Empty Spaces and Irresistible Impulses

I missed the memo about empty spaces and irresistible impulses.


Recently, my darling boy discovered that there is something inexplicably satisfying about filling the void of one’s nostrils with small, preferably edible, objects.  For your consideration…

This one's coming out on Prom Night.

Yep.  A mini M&M…which, by my calculations, is either now imbedded in his brain somewhere, or more likely, it melted and resulted in some chocolatey post-nasal drip.    I’m really not sure.  M&Ms melt in your mouth, not in your hand, but no one said anything about what happens when you put them up your nose…

While children have been putting stuff up their noses since time immemorial, I still couldn’t help but freak out just a little when my kid did it.   And like any modern hysteric, I rushed to the interwebs for counsel.  One message board helpfully suggested that a wayward object will just fall right out once the kid starts crying.  Well, my son was fairly unperturbed by his predicament,  so I triggered the waterworks by telling him that his father was going to perform a little brain surgery to get the M&M out.  I might have mentioned that a pizza cutter would be involved.  I know…I suck.  To his credit, as my son cried, he said repeatedly, “I know you’re joking!”  I traumatized him, but I did not fool him.  And yet the M&M did not come out.  I suppose mommy will just have to double down on her contribution to the therapy fund this week…

I figured my cruel trickery, along with the bulb syringe business depicted above, would at least scare my boy straight. Alas, no. A mere 48 hours later, he put a Nestle crunch bite up his nose.  No photo this time, as we were at the movies as my brilliant child turned to me and said sheepishly, “There’s something in my nose.”  I’ve hinted before that there is something about becoming a parent that increases one’s capacity for the disgusting, and so without hesitation, I stuck my index finger up his nose and pulled out what went in.  I have to admit, especially after losing the M&M to the far reaches of my son’s cranium, I was a bit self-satisfied as I extracted this most recent nasal interloper all in one piece and with my bare freakin’ hands.  Those are mom skills to pay the bills.

I’m hoping that the novelty of all this has worn off for my son, as it certainly got old pretty quick for me.  Like an idiot, I have asked him, “Sweetheart, why did you do that?”  And of course he has no idea.  He put candy up his nose for the same reason some people climb Mt. Everest…because it was there.  An empty space, like a nostril, just seems to need to be filled with something, and the urge to fill empty spaces can be pretty compelling.

A lot of adult life seems to be about satisfying the compulsion to dig and then re-fill holes of one type or another, and the compulsion doesn’t always make a lot of sense.  So I thank my dear son for the reminder that not every empty space needs to be filled…leaving your nose empty literally gives you room to breath, and leaving some empty space in your calendar, your closet, etc. can also give you the figurative kind of breathing room.

Somebody is probably not be getting any little candies in his Easter basket this year, but nonetheless, memo received.

Sanford, Skittles and Standing Your Ground

I missed the memo about Sanford, Skittles, and standing your ground. 

This week a lot of water cooler conversation in my office has been about the senseless killing of Trayvon Martin.  In case you’re just emerging from a coma or something, you can get the basic details of the case here.  Like most people I know, I’m outraged and heartbroken.  I think of my own son, and what a deep human betrayal it would be if some trigger happy, paranoid miscreant decided to just arbitrarily take him away from me because they had no common sense or impulse control.

The case hits a bit close to home for me because Sanford, Florida, where Trayvon Martin lived and died, is the closest thing that this Navy brat has to an ancestral home.  My parents grew up there, my sister was born there.  I lived there for a time when I was a tiny kid and my Granny still lives there.  This small city north of Orlando was charming in my childhood memories, but these days when I visit, I am saddened to see how it has declined.  Pawn shops and bail bondsmen seem to dot a lot of corners.  There’s still plenty of good in the place, but everything is just a bit shabbier than it was a couple of decades ago.  And since I don’t live there anymore, I don’t have a fully informed opinion on this, but my sense is that the community is fairly segregated and race relations pretty much suck.  It is not terribly surprising to me that given where the events occurred that things have unfolded as they have.

As I’ve been thinking about Trayvon Martin, I’ve been trying to be honest with myself about how I react to people, and when I might perceive other people as a threat.  I walk around downtown Los Angeles before the sun comes up most mornings, so I am on my guard against anyone who might do me harm.  The kind of profiling I do is to look for signs of crazy, and crazy comes in every color.  I give twitchy people and people who are talking to themselves a wide berth.  A young black man in a hoodie, carrying an iced tea and bag of Skittles would not seem particularly crazy to me, and the only thought I might have if I encountered such a person would be, “Oh, Skittles, yum.” 

Some might say that Trayvon Martin’s killer was somehow justified in presuming that Trayvon was up to no good.  After all, there had been burglaries in the neighborhood, and some had been committed by people who, superficially, looked a bit like Trayvon.  But even if you concede that there was any reasonable suspicion to  keep an eye on Trayvon, I just don’t know how you make the quantum leap between calling the cops to report a “suspicious person” and what ultimately happened in this case. 

One of the reasons cited for the cops not arresting Trayvon’s killer is that Florida has an enacted a “Stand Your Ground” law which allows people to use deadly force in a public place  when they feel there is an imminent threat of bodily harm.   The “Stand Your Ground” law is a departure from the idea that you could have a duty to retreat when you’re in a confrontation.  I’m a run and live to fight another day kind of girl, but I get that others might feel differently.  But there’s a big difference between standing your ground and picking a fight.  And when you’ve got a gun and your adversary has a bag of Skittles, that’s not a particularly fair fight. 

With the facts we know, as a human being and as a lawyer, it just boggles my mind that Trayvon’s killer has not been arrested.  If he can persuade a jury that he needed to shoot Trayvon to save himself, then so be it.  At least he’ll have the chance to explain himself, which is a lot more than Trayvon got.  Memo received. 



Contraception, Conversion, and Consternation

I missed the memo about contraception, conversion, and consternation.

As of this writing, I hope that the whole brouhaha regarding insurance coverage for prescription contraception is dying down.  Rush Limbaugh got his name in the news a lot for doing what he does best (and that’s being a professional asshole), but hopefully Sandra Fluke will soon return to a normal life not too traumatized or discouraged by all the slut shaming.

When insurance coverage for prescription contraception was recently raised as a political issue, I think my first reaction was, “Seriously?”


It just seems like there are so many other issues which affect so many more people that I couldn’t imagine that Santorum or anybody else had picked that hill to die on.  I don’t fancy myself a constitutional scholar, but I did spend a gazillion dollars on a law degree and dabbled in employment law, so I thought I might have been taking crazy pills because this seemed like such a non-issue to me.  I mean the Church, (and that’s with a big “C”) is a church, but the Church also operates all sorts of businesses, like schools and hospitals.  And these businesses employ people.  When you’re an employer, you have to abide by the laws that govern all employers.  Employers don’t get to pick and choose the laws they want to obey based on religious affiliation.  (Check out this video where someone who actually is a constitutional scholar explains it a lot better than I can.)

What makes this whole thing especially weird for me is that I’m a convert to Catholicism.  On a very momentous Easter-Eve back in 1999, I was baptized, had first communion, and was confirmed all in the same night.  It was beautiful and trippy.  Having long abandoned the half-hearted Southern Baptist tradition of my youth, I chose to convert to Catholicism after marrying a cradle Catholic.  This is going to sound a little (or a lot) flip, but conversion was not that big of a deal for me.  I had already been raised in a christian tradition, so the core beliefs were the same, it was just a matter of learning all the secret handshakes and whatnot.   The big night of Easter Vigil seemed very much like getting initiated into a club, and I mean that in a nice way.

Becoming a Catholic has been a meaningful and valuable experience for me, but there are parts of the Church’s teachings that I will probably never fully understand or accept.  If that makes me a “cafeteria Catholic” or even a  bad Catholic, then I suppose I have to be OK with that.

Like a lot of Catholics (but not all like Lawrence O’Donnell erroneously suggests in the above-linked video), I don’t think that artificial birth control is wrong. What simultaneously cracks me up and makes my head hurt, is that the Church accepts Natural Family Planning (NFP) as a way of preventing pregnancy, and to be effective, NFP requires women to take daily temperature readings, monitor cervical mucus, etc.  By keeping track of fertility signs, couples can avoid conceiving by limiting their business meetings to days when it’s unlikely they’ll be fruitful.

NFP requires some fairly sophisticated scientific knowledge, but God forbid (really, God forbid?) that we use our scientific understanding to develop a tiny pill that achieves the same result as NFP, but without the charts and without the unfortunate references to egg whites.  I suppose you can outsmart God with a basal thermometer, but outsmarting God with a tiny dose of synthetic hormones, or even a bit of latex,  is just going too far. I’m an even worse theologian than I am constitutional scholar, but I don’t see how this makes any sense.

To my fellow Catholics who do avoid artificial birth control, I say this:  So do I.  But that’s ’cause I’m pushing 40 and “Russian Roulette” is pretty effective for women my age.  The window where this will be an issue of real personal significance for me will be closed in a few years.  At least when I enter the phase of my life where I’m having purely non-procreative sex, I can be assured that the Viagra will be covered by insurance.   Memo received.