Surrogate Mothers

My mum was extraordinarily energetic and not only worked full time as a teacher but took on a long list of extracurricular projects like coaching cheerleading and volleyball, running a recreation program for our community in the summer months, and being the chaperone for the local beauty pageant queen in her quest to become Miss Pennsylvania.  She became sick in September 1973.  Her brief illness forced her to slow down somewhat and take time off from teaching, and for the first time, my mum was home all day.

Back then that was called a housewife.

Not content to sit around and watch her “stories” or suddenly take up baking, my mother found and befriended another housewife—our neighbor down the road Mrs. Ferraino.  They became daytime BFFs, and soon, my mum was drinking coffee, learning to bake, talking about kids, and running around (literally) with Mrs. Ferraino—the one member of the duo who didn’t have leukemia. (Mrs. Ferraino admits today that she had trouble keeping up.)

Mum died in May 1974.

The summer that followed (and for countless summers and winters thereafter), Mrs. Ferraino, along with Mr. Ferraino and their four kids—David, Mary Ann, Annette, and Deanna—took us in.  When I say they “took us in”, it wasn’t “taken in” in the sense that we moved in with them or that they became our parents.  They took us in when we needed taken in—rides to practices, rides to the emergency room (on several occasions), and rides to church.  Or, one of the family members would call our house and announce that it was bread baking day (Friday) and did we want some bread?  (Uh, yes, please.) We also would pile into their yellow station wagon on trips to down to their hometown of Kittanning to see their extended family and even started calling their grandparents and aunts and uncles by the same names used by their family.  We camped out in their backyard in tents, hiked with them in the woods surrounding our respective houses, begged anyone nearby who had a horse to let us ride it, and went sledding and ice skating in the winter.

Another family who took me in were the Byers’.  I was the same age as Deedee and because she was nothing but a big ball of fun, I fell in easily with her and her five siblings.  My mother’s maiden name was also ‘Byers’, so we secretly agreed that we must be cousins.  (We aren’t.)  There were (and still are) six Byers kids—Donny, Deedee, Dougie, Davey, Danielle, and Denny, then one more:  me.  Their mom Rosie (who refused to allow me to call her ‘Mrs. Byers’) worked as a hairdresser and worked hard, owned her own shop, and yet kept an immaculate and well-run household.  Again, this family always had room for me—we went camping, swimming all the time, rode the Stewarts’ pony whenever we had a chance, and because they lived “in town”, we made a little bit of mischief along the way.

Rosie and Mrs. Ferraino with ten of their own kids among them always had room for me.  I was subject to their family rules, took my share of the blame when our shenanigans went south, but was always welcomed at their homes.

I did appreciate being a part of their families, such as it was, but I appreciate it now even more since I’ve raised three of my own children.  Sometimes you just want your own kids running around your house, not an extra neighbor kid (or two or three).  If they minded an extra kid, they never, ever, let on.

All I wanted after my mum’s death was normal.  Mrs. Ferraino and Rosie gave me normal and then some.  I will be forever grateful to each of them and to their kids who put up with an extra sibling—kids who are now grown with kids and grandkids of their own—and on this Mother’s Day, I want to thank all of them.

But I especially want to thank the two women who knew exactly what I needed at a very lonely time in my life.  Thank you, Mrs. Ferraino.  Thank you, Rosie.  I don’t think you’ll ever realize how much you did for me.

I love you both very much.

An Inconvenient Analogy

The most egregious form of oppression known to mankind …

Female genital mutilation has lately been in the forefront of the mainstream media. In Detroit, a second doctor has been arrested for allegedly performing genital mutilations on minor girls; the first doctor, a female, was arrested in April for the same thing.  Female genital mutilation is considered a felony in the U.S.; internationally, it is recognized as a human rights violation, considered torture, and at the very least, is an extreme form of violence and discrimination against women and girls.

I won’t go into the sad and appalling details of FGM—feel free to Google it for yourselves.  Suffice it to say that it is an abomination, one of those sickeningly despicable acts that defies all that is decent and right in this world.  If adult women choose this for themselves, that’s one thing.  But mutilating a child for some perceived religious or cultural objective is nothing short of barbaric.

We can all agree on this, am I right?

Another practice that continues to dominate the media—mainstream and otherwise—is fetal mutilation.  This is when a human fetus is viciously dismembered (causing the demise of the fetus) and is removed from its mother’s womb.  Suffice it to say that this, too, is an abomination. If adults choose this for themselves—and I’ve yet to learn of any adult choosing to dismember himself or herself—that’s one thing.  But mutilating a child for some perceived cultural objective, just like FGM, is nothing short of barbaric.

The difference here is that when human fetal mutilation (resulting not only in the fetus’ dismemberment but also its death) is performed, no one is arrested.  In fact, the very organization that provides the service—the mutilation and death of a fetus—is funded by the federal government!  And get this:  There are actually men and women—seemingly intelligent, rational citizens—who will fall on their metaphorical swords defending the rights of women when it comes to fetal mutilation and death.  To them, anything that would prohibit a woman from having this procedure (that being the brutal mutilation and death of an unborn child) is considered the most egregious form of oppression known to mankind.

Here’s another way the pro-fetal mutilation and death contingent choose to spin the issue:  Human fetal mutilation and death is part of that (non-pejorative) thing called “women’s healthcare”.  Because, you see, when framed within the robust and sanguine, it sounds as if fetal mutilation and death is a healthy thing, like getting your teeth cleaned every six months or having a mammogram once a year.

I don’t think there is anyone who would disagree with me when I assert that female genital mutilation is an abomination, but you can be damn sure there are plenty of folks who are sanctimoniously outraged that anyone would deny a woman the right to allow her own fetus to fall victim to the act of fetal mutilation and death.

Why is it okay to mutilate and kill a baby but not okay to mutilate the genitals of a young girl?  Both are sickeningly despicable.  But not equally.

Only one kills.

My Elusive Search for the Baby Jesus

I get that Christmas means different things to different people.  What I don’t get is that there is not equal time given to the actual reason for the celebration.

It’s time for the Springers to “put up” Christmas, and since it’s been such a good year, I’ve decided to update some of my worn out janky-looking Christmas accoutrements including the Nativity scene I purchased at Walmart about 20 years ago.  Joseph broke in half a long time ago, so I subbed in a worthy-looking shepherd for him ever since (not sure how Mary felt about this, but he seemed like a utility player), both oxen are missing their ears, and for some reason, there are only two wise men.

(I think the other one—the one who brought the myrrh—must have been embarrassed by the ordinary nature of his gift.  This was before the current obsession with essential oils, so Myrrh Man, if you’re somewhere hiding in the attic, it’s okay to come out now.  Essential oils are a thing now.)

And because I was there to buy laundry detergent, tampons, and dog food, I swung by Walmart’s dedicated acre of Christmas crap in search of some JV players to fill out the varsity bench of my Nativity scene.  Or, as a last resort, I’d retire the current team and purchase a new one, maybe get some bigger, stronger players and a better, sturdier barn for them to play in.  Like I said, it’s been a good year.

After all, Jesus is the reason for the season, right?

Wrong.  I found *Disney character ornaments and other assorted Disney-themed Christmas stuff (‘stuff’ being the optimal word here—some of this shizz was pure junk), plenty of IU and Colts ornaments (I live in Indianapolis), stockings, and bric-a-brac, a lot of nonsense tchotchkes that had absolutely no relevance at all to the birth of our Savior, and even gifts for the family pet.  As if.

I found the same situation at other retail outlets.  There may have been one or two vague, one-dimensional, and poorly proportioned representations of the Holy Family, such as stuff one places in the yard (like the deer who often wind up posed in provocative mating rituals), but no Nativity scene.

Growing up, my dad, ever the craftsman, carefully and lovingly made several crèches—tabletop-sized displays of the Nativity (he made the barn part; my mom found the principals somewhere and I always found them fascinating).  Not sure where those beautifully made stables ended up, but whoever has them, take care of them (and if you have two, holla).  Because you won’t find anything like that ever again.

I finally found a Nativity scene at Kohl’s and guess what?  It was half off.

(Aside:  Why doesn’t Kohl’s just price their items at the current sale price?  The jig is up.  You’re not fooling anyone.)

This Nativity scene is white with gold accents, and the oxen are whimsical-looking, but at least they have ears.  Baby Jesus has one foot kicking out of his little nest, and I thought that was adorable.  But here’s the thing.

Kohl’s has an enormous space dedicated to their Christmas products, but there were only two varieties of Nativity scenes.  Again, like it’s lesser-educated drunk uncle across the street, Kohl’s had the Disney-themed crap, the sports-themed ornaments, the Dickensian villages (never quite got the allure of the “village” thing), and a few other secular items that had nothing to do with the birth of our Savior.

I get that Christmas means different things to different people.  What I don’t get is that there is not equal time given to the actual reason for the celebration.  And yes, I get, too, that Jesus was most likely born on a day that was not December 25, but that’s when we metaphorically blow out the candles on His birthday cake.  You got any better ideas?

I found my Nativity scene.  But the problem should have been that there were so many varieties in so many different retail establishments that I lost my mind trying to make a decision about which one I would proudly display in my home for the next 20 years.

*Full disclosure:  There is very little about Disney that I like.  Get over it.

What will we tell our children?

Well, here’s what I told my children in 2008:

This is a democracy.  Mr. Obama was not our choice, but the American people have voted, and even if we don’t like the outcome, Mr. Obama will be our new president.  Let’s pray for him that he makes good decisions.

And here’s what I told my children in 2012:

I know you’re disappointed that Romney didn’t win, but Obama won fair and square.  Remember what I told you in 2008—you may not always agree with him; heck, you may never agree with him, but he is the president.  Let’s pray for him that he makes good decisions.

So, what should you tell your children today?

You tell your children that this is how it works in a democracy. You tell your children that this is what happens upon discovering that the Democratic nominee, in her capacity as Secretary of State, had left behind Americans to die in a hostile region that she herself had responsibility for creating. You tell your children that this is what happens when you try to hide that you’re more than likely engaging in illegal activities as evidenced by the fact that you’ve installed an unsecured server in your home, thereby exposing classified correspondence to foreign enemies. You tell your children that this is what happens when the Democrat party cheats one of their own in order to make the Anointed One the nominee. This is what happens when hardworking Americans become so sick of the government unreasonably taxing them in order to redistribute the wealth that they’re willing to back a candidate who often waxes absurdity and has no political experience whatsoever. This is what happens when Republicans can’t get their collective shizz together enough to bring forth a solid candidate who tells it like it is, calls out ISIS for what it is, stands up for America, and pulls no punches.

Hillary Clinton and her minions metaphorically gave birth to Donald Trump.

I’m not going to ever pretend that Trump was my #1 guy, and I didn’t even vote in the Indiana primary because I couldn’t decide for whom I should vote. But for all of his blundering talk, I don’t ever remember Trump demonstrating that he was a racist, a sexist, or a homophobe. Where is this coming from?  Assigning to him attributes that he doesn’t deserve is not going to change the outcome of this election.  It certainly didn’t work before the election, did it?

Americans have voted for Donald Trump as our next President of the United States.  Let’s pray for him that he makes good decisions.

Miss Guided

You know something?  Not everybody looks good when they take off their clothes …

Lena Dunham makes my skin crawl; however, I’m not going to go so far as to say she offends me.  I pride myself on the fact that I am seldom if ever offended by anything.  In my world, those who are perpetually offended by people, their remarks, their choices, or their actions are buying into the zeitgeist of victimhood.

Having made that proclamation, let me say that Lena Dunham’s latest video (albeit being marketed as a spoof) where she raps about her BFF Hillary Clinton, tongue in cheek or not, is going to come back to bite her fat ass.  After I watched it, all I could think of was that even Clinton’s supporters are doing a collective face-palm.  Would you really want her on your side?  Because in the worst possible way, Lena Dunham represents the worst ideals of liberal ideology.  When I think of the body of Americans who identify as liberal or who belong to the Democrat party, I’m pretty sure that not all of them rally behind Lena Dunham’s misappropriated tribute to their candidate, her morbid, obsessive, and worshipful love affair with Planned Parenthood, or her contempt for any man who doesn’t find her do-able.

Or, maybe they do.

You see, Miss Dunham resides in that artificial world where actively hating everything that is considered a mainstay of traditional American values is part of her brand.  That’s how she gets everyone’s attention.  Her latest attack on straight white men would be ridiculous if there weren’t others out there who are swayed by Dunham’s relentless bullying of the vanilla establishment.  In her world, unless you’re LGBTQ, had an abortion, or think that climate change is the sole responsibility of the same straight white men she wishes were extinct, you can’t possibly expect to be treated with any modicum of respect or acknowledged as a contributing member of society.  She’s the savior of the progressive movement.  She’s the stalwart champion of all those who have been hapless victims of the same slice of society she so enthusiastically despises.

The utter lack of tolerance Lena Dunham has for those who don’t endorse her particular brand of misanthropy screams irony.  Look, it’s okay to be edgy, different, to march to a completely alternative drummer, but it’s not okay nor is it very tolerant to spew hatred at what you perceive to be the establishment, but in reality is the foundation of our very culture.  Not everybody’s queer, most rational people don’t take off their clothes to get attention, and for the love of all that is holy, ending your sentences with an upward inflection suggests that even you are not sure about what you are saying.

Not that I have any skin in the game (she’s not my kid, thankfully) but I can’t help but wonder if she could have made a more positive and rational impact upon those causes she champions if she used her powers for good.  Go ahead and be a Hillary fangirl if that’s how you swing politically, but understand, too, that if you’re preaching tolerance, you might want to steer clear of suggesting that the world would be a better place if an entire segment of that world’s population—straight white men—would become extinct.

But what am I saying?  I take it all back.  Go ahead and make an ass of yourself, dear.  It’s working.  For me, anyway.

Oh to be young and ignorant …

You see, it’s all fun and games until you realize you’ve got nothing of substance on your opponent and you’re so desperate to deflect attention from your most obvious crimes that—with quite a bit of help from the media—you’ll take the risk of going there.

Continue reading Oh to be young and ignorant …

Keeping up with why people care about Kim Kardashian

Why is it that we care so much about people we don’t even know?


Continue reading Keeping up with why people care about Kim Kardashian