Thursday, October 28, 2021

Musing on Starset

 I haven't posted in here in forever. With my kids older, only one still calling me Mommy, writing SFF novels full time, and having transitioned to a nonbinary man... there just aren't as many parenting topics to hit, and well, I don't think anyone still reads here anyway, lol.

That doesn't mean I'm not still around, so why not share a band I love?

All I can say about Transmissions is that it is the music I've been waiting for my whole life. Cinematic rock with a sci-fi theme that hits my synesthesia in all the best ways. AND I love the lyrics. It's perfect.

Vessels: Starset did it again. I can listen to this whole album from start to finish--and I do, regularly. Everglow took a long time to grow on me, landing as the weakest song at the end (mostly due to the intro), but I even love that now. I bought this right after it was released from the band's website, and I was in love with it the moment I started listening. My favorites are definitely Monster, Unbecoming, and Bringing it Down, but the focus on space travel in most of this album just speaks to me deeply. I love it. The sound paints pictures of galaxies being birthed and dying, of love and loss, of monsters inside and the sense of never giving up.


Bought it and promptly launched it in GrooVR. What was beautifully apropos for Vessels is disturbingly ironic for Divisions. An album about a society trapped in VR, played in VR. Experiencing some cognitive dissonance here.

That said, with the exception of just one song (Faultline is, hands down, the worst song lyrically and sound-wise, that they have produced--it sounds like it was written by an abuser gaslighting their victim), everything that wasn't working for me before with the album became wonderful when the album is played through beginning to end.

There were style choices that deviated from the core sound enough to not work for me (and even trigger my misophonia at first), and given their record, I expect they can do better dubstep (it was good, but it wasn't exceptional, which I think they're totally capable of--and dubstep is not a mistake in style choices for them or this album).

Definitely not my new fave, but still worth 5 stars because there are some amazing songs on this, and I still love it overall. I updated to say that after time with this album, it has grown on me quite a bit. Echo is my favorite song, not only on the album, but of all songs I listen to right now.

Horizons: Well, as usual, the music is phenomenal. I can turn on Transmissions and Vessels, just let them play, and float away. Divisions had one song I cut out. Out of three albums, ONE song. Starset is my favorite band. They still are, but the lyrics aren't here this time. I always loved the SFF story and the relatable side feels. There are still some songs staying true to that mission: The Breach, Leaving this World Behind, Dreamcatcher, Infected. There were some that mostly made it: Otherworldly, Earthrise, This Endless Endeavor (still in competition for the best song on the album regardless--damn, it hits). But the middle of the album was a miss for me. Too... weak for the power of the music behind it. I like GOOD breakup songs. Starset has had some amazing ones that made me feel with them. Not these. (With one exception...) But that ending. Something Wicked. I couldn't breathe. I'm not 100% with the lyrics, but I legit don't f**kin care. That song. That was what I wanted from this album. That feeling. So many Starset songs give it to me, and so few on this album, but that song just... Well. So, musically, great album. Lyrically, the worst Starset has ever done (for me, anyway, I know it's probably perfect for plenty of people). But saying "the worst" a band like this has done isn't an insult. I won't be adding the full album to my Communications playlist, which is a disappointment, but the songs I do add (most, but the fewest of any prior album) are still wonderful.

There you have it. My full musings on my current favorite band.

Thursday, February 20, 2020

Musing on Criminal Justice

Image by Griszka Niewiadomski

I finally went back to college in 2017. My husband got a job at a college, so I got an employee scholarship. Now, obviously, my major has always been planned to be psychology, but I could only take that as a minor at this college, so I majored in Criminal Justice (a full return to my original Forensics/Psychology double plan when I was 18, in a way, only from a different angle). I completed all of my CJ classes, and I only had 3 electives left (I was planning to take Ancient Egyptian Art and two more psych classes) to graduate when my husband changed jobs. We were going to pay for me to finish when we lost our home and it became impossible. So, I have all the pieces of a degree without the actual degree itself (which is depressing AF). I was set to graduate manga cum laude with a 4.0 and having made the Dean's List both years. I'm bitter, but I still have the education, and the reason I got it was to share it.

I made a tweet thread that received a request to make it into an article because it explains in mostly accessible language a bit of the history of the U.S. criminal justice system and why it's not prisons, but our model, that is so toxic and why. This is a copy of that thread.

Original question: "I'm not against prison abolishment especially for non-violent crimes but my problem as a victim is that I have yet to hear workable solution for the more violent crimes. What is the alternative to prison for them? Because I have yet to have this answered."

The following response has not been edited from the original reply beyond choosing line breaks and removing thread-continuing ellipses:

Restorative and Reparative justice systems, which still incorporate jail and prisons, but not by the horrific retributive U.S. model. There is no reason not to make prisons communities that teach and rehabilitate, other than $$. It works in other countries. 

There ARE crimes that don't allow for rehabilitation, or criminals themselves that are too dangerous to help. It happens. But those models I spoke of address that as well.

It's not prisons, but the system which we use that's the problem.

I was a criminal justice major for this very thing. I'm a strong supporter of system reform. I wasn't actually expecting American classes to be a lot of help, but it turns out that we know all of this, and the people running the system don't care. What they care about is being re-elected. So, it kinda works like this:

People hate crime, for obvious reasons. But people also seek out others to hate/look down on, very often to feel better about their own shortcomings. Criminals are cool to hate. After all, they've hurt people in a way that we've defined as deserving of punishment. Through most of history, this has been usually flogging, dismemberment, or death. Then we decided "hey, maybe that's too much. Maybe it's better to lock them up so they can reconsider their errors, at least for smaller stuff." 

This was really recent, like more recent than the U.S. itself. Just locking people up didn't do a lot, and flogging and death continued to be used more. Then the idea of work for rehabilitation came up. It was the "idle hands" thought, but also a belief that training for work after would help keep people out of crime and give them more work opportunities. Eventually, flogging was dismissed as cruel in the mid-20th century, and the 60s saw it abolished. The view shifted to a more sympathetic outlook for offenders, realizing that these are people who have made mistakes (at least the white ones). So, a push was made for rehabilitative justice. The thing is, we didn't really know what worked for that, and so, the crime rate didn't change.

Then more vice crimes started being added (will of the people), and the crime rate went up accordingly. People didn't see "we have more laws;" they saw "we have more crime." People got scared. They started demanding "something be done."

Eventually this led to the "tough on crime" rhetoric. This sounded good to the people with money, of course. They didn't see themselves as criminals, even as they committed the same vice crimes, theft, and traffic crimes that increasingly saw people getting locked up. 

Thing is, what people always really agreed should be punished were the harmful crimes: burglary, rape, murder, etc., but there were all these theories about how they were tied to vice crimes, etc. So, this is how the average citizen started supporting the rich minority's control through laws that they had the most influence on. Because police funding is directly tied to monetary contributions, those who give the most get a free pass. Without their money, the police can't operate. So, the rich and the majority cultures control policing and law making. The same goes for prison policy. When the mob demands "something needs to be done," then policy makers do it. They find "acceptable targets" (ftr, these are taught by field training officers, not the policing institutions themselves--it's post-education police culture that leads to targeting of minorities, sex workers, etc.). The numbers in prison going up comforts the mob. 

By the 80s, people had forgotten that these prisoners were people, their neighbors and potential friends. They got mad about "three hots and a cot" and anything they saw as "underserved," ignoring/ignorant to the fact that these people were the subject of ongoing experimentation, often through torture, and slave labor. The average person didn't KNOW this. They bought a fantasy of clean living, libraries, lounging around watching tv, food security, access to things many poor don't have, and they demanded worse conditions. They also were ignorant to how many people in there never did anything more than they themselves have done. Or even less. 

So, the idea of switching to restorative justice, which allows lower punishment at the discretion of the victim, and prisons that mimic society so that when offenders return to the community, they are ADJUSTED to the community already rather than trapped in the prison culture nightmare that leads to recidivism (reoffending) and poor life quality? Americans get mad. They have been raised to believe in vengeance. That's what collectively has been associated with "justice." 

Did you know the sex offender list is PROVEN to INCREASE sex crimes and prevent rehabilitation? Yet the same people who talk about CJ reform will talk about how mad they are when a rapist isn't put on the list. It makes them significantly more likely to rape again. The only sex crimes that are likely to be repeated are by pedophiles. That's the only group that doesn't respond at a high percentage to rehabilitative efforts (I don't have my papers/textbooks to pull the percentage, but recovery is low and requires voluntary submission to rehabilitation). Rape is a crime we want extinguished. So, people are unwilling to listen to data. Then we get to murder. Even murderers are rehabilitated successfully under restorative justice models that max out at 30 years. Again Americans want murderers to never see the light of day again. Thing is? Severe sentences like death and life imprisonment increase violent crime rates. This doesn't match the expectation, so you get backfire effect presenting the data.

It was really visible in the cops in my classes. They outright rejected all of this. They twisted things, using their bias and prejudice they brought to or acquired on the job. They sell that bias to the public. The public eats it up. People demand crime control (a failed model that we still practice) and policy makers deliver.

I'm sorry, that was a LOT of tweets to say public demand > policy NOT scientific data > policy. 

I hope you wanted a whole ass condensed history of the system 😅 let me end with an article on better systems:

And one more thing: The two countries with the harshest crime control models are the U.S. and Australia. These are also the two countries with the highest incarceration and recidivism rates.

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

False Dichotomies and Binary Thinking

(Originally published on LinkedIn)

The false dilemma is a logical fallacy that presents two options as the only available choices in a matter when at least one other option exists. When parents have toddlers, they're told to give them two choices for simplicity, so that they feel they have some control over their life, some power, but they aren't overwhelmed with options.

This is also how sex and gender are presented to us: you're either male or you're female. For most people, that isn't a problem. They readily agree with the sex they were assigned at birth, and they take pride in either conforming or not conforming to their gender roles. Not conforming is really only a pride point for those assigned female at birth because aspiring to be male is socially acceptable, but the feminine is seen as weak, "silly," and undesirable. Anything attached to the feminine is immediately considered only for those with a vulva. When something is attached to the masculine, it is considered a sign of strength and power, and thus, all are invited to participate--most of the time.

From before birth, from the moment parents get a glimpse of their offspring's genitals, they begin socializing them to either the feminine or the masculine. Expectations are lain in the moment that genitals are announced. "It's a girl!" is followed by per-condemnation of her sexual agency, sympathy expressed to the father as though a girl is a disappointment that can only bring stress. This is, of course, a self-fulfilling prophesy if the parents so choose. "It's a boy!" is followed by dinosaurs and sports and dreams that he'll be a doctor or lawyer or something big and important.

But there's a third occurrence that brings silence. No joyful declaration of the genitals unless the doctor has already decided how they are going to alter them without consent. "Intersex." Neither male nor female. Perhaps more one or the other. Many intersex individuals are missexed as male or female because their external genitalia is all that is used to determine how they will be socialized.

A growing body of support for intersex people condoning the non-consensual body modification is also attempting to bring light to the existence of intersex people, often offensively and inaccurately termed "hermaphrodite," as though they are an insect. Few people would deny the legitimacy of red-haired individuals, but they are only 2% of the population--the same percentage as intersex people. But intersex people force a reminder on society that their aggressive sexing and gendering of each other is often inaccurate. If not, then there would be a name all people know for the third sex, and a third gender, and the same joy (with maybe a little trepidation for possible medical complications) would be present in the announcement, "It's an [intersex baby]!"

Still, some acknowledgement that intersex people exist is present in the collective consciousness. But rather than see them as valid and natural, they are treated as an aberration, something to apologize for. A neutral pronoun identifier is rejected, and they are expected to conform to whatever sex they were ultimately assigned and blend in as one of the two dominant genders. Their own sex may even be hidden from them deliberately by their parents or the doctor that incorrectly sexed them at birth. They are an affront to the false dichotomy of sex.

Worse, there are those whose genital expression and reproductive systems match a chromosomal pattern that has been deemed male or female who know that they are not the gender they were told to conform to. Transgender.

There is an interesting story out there of a little boy whose mother decided that she wanted a girl so badly that she gave birth unassisted, assigned him female at birth, dressed him in girl's clothing and told everyone he was a girl, sent him to an all-girls' school, and he grew up believing that he was one. He said the he thought that maybe his penis would fall off when he reached puberty so that he would look like other girls. He socialized female.  But then one day, it was all blown open when a teacher removed his dress to protect him from a hot liquid spill and saw that he was male. Immediately, he was removed from his home, and everyone was in an uproar, calling it abuse. What he called abuse was what followed: having his hair cut against his will, being told to behave as a boy and develop masculine interests that he simply did not have, until he was finally placed with a family that allowed him to be himself. He concluded that he was definitely male, but his interests were still considered feminine--and he was still happy with himself.

Transgender children grow up in the same situation, only their genitals cannot announce to someone that they are being forced into an unnatural situation for themselves. Instead, a conspiracy forms around them to ignore that they are being harmed even more than that little boy was because no one will rescue them from the situation. In more and more cases now, parents are realizing that their children's genital configuration is not more important than their health and well-being. Children whose expressed gender identity is honored grow up happier and healthier, even if they end up being cisgender.

However, this is still primarily granted to female to male and male to female individuals. Female to third gender and male to third gender children are lost. They are given a false dilemma: are you male or are you female? Neither is a valid answer that is not being acknowledged enough. There are many nonbinary identities, from fluid (going from male to female and back) to agender (lacking gender) to bigender (simultaneously both), and more. Growing up, some of these children may present as fully transgender, or they may present as gender nonconforming within their assigned sex. "Tomboy" is a false identifier that some trans boys and nonbinary individuals assigned female at birth (AFAB) can cling to for a better way to tolerate or escape the pain and/or confusion of being misgendered.

Cisgender girls will use their own identification as a tomboy to de-legitimize the experiences of trans AFAB people, claiming that because their gender confusion vanished, it must do the same for anyone else who experiences it. This is an aggressive form of transphobia that is used to prevent medical care of trans boys and nonbinary AFAB children rather than acknowledge that there is no harm at all in giving children the safety and support to explore their genders until they are able to give words to their own identity. If a third gender were automatically acknowledged, yes, there would be more third gender children because they already exist, and they would then have the words to say so. Just as naming anything leads to discovery of more of that thing.

This isn't some new experiment, either. Third genders have existed in many cultures throughout history with no cultural pain. It is confusing why ours is so insistent on denying something that has existed as long as humans have had a sense of gender identity. The best explanation seems to be that dominant groups simply will not tolerate outsiders. Once schema is formed, it wants to be defended. The only cure for this is to establish societal change that adds third gender into the schema children are programmed with, but it is the adults that resist this, that reinforce the myth that there are only two sexes, only two genders, and that there is no difference between what is between one's legs and what is in one's heart and soul.

Cisgender people may be under the mistaken belief that transgender girls (assigned male at birth--AMAB) exist because they are told that dolls and dresses are for girls, and those "boys" are interested in such things and therefore confused that they are girls. That simply isn't true. Many boys, both cis boys and trans (AFAB) boys enjoy dolls and dresses, but they avoid them in their attempt to conform to stereotypical gender roles. Trans boys may be socialized female, but many recognize that males are supposed to behave in a certain way, and they internalize it. Trans (AMAB) girls do the same. They may show more interest in feminine iconography--dolls, dresses, makeup--simply because they want to be seen as what they are: girls. For quite some time, in order to transition, one had to prove that they were female enough to be acknowledged medically. Preferring pants and sports might get a sporty trans girl denied legitimacy. The lack of connection with gendered objects and clothes exists in trans people just as it exists in cis people. Just as there are cis girls who love sports and wear "boyshort" underwear and hate makeup and dresses, there are trans girls who feel the same. That doesn't make either group male.

But what about the third gender? Why do they know that they are neither male nor female? It is the same way that cisgender and binary transgender people know that they are male or female. In the past, Western world third gender people did what they could with what they had, just as all trans people had to. It may have been easier to be "eccentric" post-Humanism, in the Renaissance and beyond. For binary trans people, it was simpler to move somewhere that no one knew them and assume their true gender while hiding their assigned birth sex. Records of people who did this exist. This is how the medical establishment insisted trans people transitioned at one point, but that is no longer the case. With the growing body of evidence that nonbinary people have been erased via language rather than scarcity by establishing them into language, there is hope that in the future, this is a false dichotomy that will eventually be abandoned as unscientific, inaccurate, and antiquated, just as many sexist notions throughout history have been left behind.

Friday, July 21, 2017


In July of 2012, I had the pleasure of announcing that I had become a published author, with my first book, Hotel of Lost Souls. Last February, I had the joy of announcing the sequel, Pet, and then in December, their sequel, Bridges! Then, November of 2014, I released Predators

If you like vampires and Urban Fantasy (especially Anita Blake or Sookie Stackhouse), then you should like my books! Hotel and Pet were a blend of Urban Fantasy and Psychological Horror. Bridges and Predators are much more Urban Fantasy/Dark Fantasy. They explore the relationships between the characters and Zack finding his place in his world. It's about life and death and life after death.
From the back cover:

If someone ever tells you that being a newly changed vampire is easy, they're either gifted, lying, or they're not going to live very long. You can be pretty sure that they don't have a family to balance.

Zack Henderson has learned the hard way just how right his sire was when he warned him that there would be unexpected, harder challenges brought on by his new nature.

Now he and Sarah are back home and finding their places in this new world into which they've been reborn. But has too much changed, and can they keep their family together in the face of events beyond their control?
You can read a sample chapter on my writer's blog or on Amazon or Lulu, and if you like it, you can purchase it from Barnes and NobleAmazon, Kobo or Smashwords. All the links for purchase are available at my website.

You don't need an eReader to read my eBook, either! You can read the book now on your phone, tablet, iPad or computer using the Nook App or the Amazon Kindle App (both of which are free!). If you're using an iPad or iPod, you can get Stanza, a free eReading app and read any format that you like! Several other apps are available, too.

If nothing can replace the feel and smell of a real book for you, head on over to Lulu and pick up a slightly-larger-than-average paperback! You'll get to experience it the way it was meant to be read! eBooks can't display the little artsy touches at the beginning of each chapter or the fonts that the handwritten notes in the story use. With a physical book, you get back cover art, too! 

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Musing on "Colorblind"

Original Image

No, I don't mean the ocular condition. I'm talking about the refusal to acknowledge that race exists and acting like that's a good thing. Saying, "I don't see color."

It's racist.

Ouch, right? You're not a bad person, so you can't be racist, right? Uh, sorry, no. You can totally do amazing things that make everyone think you're above reproach and believe in your heart that you would never do anything racist and still do racist shit. And if you teach your kids to be "colorblind," well, then, you're teaching them to be racist.

Why? Well, because you're saying that you have to ignore someone's skin color to see them as a good person. Oh yes, you are. Hey, I remember reacting to being told this wish shock and denial. That's okay. It's probably new information, and that registers as 'wrong' in our brains. Our generation was raised being told that we shouldn't judge people by the color of our skin, and we internalized that to mean that we shouldn't see the color of their skin.

But that's wrong. There is nothing wrong with their skin, but it means that they have lived a very different life, had a different experience from you, and they don't get to pretend that racism is a thing of the past or something that happens far away. Saying you don't see color is privilege. POC don't get to do that. Only white people get to do that.

"I don't see color."

That's a lie. A comforting lie we tell ourselves to excuse reactions we don't understand why we have because we don't want to be racist. Because we want to believe that all that shit sorted itself out already, and there's nothing but isolated incidences of racism by some far off boogeymen who don white sheets or swastika tattoos. Because we don't see that it's happening all around us... until we do. And then it's like waking up in someone else's nightmare and realizing that you were a part of it.

"I don't see color."

 ' day at my son Beck's preschool, I was talking to another mother about being black and raising a mixed son. She turned to me and said, "We don't even see Beck's color! He's just Chance's friend!"
It felt like someone had kicked me in my stomach. When someone says they don't see color, they're simply stating that they refuse to acknowledge someone else's ethnicity, thus erasing their background and culture. I couldn't respond to what she said. She stood there smiling at me, as if I should be thanking her for saying that, when all I wanted to do was shake her and say, "How do you not see that he's black? It's OK to see that!"'
That's what comes from you pretending you don't see color. You see it. You're refusing to acknowledge that it means anything. It does. If I was to call you a racist, how fast would you hide behind the color of your friend's skin? Boom. You see it. Your kids see it. What they don't see is anyone talking about it, and what topics don't we talk about? Bad ones. So they aren't seeing 'dividing people by race is bad.' They are seeing, 'acknowledging that racial disparity exists is bad.' Just like you are proclaiming when you claim not to see color.

Original Image

"I can't talk to my kids about that! They're too young/aren't ready!"

Black kids don't get sheltered from talking about race. Why should our children be? You know what that raises? Racists. Maybe social racists, but if you say that you don't see color, that IS racism. Don't like that? Too bad. I've been guilty of that, too, and I'm not going to do it any more. I certainly don't teach that crap to my kids. We've discussed color and race and slavery and discrimination and racism.

It didn't traumatize them. They listened. They didn't argue, even though they've never seen it in person. They listened. They didn't say they hadn't done it, so they were okay. They said it was never okay, and that we shouldn't let people do that.

And we keep talking about race. It's not a one and done conversation.

If we really want to end hate and bigotry, we have to disabuse ourselves of this idea that equality means sameness. Parents of white children, do not teach your kids to "not see color/race." Do not teach them that we're only equal if we're the same. It's a lie.

We need to teach our children to see. To see each other. To see ourselves. To see privilege. To see injustice... and fight to end it, even when it's uncomfortable, even when it's hard. Even when it comes from ourselves.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Musing on November 9, 2016

Have you ever been terrified, angry, helpless, sick -- and competely numb? 

Because I am.

Dear affected friends:

You don't have to be okay. You don't have to be respectful. You get to mourn. You get to hurt, and fuck every single person out there shaming you. Fuck everyone saying you have to fight to make things better. I know you already do. I know that your pain and fear isn't going to stop that fight. I acknowledge that pain. I acknowledge that your fear is valid. I love you. Mourn. Let it happen. We're still fighting. 

If you're in a place right now where the fact that you're breathing means that you're fighting, I love you.

 If you know that your privilege will protect you from this, but you are still holding your hand out to those you know will suffer, I love you.

"Until you live in the shoes of a homosexual, a minority, as a non-Christian, as a rape victim, as a woman who has needed an abortion, who has a disability, who is scared that a man who mocks these people and who certainly doesn't stand for basic civil rights, don't.  Just don't."

White, middle class people trying to spread "hope" -- please stop. Just stop. The KKK is celebrating. Medical companies are already preparing to shut down. Children are asking their parents if they're going to be kicked out of the country they were born in. Minority colleges are on lockdown for safety. Acts of violence have already started.

You enjoy your false hope. The rest who have been paying attention have to face reality, and that means that people, innocent people, are going to die. Your hope is a lie, and the rest of us are choking on it.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Musing on The Pledge of Alliegance

Inspired by this (incorrect, but close) meme and the time of the year:

I went looking for the history of Francis Bellamy to share. My favorite site lost its domain, so I'm going to save a cached version here along with some other interesting information found elsewhere. I am not the original author of the majority of the information here. I have included my notes from other sources interspersed through the text and highlighted some text of particular interest.

Francis Bellamy (1855 – 1931), a Baptist minister, wrote the original Pledge in August 1892. He was a Christian Socialist. In his Pledge, he is expressing the ideas of his first cousin, Edward Bellamy, author of the American socialist utopian novels, Looking Backward (1888) and Equality (1897).

Francis Bellamy in his sermons and lectures, and Edward Bellamy in his novels and articles, described in detail how the middle class could create a planned economy with political, social and economic equality for all. The government would run a peace time economy similar to our present military industrial complex.

The Pledge was published in the September 8th issue of The Youth’s Companion, the leading family magazine and the Reader’s Digest of its day. Its owner and editor, Daniel Ford, had hired Francis in 1891 as his assistant when Francis was pressured into leaving his baptist church in Boston because of his socialist sermons. As a member of his congregation, Ford had enjoyed Francis’s sermons. Ford later founded the liberal and often controversial Ford Hall Forum, located in downtown Boston.

In 1892 Francis Bellamy was also a chairman of a committee of state superintendents of education in the National Education Association. As its chairman, he prepared the program for the public schools’ quadricentennial celebration for Columbus Day in 1892. He structured this public school program around a flag raising ceremony and a flag salute – his ‘Pledge of Allegiance.’

His original Pledge read as follows: ‘I pledge allegiance to my Flag and (to*) the Republic for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.’ He considered placing the word, ‘equality,’ in his Pledge, but knew that the state superintendents of education on his committee were against equality for women and African Americans. [ * ‘to’ added in October, 1892. ]

Dr. Mortimer Adler, American philosopher and last living founder of the Great Books program at Saint John’s College, has analyzed these ideas in his book, The Six Great Ideas. He argues that the three great ideas of the American political tradition are ‘equality, liberty and justice for all.’ ‘Justice’ mediates between the often conflicting goals of ‘liberty’ and ‘equality.’

In 1923 and 1924 the National Flag Conference, under the ‘leadership of the American Legion and the Daughters of the American Revolution, changed the Pledge’s words, ‘my Flag,’ to ‘the Flag of the United States of America.’ Bellamy disliked this change, but his protest was ignored. (my note: this was apparently to further integrate immigrant children so they wouldn't be confused as to where their loyalties lie)

In 1954, Congress after a campaign by the Knights of Columbus (*in response to the Communist threat of the times, President Eisenhower encouraged Congress to), added the words, ‘under God,’ to the Pledge. The Pledge was now both a patriotic oath and a public prayer. (note: President Eisenhower said, "In this way we are reaffirming the transcendence of religious faith in America's heritage and future; in this way we shall constantly strengthen those spiritual weapons which forever will be our country's most powerful resource in peace and war.")

Bellamy’s (daughter objected to this alteration) granddaughter said he also would have resented this second change. He had been pressured into leaving his church in 1891 because of his socialist sermons. In his retirement in Florida, he stopped attending church because he disliked the racial bigotry he found there.

What follows is Bellamy’s own account of some of the thoughts that went through his mind in August, 1892, as he picked the words of his Pledge:
It began as an intensive communing with salient points of our national history, from the Declaration of Independence onwards; with the makings of the Constitution…with the meaning of the Civil War; with the aspiration of the people…The true reason for allegiance to the Flag is the ‘republic for which it stands.’ …And what does that vast thing, the Republic mean? It is the concise political word for the Nation – the One Nation which the Civil War was fought to prove. To make that One Nation idea clear, we must specify that it is indivisible, as Webster and Lincoln used to repeat in their great speeches. And its future? Just here arose the temptation of the historic slogan of the French Revolution which meant so much to Jefferson and his friends, ‘Liberty, equality, fraternity.’ No, that would be too fanciful, too many thousands of years off in realization. But we as a nation do stand square on the doctrine of liberty and justice for all…


Baer, John. The Pledge of Allegiance, A Centennial History, 1892 - 1992,
Annapolis, Md. Free State Press, Inc., 1992.
Miller, Margarette S. Twenty-Three Words, Portsmouth, Va. Printcraft Press,

Photo credit: USDAgov via Visual Hunt

From different sources: 

The original Bellamy salute, first described in 1892 by Francis Bellamy, who authored the original Pledge, began with a military salute, and after reciting the words "to the flag," the arm was extended toward the flag.

At a signal from the Principal the pupils, in ordered ranks, hands to the side, face the Flag. Another signal is given; every pupil gives the flag the military salute — right hand lifted, palm downward, to a line with the forehead and close to it. Standing thus, all repeat together, slowly, "I pledge allegiance to my Flag and the Republic for which it stands; one Nation indivisible, with Liberty and Justice for all." At the words, "to my Flag," the right hand is extended gracefully, palm upward, toward the Flag, and remains in this gesture till the end of the affirmation; whereupon all hands immediately drop to the side.

The Youth's Companion, 1892
Obviously, this salute was dropped during WWII in response to the similarity to the Nazi solute. Many places started fashioning their own version, and a school decided that the hand would just remain over the heart, which was what was eventually adopted.

While I'll teach my children the pledge (in all forms, including the history of), I will never force them to recite it by rote for the primary reason that something recited blindly becomes meaningless. I didn't even really think of the words (except to mumble when the objectionable "under God" came up) as a child. I just parroted the sounds, not even really recognizing them as words with meaning. Most people I know who look at it objectively agree that they did the same. Further, a pledge without meaning or intent is null and void.

Further reading:

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Annika's Birth Story

(warning, this is a graphic, uncensored natural birth story)

To start Annika's story is to begin with a surprise. We had always planned to have four children. But after Kat, it never seemed like the right time to plan our last baby, and I was getting older, already having fertility issues and coming from a family with a history of early menopause. We couldn't really plan to have one, but every month, I mourned when my period came. I knew I wasn't done having children.

Finally, on Beltane (May Day) of 2015, after a couple years of not bothering with protection because it seemed obvious we didn't need it, I teased my husband, "It's Beltane, and I'm ovulating. You know that we're asking for it."

He replied with, "I'm not worried."

As the time for my period approached and I started getting crampy and PMS-y, I messaged one of my best mom-friends and cried that I didn't want to get my period. She consoled me, understanding that I meant that I wanted to be pregnant, but I thought my husband wasn't on board with that, and I had been spending months mourning the loss of the dream of four. To make matters worse, my mom-sister, the mom of Kat's twin, had discovered she was expecting.

I took a pregnancy test just to get the idea of the baby out of my head. It was negative. But I felt off, no longer like my period was coming, having clear pregnancy symptoms (that I blamed on my mom-sister as sympathy symptoms) and I dug it out of the trash (knowing that anything I saw was totally invalid)... to find a pink line. I started obsessing over the color. Evaporation lines don't have the dye color in them.

My period still didn't come, and I took another test. Brandon came to say good-bye on his way to work while I still had a minute left on the test. I tried to stall him without telling him what I was doing. Finally, my 3 minutes was up, and I looked down at the two pink lines.

I spent the next week freaking out because I didn't know how he felt about it, and I wanted the baby so badly. I finally brought it up and found out he was happy, too, just trying to figure out the logistics of how we'd manage everything.

One thing I knew: as tight as money was, I wanted my midwife from Kat's birth again. I wanted my doula, too, but both were semi-retired. Nevertheless, I messaged both. My doula didn't catch on that I was asking because I was pregnant right away, and immediately offered when she found out I was. My midwife was available for late January/early February. The cost was... daunting, but I knew it needed to be her. I know other perfectly good midwives, but I needed Rachel.

Fast forward through a horrible first trimester that I thought was going to kill me -- not hyperbole, but I was worried that my heart was going to give out under the stress, and I was too weak to walk further than the bathroom and back, prepare food to feed myself, etc. Past the second trimester where things got better, but were still difficult. Through the easy, comfortable third trimester, where I had adapted to the SPD and barely felt pregnant. I was still quite comfortably pregnant, happy to be pregnant when everything started.

Normally, I have a lot of prodromal labor, but I really only had two or three sets of a little over 2 hour sessions of it. I was still having painless Braxton-Hicks-feeling contractions right up through labor. I had a feeling through quite a bit of my pregnancy that she might come early, and this strange idea that it would start with my water breaking -- something that hasn't happened to me before. I also figured she would either be my smallest or my biggest ever baby. I was, however, 'realistically' expecting her at the beginning of February, hoping Naomi wouldn't have to share her birth month.

Prodromal labor sucks

Annika had other plans.

I woke up on January 20th at 1:20 am, thinking that I was peeing. I quickly got out of bed and hurried to the bathroom, discarding my soaked pantiliner and underwear on the floor. I noted that there was no smell or color of urine and wondered if it was my water leaking. It was a tiny amount, though. I decided that leaving it would let it sit out to smell later to see if I was imagining things. I went back to bed and apologized to my husband that I'd peed in bed, but I hadn't gotten any in the bed at least.

At 2:40-something, I woke up again, and felt a rush of liquid. Thinking that I was peeing myself again, I hurried back to the bathroom. I felt a pop as I crossed onto the linoleum, and I soaked through the Always Infinity pad I was wearing as well as my underwear. The fluid was clear and smelled sweet. I stared at it as I sat on the toilet and waited to see if more came, starting to worry. Where were my contractions?

I decided to call my midwife, feeling awful about it being the middle of the night. I told Brandon that the baby was coming, that my water had broken, as I collected my phone and returned to the toilet to pass more water and call my midwife. It turned out Rachel was in Jefferson City for a conference, which was 150 miles away. In a winter storm of snow and ice.

We talked, and she asked me to check baby's position (as she had spent most of her time transverse up under my ribs, although she always moved down for midwife appointments). I told her I'd check her heart rate with my Doppler, too, to make sure everything seemed okay in there, which made her happy as she'd forgotten I had one. She told me to call her back as soon as I felt the need to call my doula.

Instead, I texted her that Annika was "high transverse" because I felt her just under my ribs, and found her heart high on my fundus, on the right side. She loved being ROT/right oblique, which drove me a little nuts because she used it to sneak back up to transverse over and over, despite me trying inversions, etc. to get her in launch position. I also put on gloves and tried to feel for the baby. In retrospect, I believe I felt her head, although I didn't know that was what I was feeling at the time.

This scared my midwife, who'd just listened to a case about a compromised cord in a transverse baby, and with my meager, painless contractions, she was worried that the baby might have her cord either wrapped around her body (as she was a very active little starfish in there and kept bouncing back up like she was tethered) or about to prolapse. So she sent me to the hospital for a position check and monitoring.

She asked if I wanted her to send her assistant to meet me there, and I did. Once I was done with that, I sat on the floor and cried my eyes out. I didn't want another cesarean. The idea of facing my bedroom stairs, or even trying to get in my house, while recovering from major abdominal surgery, sounded impossible. All my work for an HBAC appeared to be going out the window, and I had to process and deal with all the feelings that invoked. Brandon held me while I worked through it.

"They're going to take my baby and wash off all her vernix and bathe her and do everything without me and not let me see her or hold her," I sobbed in between other fears.

Once I was in control enough to speak sensibly again, I called my doula and told her what was going on and she planned to meet me at the hospital, too. I repacked the emergency bag after removing all my cloth diapers that I knew wouldn't fit a 39-weeker. We got the kids ready and left, exhausted and worried.

On the way there, I berated Annika for her positioning and pleaded with her to move down. With my water broken, there was no way to move her externally. I told her that we would be seeing Rachel soon, so shouldn't she get ready for an appointment? I felt her move down to oblique while we stopped for gas to make it to the hospital. I still wasn't having pain or any intensity with my contractions.

I kept prodding her and pleading as we went in, so not wanting to have her still be transverse when I got checked. I was also scared of how they were going to react to me leaving if she wasn't. I decided to tell them my water had only broken at 4am (it was 5am by the time we got there) so they wouldn't worry too much and harass me. After all, if she was still in that position, it didn't matter. Babies can't come out if they're lying sideways across the exit.

After trying to give a urine sample and only producing a trickle, I was put on monitors, although they messed up the contraction monitor and put it on my flab instead of my fundus. I had my husband, doula and Lexi, the midwife's assistant, there to help me through the most emotionally difficult part of my labor. Brandon waited with the girls while I was checked because the room was very small (they only wanted one person to go in with me, but the look on my face when they said that got me my whole party until it was time to actually do stuff).

I was at a 2, 50% effaced, and her head was down (+2 if I remember correctly). The resident also insisted on testing me for broken waters, which I thought was hilarious and ridiculous. I offered to show her the full adult diaper I'd worn over. I'd already soaked through both my samples and a towel. While baby wasn't engaged, her head was down, and that was a huge relief. And I tested positive for broken waters. They decided that no ultrasound was needed. Then the misplaced contraction monitor made itself a nuisance by not picking up the beginning or end of my contractions and making it look like I was having late decels.

My midwife, in the meantime, unbeknownst to me at first, was driving back as fast as she could through the weather in the middle of the night/buttcrack of dawn, to come up to check on me and be there for me. Lexi texted her everything that was going on and passed on her advice to me (which was to wait and be monitored). When they said late decels, I looked them up to understand why that mattered, on alert to the word "decels" as that's a standard bullshit technique to force an unnecessary cesarean.

When they said 'placental insufficiency,' my BS meter blew up. I'd grown 2 super healthy babies' placentas for over 41 weeks with no insufficiency. I wasn't buying that on a 39 weeker who had shown no problems whatsoever where I had been on a high protein diet and worked to take care of said placenta.

I said, "You're not bullying me into a cesarean, but thanks for trying." They quickly backpedaled and said that they had no intention of doing that and said their cesarean rate was really low (my midwife said that that was true -- although incredibly unlikely that it was their stated '10%' -- because they transferred their high risk patients to another facility). But when Rachel said that I needed to stay and be monitored, I did, even if I was dubious (she was still scared about the possibility of the cord being tangled up, and late decels would certainly mean that something could be up with the cord).

I moved the monitors to better positions (I kept moving the Doppler monitor to chase Annika down, as she was trying to 'run' from it as she had the whole pregnancy, and she was 'running' right into my pelvis, where she belonged), and the contractions started actually being picked up. I noticed that she kicked the contraction monitor at the right moment to cause it to draw what looked like a pregnant woman. Her kick made a boob after a contraction-face while the next contraction made the belly. We got a laugh out of it.

It was obvious before very long that she was quite healthy in there. My blood pressure was insanely high, so I removed a layer of shirts from under it, and it 'magically' dropped (I'll give it a bit of white coat syndrome, too, but it was largely that they were reading me through two shirts). My midwife arrived and talked with the on call doctor about what was going on, looked over the monitors and asked to check me (she asked both me and the OB).

I was now a 3, and she was definitely head down (and going off how I had to keep moving the Doppler monitor, she was moving down with contractions pretty steadily), and my midwife thought she felt a little hand up there, too. My midwife hypothesized that perhaps Annika popped her own water grabbing at things up there, and that was why it didn't accompany my normal contractions.

We decided that everything was okay, and I requested to leave AMA. Before we left, the new on call doctor came and introduced himself in case we would be back later, talked to my midwife, and overall, they were all very nice about me leaving. He just wanted to make sure I was close by (I was 12 minutes from the hospital), and then we left for my house. Tara, my doula, did a food run to McDonald's on the way.
Last pregnancy pic, 39 weeks, 5 days, by Lilly

Kat and Tara, who was there when she came into the world ♥
We all gathered at my house, where my contractions continued to be at most, a bit crampy. I had a few good ones at the hospital, but they petered out. What followed was a long waiting game. My midwife went home to nap, leaving her assistant and my doula. Eventually, Tara had to go, though, because her son was competing in a tournament that weekend down in Texas (I got to see some awesome videos of his trampoline prowess at the tournament later, which was awesome!).

I don't remember how musical care providers went exactly, but we managed to get everyone some rest and had a long day of nothing really happening. We talked about how long we could wait with my waters ruptured, if/when I would want to try something to move things along (blue and black cohosh, which I wasn't on board with because of the blood pressure issues I was having and my ongoing heart issues) and the same with antibiotics (if we entered a prolonged rupture of membranes stage). I kept having a mix of painless and difficult contractions with long periods of nada.

Eventually, we all got some sleep. After everyone left, I turned on Closing Time by Semisonic and tried to dance her down. It's always been a birth song to me. I also painted my toenails, joking that it was "in case she was offended by my naked toes." I'd had painted toenails for every birth. I'd had a nurse during my first labor joke that she always knew when a mama was really in labor when she saw her toenails done after seeing mine.

I tried various sitting, kneeling and lying positions trying to get her to move out of ROT (right occiput transverse) into a better position to come out and to prevent her from getting back up into her favorite spot under my ribs. She was content to take her time. While I got sleep, strong, good contractions woke me up twice an hour. I had also taken a shower before bed to try to tolerate the contractions I was having and relax and stimulate oxytocin via orgasm, but I only got a couple good contractions from that and couldn't tolerate my nipples being touched. Every time I fell asleep, my contractions picked up. So relaxing and sleeping seemed ideal.

The next day, Rachel was quite disappointed that no call for birthing had come in the night, and we resumed our watch. She requested to check me, and I considered it. I asked myself if I could handle knowing that I wasn't progressing as fast as I'd like, or worse, at all, and the answer was a resounding "No." It would devastate me. I needed to trust my body to keep working. So I declined.

We tried some pregnancy tea, double bagging it because red raspberry leaf usually stimulates strong contractions in me. I figured the stinging nettle could help calm down my blood pressure while it was at it. I had a nosebleed at one point while talking to Lexi, just out of the blue, and scared her. It wasn't my first this pregnancy, and I wasn't sure if it was blood pressure or dry, winter air combined with a cold and stuffy nose. The tea didn't really work, and I decided to consent to trying the cohoshes.

Rachel gave me a homeopathic low dose to start, having the full herbs ready if that didn't work. Oh, it worked all right. I went from having contractions every half hour (as they'd been all night) to every 10 minutes. My bestie, Lesley, came over and hung out for a while. I enjoyed all the socialization, but with the cohoshes doing their thing despite me thinking a homeopathic dose would do nothing, I started entering labor land a bit. I was noisy and uncomfortable during the contractions. She kept giving me the doses, which looked like little sugary fish eggs, and labor moved along swimmingly. Placebo or genuinely working, it worked quite well.

Eventually, Lesley had to leave, and by then, I was up to about every 6 minutes. I agreed to an antibiotic push because my water had been broken so long, and I was planning a water birth. I didn't want to take any unnecessary risks. I was also hoping that it would prevent any retained placenta infections this time.

While she was inserting the IV, she almost blew a vein, and I chastised her and told her she got a C because it hurt. She, however, saved the vein and got the antibiotics pushed, so I upgraded her to a B for that, though she'd tried to negotiate for higher. Marks lost for pain in patient. I did have very little bruising, though. So I'll give her a B+.

I asked Brandon to go take the liner up to the pool, and Rachel said no. I pointed out that I hadn't asked him to fill it, just take the liner up and she took back her no. She just didn't want my labor to stall out, but I knew that it was really going now and nothing was going to stop it.

When I hit every 3 minutes and could no longer keep up reading Facebook posts from friends stalking my labor, I went upstairs before I wouldn't be able to get there. I had to stop on the stairs and get through a nasty contraction, and I felt transition approaching.

I got upstairs, and everyone started preparing everything. I, in the meantime, was miserable. I had been very noisy through my contractions, but seeing the empty pool and knowing I was hitting transition made me afraid I wouldn't get my water birth... again. I collapsed onto the girls' bed, into their pile of stuffed animals, pillows and blankets. I hugged Lilly's giant teddy "Big Bear" and had one last noisy contraction before I surrendered to transition. Rachel said it was time to fill the tub, and I cried that they had waited too long. She assured me that they hadn't, and Lexi came over to monitor me, apply lovely counter pressure and comfort me as I cried into Big Bear, too worn out to be noisy through contractions anymore. I just wanted to save my strength for what I knew was coming.

I found the contractions became more tolerable when I moved to lie on my side

Lilly, now officially part of my birth team, filled the pool as fast as possible, and Rachel asked one last time if she could check me before I got in. I gave her a grumpy, "No," as I made a beeline for my warm, watery happy spot. The pool didn't look very full, but it was still being filled, and when I stepped in, there was several inches of water that I didn't see, so I was engulfed quickly. It doesn't show in the pictures, but I was perfectly buried in the water. It was a strange effect, but the water was covering my belly except when I stuck it out on purpose.

These two booked front row seats for the birth, but weren't participating

Things were in full swing now, but the water relaxed me completely between contractions. Rachel said to me, "Now, there are two rules for the pool: One, no passing out. Two, you get out to birth the placenta."

"She was planning on that," Brandon answered her while I tried to say the same. I echoed him. I got grumpy with my contractions after that. I was quite ready to be done with this stage.

My first contraction in the water I was pushing on her, saying "down, down," and then exclaimed, "The enemy gate is down!"

Brandon said, "I don't think we want her blowing up any planets."

I said, "I feel like a planet!"

"We don't want her blowing you up, either."

"She already did!"

Everyone got a good laugh, and Rachel started talking about how she wanted to make a collection of all the famous quotes she'd heard during labors. Lexi agreed that it would be an awesome book. I continued with my "down, down" mantra, and sang a little Sugar, We're Going Down under my breath. I considered asking someone to move the curtain on the skylight so I could see the sky, but I was afraid it would make the room cold.

This is where things are now foggy. I waited a bit too long to write this part of the story, and birth amnesia has started setting in. Part of that is because I was falling half-asleep between contractions. Brandon mentioned that Rachel had said no passing out, and she said, "She's sleeping. That's different. That's actually the best thing to do right now. We want her to do that."*

I, on the other hand, was now absolutely done with labor. I was howling, "I'm done! I'm done!" during some contractions. Between, I tried, "Some gas and air would be great now."

Rachel replied that we weren't in a state that allowed that (yet), and there was some discussion of that being done in the US, but only in hospitals to start. Another contraction hit, and I returned to yelling about it hurting and shouted, "An eight! My pain is an eight!" quite cranky that no one else had to be doing this part, and they were all having such a good time -- as far as I was concerned, far too good of a time. (Looking back, that's a good thing! Everything was going smoothly!) I kept reaching down to check if I could feel anything yet and bumped against my clitoris. The pain receded, so I started pressing on it and growled, "You want oxytocin? Here! Have it!" It made the pain more manageable.

"Okay, I'll take an epidural now!" I yowled during a particularly awful contraction. Everyone laughed sympathetically.

"Afraid we can't do that," Lexi said.

"Hospital wouldn't either," I said, because I knew I was about to start pushing. The urge to push wasn't obvious, but I recognized that it was time. I had been asked multiple times during labor if I was pushing, which I confirmed with the qualifier that it wasn't time, it just felt good to do. The water was hot again, so they started adding more, which I didn't like. It was too warm, and it was time to push. I rolled around in the water, kicking at the side of the tub and screamed. Rachel chastised me.

"You're going to wreck your voice!"

"Good! I want to wreck it! I don't care! I have to scream. I did with Kat, too. I have to." I babbled frantically. "I don't want to do this anymore. I want off the ride! I'm done!"

Then another contraction hit, and the water temperature pissed me off, and I yelled to turn if off, that I didn't want it as I flipped over to the half-squat/kneel that I used to bring out Kat. I reached down again to feel for her and support my perineum as I shouted "I'm serious! I'm done!" and pushed. I yelled that she was coming and felt her hit my perineum. I could feel her on the other side from above my vagina down to my anus, and thought, 'She's huge!'

Then I went down to hands and knees and pushed harder, and she popped out. I was filled with amazement as I felt her soft head fill my hand. Her tiny soft head. It had seemed so big a second ago. I had pushed her to the cheeks, I heard someone say. Rachel was instructing Lilly on how to help and to reach and feel. I moved off the jelly feeling stuff (probably the caul) from her head and pushed again, still on the same contraction that I started with. The rest of her head popped out.

I sighed in relief, "That's better." Everyone laughed, and someone reminded me that I wasn't over yet. I replied, "I know, but that feels better."

You can see Lilly's hair next to Rachel and her arm reaching to feel the baby

I think Rachel asked me to push some more, and I mumbled something about physiological pushing and that I wasn't quite ready yet. I moved around and said, "She's stuck." It felt like minutes passed while I wiggled and pushed, and then there was a little pop, and she exploded out of me.

There was a lot of talking at that moment that I don't remember. Then Rachel said that they were passing the baby to me, and I moved to reach down and grab her, fall back and pull her out of the water in amazement. I think people were telling me what to do, but I just reacted on instinct.

She looked like she wanted to go to sleep, so I coaxed her to wake up and cough and cry out the fluid in her lungs while wrapping the towel around her that I was passed and rubbing the amazing amount of vernix she was covered in into her skin to both rub it in and stimulate her. I'd never had such a 'cheesy' baby, but I remembered worrying specifically about the hospital taking that experience away from me.

It wasn't long before I was coaxed out of the water onto the bed so I could birth the placenta. Lexi reported that she was born at 5:55, and that her head had come out at 5:54. So it had been much faster than I experienced, although I had known the whole thing happened very fast. It was within the space of just two contractions. I only pushed four or five times.

We all gathered around and said hello to the baby. Crawling onto the bed, I was very aware of the cord still inside me and cautioned everyone to go slowly so it wasn't pulled on. Shortly after, I pushed out the placenta, but the membranes were kind of stuck inside. We waited and worked them out, hoping nothing was left inside (a bit was, but we managed to avoid an infection, and I passed them a few days later, and then the rest a few days after that). I think they probably got stuck on my scar.

I asked that we wait to cut the cord until the placenta was out so I could see her attached. There wasn't a good angle for me to get a picture this time, but that's okay. I'll spare you readers the placenta pictures I did take. Brandon hid while we went over all of that. Naomi was offered the cord to cut, but as she'd gotten to trim Kat's, I thought it was only fair Kat get to cut Annika's.

I was so happy to have my baby

We had already announced her name during the labor to the birth team, but Brandon posted on Facebook when she was born for us, announcing it to everyone. She was very tired and went to sleep rather quickly. I tried to get her to nurse, but she wasn't interested. She woke up to cough up the stuff from her lungs, and I tried some more to get her to nurse. Finally, Lexi said something about my finger, and I remembered having to get past babies started with the finger, and I pestered her into sucking on that. Once she did, I pulled it out of her mouth and offered to nurse, promising that she would like it. She took to it quickly after that.

Brandon left to get me a celebratory turkey sandwich from Subway. When he returned we got Annika's weight and other stats. She screamed a little monkey scream at being taken from me, but calmed down okay. Lexi and I were guessing she'd be high 6lbs or low 7lbs. Rachel weighed her and said, "You fail! Seven pounds, thirteen ounces." Annika was 20 3/4" long. She's my tiniest baby.

From waters fully broken to birth was 39 hours. I was in active labor for 5 hours. It was a long couple of days any way you look at it, for such an amazing little package, who decided she would come at a surprise time to meet her grandma as soon as she could, as she was passing from this world and had held out all this time to meet her.

She was my longest labor, my tiniest baby, and is my best nurser. She's a calm, happy little baby who loves practicing her smiles already. My long awaited last baby, who came into the world with, of all things, amber-brown eyes that turned blue, facial bruising that healed up quickly and an elfin/Vulcan ear on one side and 'goblin' ear on the other. Welcome to the family, Annika Shuri! ♥

*Quotes are approximate based on my memory