landed us in and out of the hospital for months, eventually resulting in a diagnosis of Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis (JIA).

JIA is an autoimmune condition that causes my daughter’s immune system to attack her joints. Left untreated, it can result in paralysis and extreme, ongoing pain. By the time my daughter was diagnosed, she couldn’t use her right hand at all, and she frequently had trouble with simple tasks such as walking up and down stairs.

Thankfully, with treatment (a weekly shot of a chemo medication meant to suppress her immune system), my daughter was back to herself within just a few months of diagnosis; running, jumping, playing and behaving like the 4-year-old child she was.

Of course, I struggled initially. It’s never easy to learn your child is going to face a lifetime of illness and health battles. I don’t know a single JIA parent who wouldn’t happily take on all the pain, trauma and tears that accompany this disease for their child if they could. I had to go through a grieving process of my own, reconciling my former hopes for my daughter’s future with this new reality.

Reminding myself, over and over again, that yes, this disease would make her life harder—but it wouldn’t keep her from living the life she deserves.

So you can imagine my frustration (hell, let’s go ahead and call it what it was: rage) when anti-vaxxers started reaching out to me to blame vaccinations for my daughter’s condition. They did it under the same guise as some of those who reached out to Spivey, pretending to simply care and wanting me to join their cause in warning other families not to vaccinate their children.

They were preying on my grief, hoping it would convince me of the evil nature of vaccines.

Unfortunately, they underestimated my ability to discern facts from fiction. Or my willingness to dig deep into science and research for the answers I was looking for.

What they didn’t know was that it had been almost a year since my daughter had received a vaccination when she first began exhibiting symptoms. What they couldn’t have known, but also never bothered to considered, was that it turned out my daughter (who is adopted) had a long family history of what seemed likely, upon further inspection, to be autoimmune joint issues.

And what they always seem to want to forget is that autoimmune diseases can be triggered by many of the illnesses vaccinations actually protect against. In fact, any bout of illness can trigger an autoimmune condition to someone who already has the genetic makeup for developing one. In my daughter’s case, she had a strange (unidentified) viral infection shortly before her symptoms developed. And every time she has gotten any illness since, she’s experienced a flare in her condition.

There is no doubt in my mind that even if my daughter had never been vaccinated, she would have eventually been diagnosed with JIA.

Of course, facts don’t matter to this crowd. They are so convinced of their own stance that any science, data, or logical explanation of the truth goes ignored by this group of vultures so eager to leap on the stories of tragedy shared by strangers on the internet, claiming those stories as proof of their own beliefs.

There are so many problems with this, it shouldn’t even have to be explained. These people don’t have medical degrees. They’ve exhibited a blatant lack of understanding of the science at hand. And they have no insight into the medical backgrounds of those they are diagnosing themselves as being vaccine injured.

For the record, this is one reason to look critically at any and all claims of vaccine injury. Because anyone can make those claims without proof or science to back them up.

In fact, that’s exactly what happened when I refused to join their cause, knowing my daughter’s history for myself and fully understanding vaccines had nothing to do with her condition.

These people then started flooding comments sections and sharing my daughter’s story themselves, using her as the example of vaccine injury she absolutely is not. To this day, that still happens. Just a few weeks ago, someone called my daughter vaccine-injured online, simultaneously shaming me for encouraging people to get the flu vaccine this year (as though my goal were somehow to harm as many children as I could, an evil villain wanting others to suffer as we have.)

“Read the inserts!” they scream, not bothering (or lacking the critical thinking skills) to understand the context of those inserts, instead just latching onto the scary words and holding them up to drive fear in anyone who will listen.

This is how these people work—pushing false narratives and unjustified panic to get others to join their cause.

And the thing is, to an extent I understand how they get there. Many anti-vaxxers have faced loss or the illness of a child themselves, and they’ve grasped desperately at straws for something to blame.

I get that. I get wanting to know what caused the tragedy in your life. Wanting something to blame.

But the data simply doesn’t support that desire in this case. And it definitely doesn’t support trying to push those beliefs on grieving parents, counting on them being at such a low that they just might join you and allow you to use their children as proof that you’ve been right all along.

Nothing about that is okay. And if you need the reasons why explained to you, you may be too far gone to be helped.

But for the record: It’s harassment. And it’s gross. And if harassing grieving parents is the only way you know to prove your point, it’s clear to everyone but you that you really don’t have a point at all.

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My Autistic Teenager Got His First Job, And My Heart Is About To Burst

For almost two years now, my son Jack has wanted a job. He wanted to work.

I still don’t know why he chose the place he did—a local pasta restaurant in the center of town.

He went online to their website and researched the requirements.

Carefully, he printed out the application. He sat at the kitchen counter and answered the questions about his age, birthdate, and previous experience.

He asked if he was a U.S. citizen. I assured him he was.

They hired him.

For over a year, he has washed dishes from 4:30 – 6:30 every Tuesday afternoon.

He wears a t-shirt emblazoned with the company name and logo, Table 8 Pasta.

This probably seems pretty simple. A teenager wanted a job. He filled out an application. They hired him. They gave him a t-shirt, and every week he showed up to work.

Except he isn’t an ordinary teenager.

He is a teenager with autism.

He has very little working memory, and crushing anxiety, and a tendency to, uh, obsess about certain topics.

He doesn’t read social cues.

My Autistic Teenager Got His First Job, And I Have All The Feels
Courtesy of Carrie Cariello

He doesn’t like a busy environment, or people bustling around, or the sound of the phone ringing.

The concept of money is nearly meaningless to him, and he has no restaurant experience.

Still, he wanted to work.

He applied.

It took him four tries, two pencils, and a lengthy explanation of U.S. citizenship to get the application right.

We drove into town, and dropped it off to a young girl standing behind the counter.

He waited.

He worried, because that’s what my boy does.

He worried they may never call and they would never hire him.

He worried he made a mistake on the paperwork.

They called.

They hired him.

The owner called and said they didn’t have a lot of experience with people who have autism, but they were more than willing to give it a try, and see how it goes.

He washes dishes.

He wakes up at 6:00 am every Tuesday and puts on his t-shirt. He wears it to school. When he gets home he reminds me he has to go to work and he will not be home for dinner.

Many times, he reminds me.

I drive him, because Jack driving a car is a little out of the question right now.

I drive him, and if I’m not ready to go by 4:02, he gets a little, uh, antsy, even though it’s only a 7-minute ride. He starts to pace. He goes into the mudroom and finds my shoes.

He wants to work.

He wants to wear a shirt that matches what everyone else wears, because there is no other instance where he is connected to a group of people by something as ordinary as a piece of clothing.

This week was just like every other week.

Monday night, he laid out his shirt before bed.

The next morning he reminded me he had a shift after school.

At 4:02, he shifted and paced until I found my keys.

I dropped him off and watched my tall son walk through the doors.

This week was like every other week, except when I picked him up, he had something exciting to share.

“Mom. For me. A promotion.”

His face was lit up and his eyes were bright and he was smiling. My boy was smiling.

“Now I will make. The PASTA.”

He is a teenager with autism.

He has a job.

He got a promotion.

Now, he makes pasta.

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When A Transgender Person Introduces Themselves, Stop Asking Them These Questions

Whether you think you know a transgender person or not, you have seen headlines of celebrities coming out as transgender or supporting one of their children who have come out. Elliot Page is the most recent celebrity to highlight the news cycle for his brave announcement. His message comes with a lot of attention and questions; some from accidental ignorance, and some from purposeful hatred. Celebrities receive plenty of unwanted attention and that’s par for the course when you’re famous. But when Hollywood and queerness converge, the attention can go sideways. Coming out as transgender or announcing a project that will tell the story of a transgender person gets … exhausting.

Regarding actors playing transgender people: hire transgender actors. There are plenty of wonderful actors who happen to be trans, and they know this storyline better than anyone. Regarding actors coming out as transgender: show some respect by affirming who they are without challenging their identity. Trust that they know their story better than anyone else, specifically you. Of course Elliot Page is going to get attention after he decided to publicly share his personal journey, but don’t be a transphobic asshole about it. He’s famous and not immune to attention; but he is also human and not immune to the weight of bigotry.

Spoiler alert: You have likely met a transgender person and didn’t realize it. Hi, my name is Amber. I’m a nonbinary, transgender person. I use they/them pronouns. We just “met,” and I and any other transgender person who decides they want to publicly announce their transition in name, pronouns, or any other way that expresses their true self expect respect. Kindness and acceptance would be nice, but a general sense of you making an effort to not make my life extra hard would be good too. Let me help you do this.

I totally understand that you have questions about what it means to be transgender. And I also understand you are in that sticky place between wanting to learn and not knowing how. It would seem easy to go directly to the transgender person who just bared their raw and fragile soul to you, but that is probably the last place you should look for answers.

There are so many reasons why being transgender feels crushing on some days, but the need to constantly explain ourselves or defend who we are is what weighs me down. Google is a great teacher. You will find a plethora of science and experienced-based articles, books, movies, and documentaries about and by transgender people. We really do want to give you all of the tools you need to be more knowledgeable and a better ally. However you need to do this work mostly on your own and ideally it should be done before you “officially” know a trans person. I get it. We are like magical and wonderful unicorns to you and it’s exciting to finally get to say you found one of us, but we will not grace you with our powers if you don’t get your allyship together.

Because I am in a giving mode, here are answers to a few questions I see most frequently when a person announces their transition. I don’t speak for all transgender people, but unless you are transgender, you don’t get to contradict me. Sorry, these are the rules.

How do I refer to a transgender person when talking about their past?

There are journalistic rules about this and personal preference, but the bottom line is this: use a person’s current name and pronouns to refer to them in the past, present, and future unless they tell you otherwise. This is not up for debate nor is our gender identity. Transition is different for every trans person, but as I would say in the classes I teach: Ellen didn’t become Elliot, Elliot was always there and is now ready to be seen. This is why Wikipedia, Netflix, and other media outlets are adjusting credits to reflect Elliot’s name on their work. It was always Elliot.

So are they straight or gay now?

I don’t know and it’s not any of your business. Sexual orientation is different than gender identity, and how one decides to label themselves is a privilege to know and not a right. Also, our sexuality is fluid, so don’t get stuck on needing to carve a term in stone in order for you to process your feelings about someone else’s. It’s not about you. Regarding Page, they referred to themselves as queer and their wife seems pretty damn supportive. Be happy for them and focus on your own relationships.

But it’s just so hard, how am I supposed to remember their new name and pronouns?

Have you people never had a friend get married and change their name? Do you not have friends with nicknames within different groups of people? Do you not apologize to someone when you get their dog’s gender wrong at the dog park? Have you not had a cat you named Chuck to later realize Chuck was pregnant with a litter of kittens? You sure as fuck changed those pronouns in a hurry when you realized Chuck was about to be a mama.

It’s really not hard to get someone’s name and pronouns correct. It may take practice and making a few mistakes, but addressing someone how they want isn’t complicated it’s just new. Netflix, smartphones, and air fryers were new too and ya’ll figured that shit out.

When you refer to someone by their birth name or pre-transition name after they have provided their chosen name, you are deadnaming them and invalidating their existence. It’s interesting to me how worked up someone named Melissa can get when you call them Missy, yet she she can’t make the mental switch from Ellen to Elliot and is hurt when people point out that she keeps fucking it up.

Cisgender people’s opinions on who trans people are and how we want and should be addressed are either affirming or transphobic—there is not a middle ground here. Comments like “I respect you, but…” or “You do you, but…” are unacceptable. Keep your trash thoughts to yourself or make us a cake and say our correct pronouns and new name until your voice is gone.

Now go tell a transgender person you love and support them — without question.

The post When A Transgender Person Introduces Themselves, Stop Asking Them These Questions appeared first on Scary Mommy.

I’m The Vulnerable One Staying Home During The Pandemic Holiday Season

“What are your plans for Christmas?” a friend asks me during a texting convo. “Same thing I did for Thanksgiving,” I reply. “Hang out at home with my family.” When you’re among the vulnerable population in the midst of a global pandemic like I am, your world has been turned upside down and inside out in every possible way—including your traditional holiday festivities.

While seemingly everyone else is making their lists, checking them twice, and planning to travel or host for the holidays, we are remaining in lockdown. There’s probably a better term for it, but when you’ve been working and helping kids learn from home since March, it feels like lockdown. Despite my slight—no, major—obsession with all-things-Christmas, this autoimmune warrior and her family will be staying in.

Yes, we’ve made plans for the month that are COVID-safe and still fun. I’m not letting this virus completely ruin my holiday. However, it’s impossible not to feel blue over the fact that for the first time in thirty-eight years, I will not be spending Christmas with my parents and siblings. I won’t be cuddling my three adorable nephews, decorating sugar cookies alongside my younger brother and sister, or placing carefully wrapped packages into my parents’ hands.

The reality is, the pandemic will rage on, December 25th and every other day of the month. I’ve been warned by my specialists to be “very careful.” Their medically-sound advice has only intensified over the past month, as families gathered around Thanksgiving tables to share pieces of pie and germs. Meanwhile, we stayed home and made a “fancy” (for us) dinner, serving it on our wedding china. The few hours of extended family togetherness isn’t worth the risk of getting sick, which for me can be even more complicated.

I have a long medical history. It started with contracting a stomach virus over Thanksgiving break during my last year of college. For a year and a half after, I dealt with increasingly concerning symptoms: weight loss, fatigue, weakness, depression, constant thirst and hunger, and blurry eyesight. One day I couldn’t stay awake, even though it was only ten in the morning, and my husband, who couldn’t reach me by phone, rushed home from work and took me to the emergency room. Despite visiting the doctor over fifteen times since the virus onset, I was never properly diagnosed. When the ER doctor told me I had type 1 diabetes, I was shocked.

In the days that followed, I was told by my ICU doctors and nurses that I was “very lucky” to be alive. People with my blood sugar levels were on death’s door. They were perplexed how my body managed to survive without proper insulin for so long. I learned to calculate carbohydrates, test my blood sugar, and inject insulin.

Type 1 diabetes is a tricky beast. Many pieces have to work together at all times in order for me to stay healthy. Though modern day technology has been my saving grace, it only takes one clogged up insulin pump set, one insulin miscalculation, or a minor virus, to send me to straight to the emergency room. Yep, this includes COVID-19.

I wish type 1 diabetes were my only battle, but I’m also a breast cancer survivor, battling cancer when I was thirty-five years old. Three years later, I was diagnosed with lupus, a second autoimmune disease. If you look at me, I appear young and healthy, an active mom of four kids. Yet every single day, my body works hard to stay healthy and alive. Diseases like mine are often called invisible illnesses, because they aren’t evident upon a first glance. My diseases are also considered chronic, as in, ongoing.

No essential oils, vitamins, hot yoga, cupping, or medication can make these diseases go away, nor can medications, therapies, or surgeries. Autoimmune diseases are complicated and relentless, and therefore, require constant management and monitoring. The goal is to stay as steady as possible, keeping the diseases in check with medical interventions, lifestyle choices, and natural assistance.

When COVID-19 hit, the diabetic community was rocked. We worried there would be insulin shortages. Then my lupus community was also freaking out, because the president decided to take anti-malarial drugs, one of which is necessary for lupus patients to stay healthy, even though this coronavirus prevention method was unproven. Pharmacies and medical offices began facing demands from the general public for the pharmaceutical medication that many lupus patients depended on.

Even if a person like myself doesn’t have COVID-19, we live in constant fear of the virus, not knowing if our body will be able to handle its effects. We also worry about hospital accessibility. Will the hospital we head to, should we get sick, have room for us and be equipped to handle our complex medical needs?

I’ve heard so many people say this is “just” a virus, and I’m quick to speak up. It was “just” a virus that turned on my type 1 diabetes—a disease with no cure, a disease that requires 24/7/365 attention. Yes, someone can have a mild case of COVID-19. Others may have a more severe, or deadly case, and some might experience the long-term side effects reported in some patients. The possibilities are, unfortunately, endless and terrifying.

It’s hard for me to see the jolly family and friends gatherings on social media and not have a pity party. Why me? Why do I have to be the sick one, the one who bows out of the fun? Where is my merry and bright? I feel isolated, forgotten, and dehumanized. I also feel grateful to have a safe home to shelter-in-place, a supportive husband, and willing children.

Right now, for me, there’s no end in sight. I don’t know when it will be safe to be out and about again. The virus doesn’t just concern me as far as my physical health, but my mental and emotional health. The past almost-nine months have taken a serious toll on me as someone who was already vulnerable to the effects of typical winter illnesses. The COVID cases numbers in my county are raging, the hospitals are filling up, and it will only get increasingly worse as people celebrate the holidays with their nearest and dearest.

I’m working hard to create a very merry Christmas with my family. I’m still planning menus, rocking to our favorite Christmas playlists, wrapping (and shipping) gifts, and baking cookies with my kids. I ordered new pjs for myself to make absolutely sure I’m as cozy as possible on December 25. But nothing can make up for the fact that I am the sick one, and if I got the virus at a holiday event, could be even sicker.

The post I’m The Vulnerable One Staying Home During The Pandemic Holiday Season appeared first on Scary Mommy.