Good Cop, Bad Cop, how our two mom family works.

My partner Karol and I have been together for 10 years.  We have lived apart and we have lived together.  When we first decided to take the plunge and be a couple she was about to move to Pennsylvania and I was staying here in Virginia.  We knew it was going to be difficult, especially since we were a new couple, but we knew we could do it.  And we did!  Looking back, I actually think it made our relationship better to be apart the first two years.  We were careful not to fight, because we couldn’t see each other much.  However, we did manage to see each other at least once every month.  She would bring her kids down to Virginia to see their father who lived in a town near me, and then we would spend the weekend together.

Bluebell and I at a party.

This separation went on for two years, and then she received orders to move back to Virginia. Thank God!! We purchased a house and then began the daunting task of “blending” our families. Bluebell has two kids and I have two kids.  They already knew each other as we visited with them and had vacationed with them over the two year period that we lived apart.  However, it was still a worrisome thing to move in together.  Would they get along well?  Would our one girl be okay living with three boys?  How would we handle discipline, etc?  As much as we tried to make sure we had a plan for each of these things, as you can imagine, we couldn’t plan for everything.

Karol and I had very different child rearing styles.  Mine was/is tough love, and loving firmness.  Hers was a laid back, “let them be kids” attitude. Well friends, those different styles made for some rocky times initially.  However, I loosened up , and Bluebell toughened up, and we soon settled into a sort of routine.  It was like a “Good Cop, Bad Cop” thing.

Brandon…our oldest boy

It has always been very important to me that we treat the kids equally.  Especially since we are a step family it has always been a priority to me that no kid feels like things are not “fair”.  This is not always possible, and at any given point (especially in the beginning) we heard many comments of “Why does _____ get to do/go/have ____ that I don’t to do/go/have?”  Our answer varied depending ion the specific incident.  With 4 kids of varying ages it is not always possible to be totally fair, but we have always done our best. We don’t hear the “unfair” statements anymore.

Joe Cool….the middle son

Interestingly, as we stepped into our “Good Cop, Bad Cop” schtick, we never played the same character all the time.  Sometimes I was the meanie, sometimes it was Karol.  And we didn’t even plan it.  It just sort of evolved.  We tried all kinds of things.

One of our most interesting ideas was what we referred to as “Kid Court”.  We put the “accused” on trial of a jury of  their peers.  Bluebell and I served as the judges.  We told the jury the crime committed by the accused and they would discuss the punishment to Be given to the accused.  Of course as the judges we would decide if the punishment fit the crime.  When we first started this, the kids would come up with very harsh punishments…  (Absolute power corrupts absolutely), but we would gently remind the jury that it could be them in the “hot seat”, so be cautious about the severity of the punishment.  That usually gave them pause and they would adjust their punishment.  To be fair, the accused was always given an opportunity to explain why they chose to make the decision and ask for leniency.  This actually worked for about a year.  Then Karol’s daughter Katarina decided she wanted to go live with her dad, and we didn’t have enough kids left to be an adequate jury, so we had to change tactics.

The Genius…the youngest son

Over the years, our parenting styles have adapted as our kids have gotten older, and their “crimes” have evolved from tween things like not doing chores or fibbing to teen things like missing curfew, computer impropriety (another post for another day), and being downright sneaky.  However, we still fall back into our familiar Good Cop Bad Cop roles with ease, and it seems to work well for us.
We are NOT perfect parents, but we continue to do our best to raise our boys to be responsible, effective, reasonable, thoughtful adults.  So far, they are coming along nicely.

Coming out…over and over and over

I had a fairly normal life.  I grew up with two brothers, a mother and a father.  We moved around some when I was little (born in Phoenix, spent three years in Colorado, 5 years in Southern California, and finally landed in Connecticut).  My family was a bit dysfunctional, but we were okay for the most part.  We went on family trips.  My brothers and I fought.  My mother was ALWAYS on a diet, my dad went to work in the city and came home to the ‘burbs.  A typical 70’s family.
I was a typical teenaged girl also.  I talked on the phone incessantly.  I had a diary.  Had lots of boyfriends, and struggled with high school cliques and popularity contests.  I had a part time job, and hung out with my friend and shopped.  Normal teenaged girl.

                                                    My Junior year in high school 198??

When I graduated high school I moved out of my parents house because they were just too strict and I “NEEDED MY FREEDOM”. I actually shouted that at my parents when I moved out.  What a fucking turd I was.  Really, was it so bad that my parents wanted to charge me $50.00 a month for rent?  My mother even offered to pay me $5.00 an hour to do ironing for her, thereby giving me an opportunity to “earn” my rent.  Nope, no good for my sorry teenaged ass. I “needed” my freedom. So I traded my parents house in a safe middle class neighborhood and their cheap rent to move in with a girl I worked with at the grocery store.  I went from my parents house to an apartment on the second floor in a not so safe neighborhood in Bridgeport Ct.  I went from food and heat and security, to very little food, limited money for gas, and struggling enough that I had to get a second job so I could choose to either put gas in my car, or eat.  STUPID!!

However, when I moved out something even more dramatic changed for me.  It was after I moved in with Pam (I think her name was) that I met Kathleen.  Now when you read her name, you need to imagine her name being said with music playing it and a pretty face with long black hair floating in one of those conversation bubbles with shimmering stars behind her face.  THAT would be how it was back then. Kathleen was pretty, funny, and  (said with a whisper) ………   a lesbian……   She was not looking for a relationship, but apparently a fresh faced pretty 18 year old girl with a curiosity about her was too much for her to resist, and our little friendship blossomed into MUCH more…….

Suffice it to say that Kathleen was the first woman I ever kissed in an other than “you’re my best friend” way.  She was also the first woman to break my heart.  We had a great time together, however, when I went to boot camp a few months after we started dating, my mail went from cards every day, to letters once a week, to the dreaded “Dear Jane” letter, then it was over.  I cried. I moved on.
Since that time I have been in relationships with both men and women.  (No not at the same time you twisted people)…  and although I enjoyed being with both men and women, I always enjoyed my relationships with women more.  Somehow for me the relationship had a depth that was missing in my relationships with men.

I have been in a wonderful relationship with my partner Karol for 8 years.  We are very happy.  We love each other very much.  We share our lives.  We argue, we laugh, we raise our kids, and we are truly happy with each other.
By now you are probably wondering where I am going with this?  I was wondering that too, but don’t fret I actually DO have a point.

My point is that recently I learned about National Coming Out Day. (NCOD) I did some research and found out that National Coming out Day has been going on since 1988.  I didn’t know that. Did you?

                                                  National Coming Out Day

Well, I think it is wonderful that there is a day set aside for people to rejoice in themselves and announce their identity to the world.  For many it is truly a celebration.  A day where they finally let friends and family know who they are, and whom they love.  It can be wonderful, joyous, liberating experience.  It can also be filled with anxiety, concern, and plain stark terror.  What if they reject me?  What if they don’t like me anymore?  What if my parents, brothers, sisters, friends will no longer associate with me?  You might be able to guess, or hope or predict what others will think, but until that moment of declaration happens you won’t truly know.

I am a glass half full kind of girl.  The kind who always tries to see things through rose colored glasses and find the positive in EVERY situation.  Karol tends to be a bit of a Negative Nelly, seeing the negative side of things.  That is why we are such a great match.  We balance each other.  And even though I try to always look at the positive side of things, I am also a realist and so for that reason I want to tell anyone who is going to come out someday, or might come out someday, or is thinking about it:  IT WILL NEVER BE OVER!!!!

Now, don’t get your knickers in a knot.  I am not saying that coming out is bad!!  I like being open about who I am and whom I love, but it is not a one time deal.  I come out over and over and over again and again and again and again.  When you start a new job and someone asks about your significant other you can chose to come out or not.  When/if you have kids you can choose to come out to the teachers and administration or not.  When you meet new people you can choose to come out or not.  Can you see where I am going with this?  It is often a weekly, if not daily decision.

I am a skin care specialist for a leading dermatologist.  I have new clients on a regular basis.  If it is someone I see regularly and frequently, (most of my clients see me every two weeks, or at least monthly), at some point they will ask me about my family.  I always talk about my kids, but usually leave my marital situation out of the conversation.  However, at some point it inevitably comes up…..sigh….

Truthfully, there are some GLBT (Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgendered) who are very open about who they are in their dress, mannerisms and speech, however, there are many of us who you wouldn’t “know” just by looking at us.  I am a feminine woman, I am a “girly girl”, and no one ever “suspects” that I am gay.  So very often someone will innocently ask about my husband (I am a middle aged woman with kids, so that is fairly common).  Right then I have a choice to make….do I tell them about Bluebell? do I fib?  should I be evasive?     ??????   Most of the time I am honest.  And once the words are out, “No, I don’t have a husband, I have a partner”, I cringe a little inside.  Most times there is a small pause while the person thinks about what I have just said.  I have to be honest and say that 98% of the time after that quick pause the person says, “Oh.”, and then goes on to tell me how it is okay that I am gay  and relates a story about someone they know who is gay.  Their hair dresser, friend, family member, neighbor, etc.  They almost always say something like, “It doesn’t bother me.  It is okay that you are gay.”  I knew it was okay already, but I appreciate their letting me know it doesn’t bother them.  Then we move on to other topics. However, now that I think about it, I realize that I don’t usually “come out” to anyone until I know them for awhile.  I guess my philosophy is:

1) If they like me before I tell them and then they don’t like me afterwards, that tells me more about them than about me.

2) People don’t generally start a new acquaintance with giving lots of personal information about themselves, unless it is your physician……

I suppose the point to my rambling today is that I am happy there is a “National Coming Out Day” to celebrate and give voice to so many people who can open themselves up on that day.  However, we should be honest, and say that every day has the potential to be a “Coming Out Day” for anyone who is “other than” heterosexual.  So it really should be “National Coming Out Day …….Over and Over and Over” .

Breastfeeding in Military Uniform. Why is it so controversial?

Some of you may know that this is not my only Blog I have written for this year.  I used to write for another one, but went on my own a few months ago.  I have been slowly re-posting some of my blogs I have previously written and this is one of my favorites:

I am a retired United States Navy Corpsman.  I am a mother.  I had my children while I was on Active Duty in the Navy.  I did try to breastfeed my children, however, I was physically unable to produce enough milk to nourish my children.  Even with medication to increase my milk supply.  I was devastated, but I decided that I would give my babies the milk that I could and I pumped for 9 months post delivery of each of my babes.  I remember telling this story to my friend Robyn Roche-Paull when I was visiting her at her home a few years ago.  This was when she was writing her book “Breastfeeding in Combat Boots”, which she has since published. Robyn is an expert in all things that have to do with breastfeeding, and instead of me listing her many, many credentials, just feel free to check out her website!

Robyn is intelligent and kind.  She is wonderful and beautiful.  She is my friend.  So I feel a strong need to support her!  Why would I need to publicly support my friend?  Well, it is because she deeply believes in a cause.  The right of all women to be able to breastfeed their children without limitations.  She is an amazing advocate for military women and breastfeeding (hence her book) and wrote a blog post on May 21st that started a firestorm.   The photo on her blog (which she used with permission from the photographer AND the women in the photos by the way) went viral, and brought on many many positive comments, and unfortunately also brought out some not so complimentary comments as well.  Her post can be read here in it’s entirety.

I think one of the things that troubles me the most is that people who are getting in such an uproar over whether or not breastfeeding in uniform is a good idea or not have skewed the original intent of these photos, the photographer and the military women IN the photos.  Let’s recap:

1) These women started a group on their Air Force base that was ALLOWED by their local commanders to support breastfeeding women. They call themselves Mom2mom Breastfeeding support group.  Their intent was to do a photo shoot to be used to raise awareness of breastfeeding during August which is National Breastfeeding month.  August was established as Breastfeeding support month in August 2011.  “On August 6, 2011, USBC (United States Breastfeeding Committee) officially declared that August is National Breastfeeding Month, at a Community Baby Shower event hosted by Howard University Hospital and the DC Breastfeeding Coalition. ”  You can read their proclamation here. So these women decided to work with photographer Brynja Sigurdardottir to photograph them with their babies.  The photos show the women breastfeeding in uniform as well as in civilian clothes. You can see all the photos here.

2) The military supports mothers breastfeeding their children.  The Navy even allows for a 12 month non deployment status for nursing mothers.

3) These women did this to raise awareness for breastfeeding.  A healthier way to feed children then bottle feeding.  Women have been nursing children for hundreds, even thousands of years…..what is the problem anyway?  This is a natural thing.  The purpose of the female breast is to feed offspring.  Nothing more.

Robyn posted about the issue of nursing while in uniform and how there is no specific regulation that discusses the SPECIFIC topic of breastfeeding while in uniform.  The photo that caused the outcry of support and dissent was:

Beautiful photo of mamas and babes. Why the fuss??

I want to add that these women did NOT have these photos taken for personal gain, or notoriety.  They have actually been asked to “no longer” talk to the media, and A spokesman for the National Guard has come out and said that the women “violated a policy that forbids military members from using the uniform to further a cause, promote a product or imply an endorsement”.  This spokesman was Capt. Keith Kosik, spokesman for the Washington National Guard.  Seriously???  I don’t know these ladies, but I am pretty sure that breastfeeding is not a product or something to be endorsed…..Were they trying to raise awareness?  Sure.  What about people who participate in a 5k walk or run and do fundraisers on base in uniform.  Why s that okay, and breastfeeding somehow isn’t.  I daresay it has more to do with the BREAST part than anything else.  I suppose military women are not supposed to be feminine and have breasts…..

I will readily admit that I am NOT an expert of the regulations of all the services, but I am pretty well versed on the US Navy regulations that pertain to breastfeeding and pregnancy. In fact OPNAVINST 6000.1C states that  “requests to breastfeed infants during duty hours should be handled on a case-by-case basis.”  However, when Robyn wrote her post she received over 570 comments, and many of them were an outcry to women being “out of uniform” to nurse. Quite a few military women said they supported the right to nurse in uniform, but argued that it should be done in “private”, not in public.  I suppose what these naysayers forgot was that this was a STAGED photo done by a photographer.  These women were NOT, let me say it again, were NOT sitting on a bench in the middle of the base nursing their babies in uniform.  I daresay, if they were to nurse in public they would probably use a nursing cover up.  I have to admit I have seen many women nursing in public, yet I have rarely if ever seen a mother nursing in public without a light cover up, even if it is a nursing top with well concealed buttons for discreet nursing.

AND, even if they were nursing with no cover up, what is the big deal???  Even my son The Genius who is 13, has seen a mostly exposed breast in PG-13 movies.  Breasts are not mysterious things.  They all pretty much look the same, except for size and skin color.  I have to admit in my 46 years, every breast I have seen, (in locker rooms, while seeing patients, in movies, etc etc etc) all have the same basic shape.  The PROBLEM friends is NOT that these women are breastfeeding, or even that they are breastfeeding in uniform.  The PROBLEM is public attitude about breasts.  We see breasts as sexual objects, not as  nourishment for babies.  Look at the outrage regarding the Time magazine cover photo of a woman with a toddler standing on a stool to latch on to her breast.

If that same toddler was latched onto her knee would it have garnered the same outrage?  What if he wasn’t so tall?  What if it was a girl toddler?  What if the mom were a little less “photogenic”?  A little heavier, or more harried and tired looking, with rollers in her hair?  What upsets people about this photo is their own sexual ideas. Don’t think for a second the details (boy child, tall boy child, young beautiful mother) escaped the publishers of Time magazine.  DUH!!
I have an idea…….

The military has already had the great sense to modify uniforms for women while they are pregnant.  They are called maternity uniforms.  Navy women even receive an allowance for the first set in the first pregnancy.  In the US Navy, women are allowed to wear their maternity uniform after delivery:  (quoted from US Navy Uniform Regulations, Chapter 6)
“Certified maternity uniforms are mandatory for all pregnant women in the Navy when a uniform is prescribed, and regular uniforms no longer fit.  Personnel are expected to wear regular uniforms upon return from convalescent leave, however, commanding officers may approve the wear of maternity uniforms up to six months from the date of delivery based on medical officer diagnosis/recommendation.”

So here is my CRAZY idea…….  why not modify the uniform shirt to allow for nursing….you know…buttons to allow for access to breasts…..and let women wear them post delivery???  I know Crazy, right??  I mean, how crazy is it to modify a uniform already in issue that a woman can use to discreetly nurse her child?  Navy policy provides for a 12 month non-deployment period to allow mothers to nurse their children.  Navy workplaces are also supposed to provide lactation support and an opportunity for women to pump during on duty hours.
I think if we were to engage in a meaningful non judgmental conversation about this topic we would be able to come to some agreement with naysayers and breastfeeding advocates alike.  The difficulty arises when either side refuses to hear what the other side has to say.  Although I will say that the naysayers had many more disrespectful comments on Robyn’s blog that the supporters. For example:

“so it must be ok for you RACHEL to pee in public or are you mad because you cant. the subject it breast feeding so all you females than are for it in public take a picture of some kid sucking on your nipples and post them on u tube for all to see. we men don’t want to see a kid that is old enough to drink out of a cup sucking on a breast, and don’t say its ok to disgrace the american uniform . keep it button the pants and shirt line up hat on straight boots tided and looking and proper etiquette while in uniform..”
“I want all women to be able to breast feed in public it is a natural thing. Also natural is masturbation. I want to be able to masturbate while watching these women breast feed. Both natural things that should be allowed in public. Hundreds of beautiful women with their engorged breasts out feeding the hungry little babies while my penis is out being jerked mad in the hopes of a monumentous orgasm. All natural and out in the open.”

Those and other comments like that are so disrespectful, and I am not sure they could ever be talked to with reason.

So Robyn Roche-Paull, you keep supporting women who choose to breastfeed.  Nay, the women who have the RIGHT to breastfeed in private AND public.  In civilian clothes AND a military uniform.  And I will continue to support you!!!