Friday, October 29, 2010

Happy Halloween! (Ghost Stories)

image courtesy of my husband's pumpkin carving skillz

I originally posted this as a contest entry for Halloween stories. Everything here is completely true to the best of my knowledge and represents paranormal experiences I've had--just in time for Halloween!

My experience with the paranormal began as a child. I was always 'sensitive' to unseen things and was good at predicting small events, like phone calls and things that people were going to say.

When I was 12, I had a best friend (who was basically my ONLY friend at the time) and we both became sick and missed school. We saw each other at the Boys and Girls club and she asked me to come home with her. Afraid of getting in trouble (and afraid of going a new place without anyone knowing where I was), I begged off and went home.

At home, I talked with her on the phone for a while and taught her "American Pie" ("This will be the day that I die") after "Paint It Black" and some other oldies. She loved them. At the end of the call, she had to go take her medicine and we sang American Pie one last time.

That night, I had terrible dreams about fire and trying to find her.

The next day, my mom came home and said, "Heather, it's April..."

I just looked up and said, "Is she dead?"

There had been a fire and because of the cough medicine she took, she never woke up. Her mother lost both her daughters that night (her sons survived) partly because of the burglar bars on their windows. April was 12, like me and her sister was in high school.

Then there was the terribly haunted house I lived in in high school (a toaster once flew across the kitchen at my mom's head while I was in the living room, coming to the kitchen--it flew outward by about 2' right at her from on top of the fridge to where she was cooking at the stove and there were people who absolutely refused to set foot in our house--they would get to the threshold and freeze, uncomfortable and then leave... amongst too many other stories). My best friend was the only person comfortable with being downstairs alone at night there. There was one ghost on the stairs that kept any others from coming up.

On to when my husband and I first met in person (we met online months before). He flew here and then flew us down to New Orleans to meet with more friends from our online group. While there, we stayed in an Inn in Geismar. We had one jacket and hung it on the single coat rod. Randomly, it would slide back and forth along the totally level rod. We checked everywhere and there was no draft, no airflow at all to move it. And it slid both ways.

Going back a way, I was on a family vacation with a friend, coming back from Colorado (to Missouri) when it became late and we pulled into this small town to find a place to sleep. I could see shapes moving out in the darkness and this pervasive sense of Wrong filled me with terror and the need to leave. Immediately.

I started telling my friend we couldn't stay there, we had to get away, get away now. Her walkie talkie buzzed on and her parents (in a separate vehicle) said, "Your sister is freaking out and says we have to leave. We're thinking we might want to find another town to stay in tonight."

My friend confirmed that I was acting the exact same way and thankfully her parents were spiritual people who believed us. I don't remember what town it was, just a small one in KS before we got to Salina, which is where we ended up staying. But in two separate vehicles, her little sister and I saw and felt the exact same thing. She described exactly what I had.

And for my last ghost story... In the last house we lived in before this one, there was one night where I felt this incredibly disturbing feeling. I felt sick and terrified and knew exactly where it was coming from--like hearing a sound, only with a completely different sense.

I felt it moving around the house and locked the doors in fear. Then this scratching sound started on the back porch door (enclosed porch--the door was non-functional--we used it as a library). I was freaking out and staring at the source of the sound and then a banging started against it. I touched the glass of the door with my left hand that led to the porch and jerked my hand back. There were scratches up and down my left arm. I started praying frantically and it faded away.

When my husband (then fiance) got home, I had him look and there were scratches on my arm and my shoulder where I couldn't see.

I warded the house after that. In this one, there's some disturbing negative sense that both I and my youngest feel toward the back porch/back yard, but the house is basically neutral.

Well, there's a short summary of many of the ghost stories I've lived personally. Happy Halloween!
image again courtesy of my husband's pumpkin carving skillz

Thursday, October 21, 2010


Two things inspired this: One, a trip to the pediatrician where she was nosier than she's ever been and one of her questions was to ask if Lilly had her own room (yes, she does--no, she doesn't sleep in it and no, we didn't say that because it's none of her business and I don't appreciate having another person's culture and family structure preferences pushed on me, which is what I suspect would have followed). Two, there was a Carnival of Breastfeeding on nursing and sleep, so a bunch of posts about sleep popped up. Since I nurse while cosleeping, that's what this entry is going to be about.

So, I went into parenting with a different perspective than most Americans on the issue of sleep. To me, the idea of having a baby in another room, where you aren't aware of what's happening to them, if they're truly safe or even alive, is disturbing. I would never trust a mechanical monitor to tell me that my baby is breathing, nor would I trust that my baby is not being injured like hundreds are every year by their cribs. Hell, SIDS used to be called crib/cot death.

I coslept with my mom as a baby, toddler and child. Like many Japanese children (the culture which held a special place in my mother's heart and influenced such parenting practices as cosleeping, breastfeeding for two years and baby wearing), I was in my mother's bed until I was about 8 (the average age for a Japanese child is actually 10 before they begin sleeping alone--if another baby is born, usually they sleep with another family member), which is roughly when I was ready to sleep on my own... to a certain extent. There were extenuating circumstances and I probably would have stuck around longer if I'd had the choice--but I'm glad I had the time I did and that my mom followed my cues on where to sleep, more or less.

It's not normal for humans to sleep alone. 1/4th of American couples sleep in separate beds, however, and the vast majority of American children sleep alone. Some are lucky enough to share a room or even bed with a sibling and a few are lucky enough to have access to a family bed as long as they want.

It's a cycle. In infancy (or early childhood), the baby is isolated, being forced to learn to sleep alone, being denied the human contact that they need (24/7--parenting is not a 6am-8pm job) and it continues through childhood. This creates a need for an artificial sleeping environment that is not conducive to bed sharing at any point in life. In fact, most couples have to learn to sleep together and many are just incapable in the end.

Throw in a healthy baby, who moves, wriggles, snores, coos, wakes and needs all. night. long. and it can be something that a Western-reared parent just can not handle. They can't sleep and so they fall back into the cycle that they were raised to fall into--by sending the baby off to sleep alone so that they can get their stimulating-sensory-event-free sleep.

Cosleeping doesn't have to be bed sharing. It includes just having the crib in the parents' room (which is actually recommended by the AAP for the first 6 months of life--which very few people seem to know) and then the toddler bed and kid's bed until they're ready to be alone. It doesn't have to be an intrusion into mom and dad's space--there are healthier compromises. But this, too, can be very hard for the parent who has been conditioned to sleep only in total darkness and silence.

A white noise machine (or a fan) can help many people get past the little noises in the night, but if baby's not in bed, that can defeat the 'mom wakes at the smallest sound' safety that's built in to protect our babies and keep their natural biorhythms going (which are attuned to our own).

It's not for everyone. People who smoke, drink, do drugs or take prescription sleep aids should never have baby in their bed (and if you smoke in the house, you shouldn't have a baby in the house at all--it's the number two direct cause of SIDS). That crib in the room can still be an option, however. People who are addicted to big, fluffy pillows and miles of bedding should not have baby in the bed. People who are exceptionally deep sleepers--same deal (and if you're drop dead exhausted from a sleep situation that's not working, that's not particularly safe, either!). Obesity? Well, that's a crock. The whole "overlying" thing makes it sound like fat people have no sense of touch. Without a secondary problem, that's just not the case. Secondary conditions that may cause dangerous sleeping habits that afflict obese people also affect thin people and should be taken into consideration with anyone before sharing bed with a baby.

The ideal situation for cosleeping is the biggest bed you can afford with the firmest mattress, on the floor (no frame and no headboard/footboard for baby to get caught in) with a parent/parents who is/are not under the influence of any substances, including prescription substances, with no pillows around the baby and no heavy blanket (baby does best in a sleep sack or something similar).

We do a family bed and sleep great. I know where my kids are (so no horror movie scenarios for me, thanks), they know where we are (no monsters to keep us coming back in so they don't feel lonely, scared, etc.) and when they're ready to have their own beds, that will be up to them. That's what works for our family. Like I said, I was raised to see the whole thing completely different from the culture I am surrounded by. I would never ask of my children what I wouldn't want for my own life. And in this case, that is to be alone while they sleep. Finally, it facilitates nursing as well as our connection. Never do I feel as at peace as those last moments of looking at my sleeping family before I let myself succumb to sleep.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Welfare Drug Testing: Why I'm Against It

Free child looking out a window with reflection stock photo Creative Commons
Photo used with Creative Commons permission © Pink Sherbet Photography / Flickr

So, I'm constantly seeing, "If I have to get drug tested for a job, welfare recipients should be tested for drugs," and it makes me cringe. The first time I heard it, it made sense and I agreed (after all, I'm a prohibitionist). Then I actually thought about it.

Let's start with what Welfare is. In my state, it's a pittance of less than $300 that only goes to needy parents. If you don't have children, you do not qualify. There is a 5 year limit on this assistance--for life. Meaning that once the 5 years of assistance has been reached, you can never get it again.

The ONLY people truly hurt by this would be the children. Suddenly, kids who were already barely getting enough to get by wouldn't even have that. Would that make their parents clean up and get help? No. It's not even doubtful, but history shows that it would do the opposite. The further stressed parents (who couldn't even keep clean long enough for a damn drug test they'd have KNOWN was coming) would just delve deeper into drugs to deal with their problems (because if they're on drugs in the first place, then they have no coping skills in the first place). If you are rejected for a job because you tested positive for drugs, then that's all that happens. The children would receive no help by having their parents cleaned up AND they wouldn't have food or necessities that the money was going to bring them.

Drug testing would add $6 million to the cost of Welfare per year for new users of the program. To put that in perspective, new users cost about $2.3 million on their own. So it would triple the additional money each year--in a state that spends less on its poor than any other in the country. The bill that was brought up to force this didn't go through because it was primarily a publicity stunt.

However, in Florida, they made the recipients, who make less than $80/week to feed their kids, pay for it out of pocket. Then, when they pass (as 98% did), the State had to repay them. Assuming they could afford half a week's money to prove that they are in the majority of people--those who don't use drugs. 70% of illegal drug users are employed full-time.

Now, why it isn't comparable to job drug testing. Why do you get tested for drugs for a job? Because if you are on drugs, then your job performance is going to be impeded. You aren't going to be able to perform the duties of your job--which is going to pay far, far more than Welfare, even if you're working as a waitress at half minimum wage. It has nothing to do with the law and once you've been rejected for the job for drugs, that's the end of the story.

So, this would cost the state more money, only cause harm to children who are already in a horrible position and doesn't serve a purpose like drug testing for employment does. What's more, it's already been ruled unconstitutional by federal court in 1999 when Michigan instituted the program and was slapped with a restraining order to cease and desist immediately (Marchwinski v. Howard, in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit ruled this unconstitutional).

The main proponents of such an act are people who constantly quote the Constitution. Well, you can't have it both ways! Either the Constitution is valid for EVERY citizen or it's not valid at all. You don't get to pick and choose which parts of the Constitution you want to uphold, either.

Now, the MO bill did address two key issues: the purposelessness of the bill and the food taken out of the children's mouths (the second by allowing third party benefits--but this might not apply to all children). They would have required testing only for those who the caseworker felt there was "reasonable suspicion" to suspect drug use and be given drug treatment assistance. Also, assuming that "reasonable suspicion" didn't include simply showing up at the office or being poor, it would avoid violating the constitutional bit about unreasonable search and seizure. Although I have my doubts about 1. Case worker bias and 2. training.

Now, none of this would affect me much because 1. I've never used and never will use drugs and 2. I'm not on Welfare. I hope to God I'm never that poor. I'd definitely be tested because my disability makes my behavior strange in stressful situations and I wouldn't care, but this isn't about my personal situation. It's about children who are living in terrible conditions who would be punished for their parents' poor decisions on top of the crappy circumstances they're already living in. It could also cause prideful people who are letting their families suffer because they don't want to ask for help, to be less inclined to get that help because their personal privacy was being violated (even though these kinds of people are very unlikely to fail a drug test).

It's just a mess. If the whole purpose were to get help for the families with drug problems, I'd be for it, possibly. But that's not why people go off about it. People are going off like children seeing another kid with a different toy. It doesn't matter that it's a dirty used water bottle and they have a shiny new doll, they are throwing a fit because the other child, after going through a humiliating trial and being teased constantly for their toy, was just given it when they had to spend their chore money on their toy. Because 'outrage' is all the rage.

And I'll close on a quote:

“A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.” ~Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Further recommended reading:

This blog entry was updated 3-10-13

Friday, October 8, 2010

Why Rock the Boat? Quotes

A collection of my favorite quotes:

A 'No' uttered from the deepest conviction is better than a 'Yes' merely uttered to please, or worse, to avoid trouble.
Mohandas Gandhi

Man must evolve for all human conflict a method which rejects revenge, aggression and retaliation. The foundation of such a method is love.
Martin Luther King, Jr.

Nearly everything you do is of no importance, but it is important that you do it.
Mohandas Gandhi

The hope of a secure and livable world lies with disciplined nonconformists who are dedicated to justice, peace and brotherhood.
Martin Luther King, Jr.

Power is of two kinds. One is obtained by the fear of punishment and the other by acts of love. Power based on love is a thousand times more effective and permanent then the one derived from fear of punishment.
Mohandas Gandhi

Almost always, the creative dedicated minority has made the world better.
Martin Luther King, Jr.

You must not lose faith in humanity. Humanity is an ocean; if a few drops of the ocean are dirty, the ocean does not become dirty.
Mohandas Gandhi

He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetrate it. He who accepts evil without protesting against it is really cooperating with it.
Martin Luther King, Jr.

Stand upright, speak thy thoughts, declare The truth thou hast, that all may share; Be bold, proclaim it everywhere: They only live who dare.

We who engage in nonviolent direct action are not the creators of tension. We merely bring to the surface the hidden tension that is already alive.
Martin Luther King, Jr.

The instruction we find in books is like fire. We fetch it from our neighbours, kindle it at home, communicate it to others, and it becomes the property of all.
Voltaire (this can be applies to the internet as well)

First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.
Mohandas Gandhi

Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable... Every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering, and struggle; the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals.
Martin Luther King, Jr.

I object to violence because when it appears to do good, the good is only temporary; the evil it does is permanent.
Mohandas Gandhi

History will have to record that the greatest tragedy of this period of social transition was not the strident clamor of the bad people, but the appalling silence of the good people.
Martin Luther King, Jr.

Man becomes great exactly in the degree in which he works for the welfare of his fellow-men.
Mohandas Gandhi

In the End, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.
Martin Luther King, Jr.

Non-cooperation with evil is as much a duty as is cooperation with good.
Mohandas Gandhi

Nonviolence is a powerful and just weapon. which cuts without wounding and ennobles the man who wields it. It is a sword that heals.
Martin Luther King, Jr.

We may encounter many defeats but we must not be defeated.
Maya Angelou

The first question which the priest and the Levite asked was: "If I stop to help this man, what will happen to me?" But... the good Samaritan reversed the question: "If I do not stop to help this man, what will happen to him?"
Martin Luther King, Jr.

Satisfaction lies in the effort, not in the attainment, full effort is full victory.
Mohandas Gandhi

Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.
Martin Luther King, Jr.

All great achievements require time. --Maya Angelou

Every man is guilty of all the good he did not do. --Voltaire

Keep love in your heart. A life without it is like a sunless garden when the flowers are dead. --Oscar Wilde

I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel. --Maya Angelou

Means we use must be as pure as the ends we seek. --Martin Luther King, Jr.

Be the change that you want to see in the world. --Mohandas Ghandi

It is time for parents to teach young people early on that in diversity there is beauty and there is strength. --Maya Angelou

We allow our ignorance to prevail upon us and make us think we can survive alone, alone in patches, alone in groups, alone in races, even alone in genders. --Maya Angelou

Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever. (Ghandi)