Archive for the ‘Events’ Category

The Duggars’ Greatest Crime

Saturday, May 23, 2015
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This is one of those times when I have more to say than I have words to express my emotions.

And yet, I will use this limited space to share the anger I’ve felt since first reading that Josh Duggar admitted to molesting young girls, including relatives, when he was a teenager.

I’ve never watched an episode of the Duggars’ television show, 19 Kids and Counting, and up until a couple of years ago, I didn’t know the name of even one Duggar kid.

I wasn’t so removed from popular culture that I wasn’t aware of the family who periodically appeared on the Today Show to announce another pregnancy, but I never gave them more thought than they seemed out of touch with reality.

I am the same age as Michelle,the matriarch of the family, and I remember thinking that she must have very low self-esteem to need to keep having babies to get attention.

Then, a couple of years ago I was so bored while waiting for a hair appointment that I picked up a magazine with the Duggars on the cover and read an article about them. I learned more about the family than I ever wanted to know. They aren’t just a really big family. They are a really big family that thinks women should be subservient to men. For example, they believe that a woman destroys a husband’s manliness if she is financially independent and should submit to him. Even worse, they teach their children that women must cover their bodies from head to toe so they don’t tempt men.

In other words, men can’t control themselves, so women are responsible for ensuring they don’t make unwanted sexual advances. The family even has a code word – Nike – that they use when a woman they consider to be scantily clad (which might mean she’s wearing shorts and a v-neck t-shirt) walks by. When the word is uttered, the males in the family are supposed to look down at their shoes so they don’t “see things they shouldn’t see.”

And now the oldest Duggar son has admitted he is guilty of incidents of sexual assault that were hidden from the public for years. During those same years, the Duggars’ media dynasty grew right along with the size of their family. During that same time, Josh’s victims heard the Duggars talk about how women need to cover up because men can’t control themselves

In other words, the victims not only had to endure the silence about Josh’s crimes but they had to listen to the Duggars perpetuate the myth that victims of a sexual assault did something to provoke their attacker.

While that is not be a criminal offense, it is a terrible, terrible crime.

Trina Bartlett lives with her husband, Giles Snyder, their teenage son and daughter, two cats and one enormous German Shepherd. When she’s not being a mom, volunteering, writing, biking or walking the giant German Shepherd, Trina works full time as a director at a nonprofit, social service organization.

The Mom, the Video and the Riots

Wednesday, April 29, 2015
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By now, I imagine most people have seen the video of the mother yanking her son out of the Baltimore riots.

Dressed in a bright yellow top, she apparently saw her teenager on television and tracked him down. The footage shows her smacking, grabbing and yelling at her son.

In my house, about 90 miles from downtown Baltimore, my own teenage son sits in his basement room surrounded by electronics while I sit upstairs trying to understand the crisis that prompted the mom’s angry response.

My first reaction after seeing the video online was, “What does a mom who hits and screams at her teenage son expect? Our kids model the behavior they see, and this teenagers’ mom obviously gets violent when she gets angry.”

I expected to hear the same concerns from others.

I didn’t.

When I saw the same footage on the national news the next morning, I was completely surprised that the mother’s behavior was praised – by television personalities, politicians and, most of all, other parents. I understood that she marched onto the scene with every intent of removing and reprimanding her son. What I didn’t understand was how no one else was concerned about how quickly she, like so many others in our society, too quickly resorted to violence to solve a problem.

I mentioned this to a colleague who remarked, “I would have done the same thing she did. If my son was in the middle of those riots, everyone would be calling me the angry mom who tried to smack some sense into her son.”

My co-worker was right to knock me off my judgmental high horse. I have no idea how I would have handled such a situation. I simply can’t imagine.

I am a white, middle-class woman living in the suburbs. I’ve never worried that my mild-mannered son would participate in an inner-city riot any more than I’ve worried that people will fear him based on the color of his skin and how he dresses.

I certainly don’t have the right to judge the decision of a scared mother in an extremely public and volatile situation.

But I do have the right to my opinion, and my opinion is that violence is NEVER the best way to resolve conflict no matter who you are or what position you hold.

Sometimes violence is an emotional reaction, sometimes it’s an expression of power and sometimes, in very, very rare situations, it is the only feasible response. But when there is violence, there is always pain, there is often loss, but there is never any peace.

And, as the brilliant Albert Einstein, who fled Germany in 1931 when Adolf Hitler took power, once said, “Peace cannot be kept by force; it can only be achieved by understanding.”

I can only hope we can learn from his wisdom. soon. No mom should have to watch her son riot on television just as no mom should have to attend the funeral of a son who died in police custody. There’s no easy answer, but there is  a place to start.

To me, that place is home.

 Trina Bartlett lives with her husband, Giles Snyder, their teenage son and daughter, two cats and one enormous German Shepherd. When she’s not being a mom, volunteering, writing, biking or walking the giant German Shepherd, Trina works full time as a director at a nonprofit, social service organization.

The Tooth Fairy

Tuesday, March 31, 2015
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There are some parental roles I never mastered.

Playing the Tooth Fairy is one.

I should have known it was going to be problematic the day my son lost his first tooth.

He literally lost it.

He was on the playground in kindergarten, and I never got the full story about exactly what happened. The tooth (2)tooth may have fallen into a pile of mulch while he was on the swings, or he may have swallowed it while going down the slide. I don’t know. I suspect the latter because when my husband and I tried to convince our son that the tooth fairy would find his tooth anyway, he wasn’t exactly thrilled with the idea.

That was the start of my short-lived and very spotty career as the Tooth Fairy.

Losing a tooth was never a big deal for my children because it likely led to disappointment.

Sometimes, one of my children would put a tooth under his or her pillow. More often, they didn’t.

They knew that sometimes the Tooth Fairy remembered to replace the tooth with money and sometimes she didn’t.

When I did remember to take the tooth, I never knew what I was supposed to do with it.

Other parents told me that they kept their children’s baby teeth, but that seemed kind of disgusting to me. I couldn’t imagine a day when I would look at a tiny tooth and get all nostalgic.

That was back in the days when I didn’t realize how quickly the years would fast forward to a time when the cost of college tuition was a much bigger concern than how much the tooth fairy should pay. That was also back in the days when I didn’t give any consideration to the fact that I would someday have to seek professional assistance to remove my child’s teeth.

Last fall, when our dentist advised me that my 16-year old son needed to consult an oral surgeon about having his wisdom teeth removed, I was sure he was going to add “in five years.”

He didn’t.

And so, a few months later, I was trying to get my son to wake up after his first experience with anesthesia.

I could poke fun at how he behaved, but he really didn’t act much differently than normal. He wanted to sleep, and he wanted his parents to leave him alone.

The only surprising moment occurred as we were leaving.

I was handed a small paper envelope and told that it contained my son’s wisdom teeth.

“He wanted to keep them,” the oral surgeon said.

I stuck the envelope in my purse and immediately forgot about it. I certainly didn’t think that my son wanted his teeth so he could put them under his pillow in hopes that the Tooth Fairy would make one final appearance.

He and I both knew that my dismal performances as the Tooth Fairy were a thing of the past.

We didn’t realize I had one final curtain call.

A couple of months after my son’s surgery, I was checking out at the local grocery store when I was asked for my bonus card. I keep it attached to my key ring, which I had misplaced somewhere in my purse. I put my purse on the ledge by the debit card scanner as I searched. When I pulled out my keys in triumph, two large obviously adult human teeth popped out and onto the conveyor belt.

I couldn’t look at the clerk’s face as I scooped up the teeth and threw them randomly back in my purse.

I couldn’t look at her face as I handed her my key ring.

I couldn’t even look at her face when I paid for my purchase.

The only thing I could do was try to regain some semblance of pride while assuring the clerk that I wasn’t a complete freak.

“Being the Tooth Fairy can be a messy and sometimes embarrassing job,” I said as I walked away.

I didn’t need to look back. I knew the young woman couldn’t understand.

But someday, in the rapidly approaching future, she probably will.

Trina Bartlett lives with her husband, Giles Snyder, their teenage son and daughter, two cats and one enormous German Shepherd. When she’s not being a mom, volunteering, writing, biking or walking the giant German Shepherd, Trina works full time as a director at a nonprofit, social service organization.

The Great Snow Shovel Showdown

Wednesday, February 18, 2015
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snowmageddonI am once again braced for the drama that winter’s harsh storms bring to my neighborhood.

My caution doesn’t stem from concern about breaking bones when I slip on ice – even though that is a likely outcome every time there’s a snow storm. I’ve broken bones in both of my hands and still have scars from a shattered wrist, a result of my general lack of grace on ice.

Nor is my concern about getting into a car accident – although I have had numerous close calls on snow-packed roads.

Instead, I am on high alert with the realization that I MUST be the first in my neighborhood to clear the driveway. Anything else is an indication of my failure to accept my neighbors’ challenge for a snow shovel showdown.

My husband claims that I’m imagining such a competition and insists I’m using it as an excuse to once again indulge my tendency to be a bit obsessive.

While I admit to being obsessive, I am also very observant. Since I walk my German Shepherd every day before dawn and again after work, I know the rhythm of the neighborhood. I know who goes to work early, who works a strange schedule and who doesn’t work at all. I know who takes meticulous care of their yard and who takes shortcuts. I know who is friendly, who likes dogs and who pretends they have no neighbors at all. I also know which  neighbors are avid competitors in the snow shovel showdown.

They are the individuals who keep close tabs on the latest weather report to determine the precise time they should tackle their driveway. Their mission? To ensure their driveway is black asphalt bordered with piles of snow by the time the first car drives by.

A few years ago, some neighbors tried to gain an unfair advantage by purchasing snow blowers that created perfectly straight lines along their driveways rather than the uneven mounds of snow. Since no one in my neighborhood has a particularly long or unwieldy driveway, the straight edges of snow never gained any respect.

What does gain respect is the sound of a snow shovel scraping pavement.

I woke to that sound the other morning after a recent snow fall and immediately recognized it as a call to arms.

I should have known my next-door neighbor would be out before me.

The night before, I had heard a strange noise and asked my husband to verify my suspicions. I called him to the bedroom window to peer into the quickly fading light and watch my neighbor walking up and down his driveway.

He was getting a jump start on clearing his driveway by using a leaf blower to remove the snow as soon as it fell. A leaf blower wouldn’t leave the evidence of cheating hat a snow blower does.

I lay awake most of the night listening for any additional sounds of someone getting a head start on their driveway until I finally fell asleep to the sounds of the city snow plow. I actually dreamed about shoveling snow, so I shouldn’t have been surprised to wake up to the sound of scrape, scrape sound of metal on asphalt.

While I would have preferred to wrap myself tighter in my blankets and stay in bed, I am just too competitive.

I jumped out of bed and pulled on tights, leggings, wool socks, two shirts, a coat, gloves and a hat. I was prepared to tackle the driveway in five degree weather.

Rodney, the German Shepherd, had other ideas. He was prepared to go for his normal, morning walk. Since the kids didn’t have to go to school and my husband didn’t have to leave for work until much later in the day, I didn’t want Rodney whining and barking, And so, I took him for a short spin around the neighborhood. Unfortunately, that drastically set me back on my driveway clearing schedule.

By the time we returned, my neighbor’s driveway was already cleared.

I didn’t see him gloat, but neither did I see any cars drive by.

If I hurried to clear our driveway, no one would know what had transpired.  Neither would they know that I already have my eye on this weekend’s forecast for more snow. I’ve always been a really early riser on weekends.

Game on.

Trina Bartlett lives with her husband, Giles Snyder, their teenage son and daughter, two cats and one enormous German Shepherd. When she’s not being a mom, volunteering, writing, biking or walking the giant German Shepherd, Trina works full time as a director at a nonprofit, social service organization.

Starting baby on solid food: An unofficial guide

Monday, January 26, 2015
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Disclaimer: I feel like I must prequel this post by saying…This is NOT meant to be a real guide to starting your baby on solids! Consult your pediatrician for advice and instructions on solid foods.

Step 1: When baby is a few months old, read about when to start solid foods. Tell yourself you will stick strictly to the American Academy of Pediatrics’ recommendation of exclusively breast-feeding for the first six months of life.

Avocado baby food...basically just boring guacamole.

Avocado baby food…basically just boring guacamole.

Step 2: Go to your baby’s four-month check up. Your pediatrician asks if you have started baby on solid foods (No, you have not told me to!). Listen to your pediatrician confirm the AAP’s recommendations – six months. Shake your head in agreement. Listen to recommendations on first foods and think to yourself, “I will definitely listen to my pediatrician.”

Step 3: After many a sleepless night, wonder if the rumors about babies sleeping once they start solids are true.

Step 4: Realize that your baby will be 24 weeks before the six-month anniversary of her birth. Decide that 24 weeks is close enough to start her on solids.

Step 5: Google the following: “Starting baby on solid foods,” and learn that everything you’ve heard is wrong! Become thoroughly confused.

Step 6: Notice baby is more hungry than usual. Decide that 22 weeks is close enough to 24 weeks. Try to convince husband that baby is ready to eat, and he gives in because he knows he is fighting a losing battle.

Step 7: Decide what food to give baby first. What a life-changing decision! Debate benefits of various “first foods.” Call friends for advice. Call mom for advice. Google for advice. Finally settle on oat cereal.

Step 8: Take your baby food blender out of the box to get a head start on making foods and find a recipe book and food guide. Realize you could have saved a lot of time if you had discovered this earlier.

Step 9: Wash baby spoons, baby bowls, baby-food-making accessories. Set baby in high chair; make sure she has on a large bib. Get out the camera. Make oat cereal exactly how the box instructs. Brace yourself for the big moment. Your child’s entire future depends on this first bite. If you mess it up, she will either never eat anything again or only like chicken nuggets for the rest of her life. You are sweating in anticipation.

Step 10: Give baby her first bite of solid food. None of it makes it in her mouth. Continue to “feed” her. The whole ordeal lasts about two minutes before she gets bored.

Step 11: Realize you may have thought about this too much.

Time Warp

Wednesday, December 31, 2014
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Tradition demands that every new year, I take time to reminisce about the past 365 days and  look forward to the next 365 days.2015

And so I do.

But what tradition seems to forget is that the older I get, the more quickly the years fly by and lose their distinct identities.

Instead, they blend together into a colorful yet unfinished collage of meaningful, embarrassing, sad, silly, joyful and hopeful moments that comprise my personal history and therefore, whom I am.

Only years of significant life events maintain their autonomy: the year I graduated from high school, the year I got married and the years my children were born are all still etched in my brain. Everything else is marked by “before” and “after.” If  I didn’t have those markers, I think I would lose track of time completely.

Just this past week, I found a wedding invitation from 2010 that caught me completely off guard. I was sure the wedding had been, at most, two years ago. I clearly remembered what I wore, the conversations my husband and friends had and the emotions of the day.  Yet, in my memory, my daughter had been older, I had been younger and the event had much more recent.

After convincing myself that my internal calendar can no longer be relied upon, I also realized how unimportant that really is.

The event itself and the memories it generated are what are truly important. The wedding was memorable and holds a special place in the patchwork of moments that comprise my life.

My children are now starting into that phase when they will be defining their own significant years. In approximately 365 days, as the calendar turns to 2016, my son will be celebrating the year he graduates from high school. I have no doubt that will also be a year that marks “before” and “after” for me as well.

But, unlike the years before I had children, I will now appreciate and celebrate the small and big moments during that year, not that date itself. Moments, not a four digit number, are what define me, my family and my life.

The four digit number just provides that reminder.

Happy 2015. May it be full of memorable moments that make you smile, laugh and treasure your life, those you love and the joy of living.

Time Travel

Wednesday, December 17, 2014
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I think my daughter’s obsession with Dr. Who is what prompted my husband to ask me the question.

“What period of time would you travel back to if you could?” he asked.

I didn’t give his question much thought.

“I wouldn’t,” I said.

My husband, an avid history buff who thought I shared his interest, looked puzzled.

“I wouldn’t want to deal with being a woman during any time but the present,” I said flatly.

My response may have been a reaction to the fact I had just finished Stephen King’s 11-22-63, in which a man travels back in time to try to prevent the Kennedy assassination. While King’s novel is a work a fiction, he paints a clear picture of how different life was for women even during those relatively modern days. He didn’t so much inform as remind me.

While I don’t have a time machine per se, I have something almost as good. I have a baby book, which my mother used to document the first few years of my life – a time about which I have no memories. When I browse through it, I am not only carried back in time, I am reminded of how expectations of women have changed greatly during the last 50 years.

Take, for example, my birth announcement.IMG_1babybook3

Considering whom my mother was and whom I would become, the announcement could not have been more ridiculous. It featured a toddler in a crown and a sash with the words “Our New Miss America is Finally Here.” I’m quite certain my mother never would have forgiven herself had her daughter grown up with any desire to enter beauty contests. I’m just as certain that the available birth announcements in rural Montana in early 1967 were quite limited, so she probably didn’t have much choice.

Just as she probably had no choice about how her name would be listed in the hospital announcements in the local newspaper. Instead of having her own name listed, she was listed as my father’s wife. She was the one who had endured nine months of pregnancy and the birth, but my father was basically given credit.

baby book 2Now, nearly 48 years later, I don’t even have my husband’s last name, and few people question that. Nor do they question the endless possibilities for my smart and talented daughter who recently leafed through the pages of my baby book with a mix of interest and disbelief.

Apparently, her interest in time travel isn’t limited to Dr. Who, but I’m fairly certain she finds a great deal more potential in the future than in the past.

And that is exactly as life should be.

Wasted

Wednesday, October 1, 2014
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As a band mom, I experience high school football from a different perspective than most people.wasted

First, I never actually get to see a home game. I only have a sense of what’s happening based on the roar of the crowd. That’s because I’m too busy serving up nachos and Mountain Dew to even get a glimpse of the game.

On the flip side, I get some insight into the secret lives of teenagers.

That’s because, with the exception of my children’s friends, no one pays the least bit of attention to the middle-aged woman taking their food orders and their money.

I’m grateful that I often witness generosity. Many teens are more than willing to hand money to the stranger ahead of them in line who bought more food than he/she could afford. They are also inclined to throw their extra change into the band boosters donation bucket.

While I’m impressed with these gestures, I also wonder if they even value the money they are so willing giving to others.

I’m not just being cynical.

That’s because, as a band mom, I’m generally one of the last people to leave the football stadium. Band boosters are responsible for cleaning the mess people leave behind, and we are often there long after the last of the fans are gone. What they leave behind isn’t pretty. To quote another band parent after the homecoming game last Friday night “people are complete slobs.”

While I agreed with her, I was struck by another thought. “People are so wasteful.”

I’ve been shocked at the dozens of nearly full bottles of blue and red Gatorade ($2.00 each at the concession stand) that were left in the women’s bathroom.  Pizza, hot dogs and nachos are left half eaten in the stands, and the trash cans also overflow with the same.

My parents never told me I had to eat everything on my plate because there were starving children in Africa, but they did expect that I wouldn’t waste food.  If you didn’t plan to eat something, you didn’t put it on your plate and you certainly didn’t buy it.  And if your eyes were bigger than your stomach, you packed up the food and took it home for later.

Maybe I’m getting old and maybe my memory is faulty, but I certainly don’t remember people wasting food like they do now, especially in a time when food insecurity has been in the spotlight.

Volunteer backpack organizations are constantly seeking donations so they can send food home with low-income children. Food pantries often run low on staples and many churches offer meals for those who can’t afford them.

And yet people at high school football games seem to buy food only to throw it away as though it has no value.

A part of me wonders if any hungry children attend those games and look with disbelief at all the waste. Another part of me recognizes that most hungry children probably can’t afford the price for a high school football game, not to mention the transportation to and from it. They certainly aren’t among the teens who hand me $20 and even $50 bills on a Friday night with the knowledge they will go home to a refrigerator full of food.

Many kind-hearted, caring people go out of their way to ensure others don’t go hungry, but we are somehow failing to address the other side of the same coin: waste and greed.

My children have been asked to participate in countless food drives, but I’m not sure they’ve ever been taught the actual value of food.

And while I’m trying to follow in my parents footsteps and  teach that food is a resource just like money and our environment, I fear all I’ve done is to teach my children to enjoy food and that my efforts are, well, wasted.

As Time Goes By

Wednesday, August 27, 2014
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I have friends who swear their  bodies are the clearest indicator of the passage of time.

I disagree.birthday cake

Granted, every time I bend my knees, they crack and creak. Every day when I look in the mirror, I see another wrinkle on my face. And every effort to read small type has become an exercise in futility.

But my aging body isn’t what really makes me feel the passage of time.

That comes with watching my children grow up.

Last Friday, my youngest turned 13. The night before Kendall’s birthday, I walked into the family room as she and her father were looking at her baby book. She was laughing at the funny stories I had documented in the  pages and was looking at photos taken on her fourth birthday. In one picture, she was smiling at the camera while her friend Joey had his arm slung around her shoulder as he gazed at her.

“Oh yes, Joey,” I said looking over Kendall’s shoulder at the book. “He told us he was going to marry you.”

Kendall rolled her eyes and continued to flip through the pages of her baby book while her father and I looked at each other.

That photo had been taken nine years earlier, but Giles and I felt as though we had been joking about Joey’s intentions only yesterday. To Kendall, Joey is a distant, if non-existent, memory. My perspective of time appears to be out of whack.

For example, at church on Sunday I was talking to a woman whose daughter just started high school – at least in my mind she had just started high school.  But when I asked how she was doing, her mother reminded me that she is a senior in college. I couldn’t believe that many years had passed, and I thought about how college is just around the corner for my son, a high school junior.

Even though Giles and I have been making payments on Shepherd’s pre-paid college plan since he was born, I’m having a difficult time realizing that the time to make use of that fund is almost here.

I was holding a newborn in my arms the day we bought the plan. At that time,  my son’s college education was only a vague concept for the distant future when I would be a worn-out  middle-aged woman.

I like to think the years were too short for me to be that old and worn out. They did, after all, go much more quickly than when I was a child and summers went on forever and Christmas seemed as though it would never arrive.

I’ve come to recognize the days will continue to grow shorter and the years will continue to fly by. I’ve also come to recognize that even though there is nothing I can do to slow time down, there is a great deal I can do to ensure I treasure every minute of it.

Beneath the Surface

Wednesday, August 13, 2014
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I have a friend who grew up with an unhealthy fear of thunderstorms.

Her fear was unhealthy not because she hid at the first sign of a storm or trembled at the sound of thunder. It was unhealthy because it was based on a lie.

Her fear was built on a belief that her cousin had been killed when struck by lightning.

Only after years and a well-cultivated phobia of lightning did her parents reveal that her cousin had actually committed suicide.

I was thinking of this Monday night when both of my children wanted to talk about Robin William’s suicide. My daughter asked how he could asphyxiate himself. My son just wanted to express his shock. Since I was also in shock, I had very little to add to the conversation even though I knew I should. I don’t want my children to be afraid of thunderstorms any more than I want them to think suicide is about a person’s final act.

Instead, suicide is about everything other people don’t act upon.

I first realized this when the brother of one my daughter Kendall’s classmate’s killed himself. The boy was in middle school at the time, and my daughter relayed the same story that the media did: the boy had been bullied. That revelation was followed by the typical outcry to address bullying by calling out people whose words and behavior are hurtful.

What I didn’t hear was an outcry to simply to pay attention to each other despite labels or diagnoses or cliques or fame.

Some people might say that Robin Williams, one of the funniest men in the world, and an overweight middle school student had nothing in common, but they are wrong.

They had a great deal in common.

They were both people. They both had feelings. They both struggled to meet the expectations of others. They both wanted to belong to a world that often doesn’t make sense. They both fought internal battles that others couldn’t or didn’t see. Because of this, they both hurt inside. And they both committed suicide.

Like millions of others, I feel the loss of Robin Williams, but I can’t claim I knew him any more than I knew the brother of Kendall’s classmate.

I never had the opportunity to share a smile, listen to, interact with or show my compassion for either of them, and I never will.

But I do have the opportunity to do all those with a neglected child, a homeless adult, a rebellious teenager, a lonely senior, a rude customer or client and an overly-talkative neighbor. Not only do I have the opportunity, I have the obligation. All of them are my fellow human beings who have feelings, struggle to meet the expectations of others and have a simple desire to belong to a world.

And they, like me, generally show only a small piece of themselves to the rest of the world. We keep what lies just below the surface hidden in hopes that we don’t reveal our vulnerabilities to a society that is quick to exploit them.

I can’t imagine Robin Williams ever approved of such a world. Instead, I choose to believe that he wanted all of us to recognize that imperfect people make the world interesting and meaningful. I believe he knew we should all look beyond the superficial to where imperfection and insecurities lie. And he  would want us to dive into whatever depth we are capable of reaching with others so we can work together to save all those who are drowning.

I also believe he would encourage all of us not to fear the thunderstorm and instead to dance in the rain that comes with it.