Being legitimate

Someone had to know I would broach this. It was inevitable.


In an interview aired this past Sunday, Todd Akin, a Republican candidate for Senate in the great state of Missouri, made this statement when asked about his feelings on abortions resulting from rape circumstances.

“First of all, from what I understand from doctors, [pregnancy from rape] is really rare. If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.”

He really said that. Really and truly.


Now, let me start by saying, as a woman – he has no right to an opinion. Really. I don’t get all up in his scrote and he’s never carried a baby, so we should just agree to keep our politics out of each others’ crotches.

And secondly, as a rape victim – fuck you, Mr. Akin.

Legitimate rape?

What are the other kinds? Illegitimate? Imagined? Maybe she didn’t say no loudly enough? Maybe she was “asking” for it?

I realize that people are falsely accused of rape. I know that happens, and it is a sad thing to know that someone would abuse such a delicate area for whatever reason.

But the majority of rapes (60-68%, according to a quick Googling) go unreported, and do you know why? Because of douchebags like Todd Akin. Because the first thing asked of anyone claiming rape is not, “What can I do?” not “How can I help?” it’s…..”Well, what happened?”

Because its not enough to be taken advantage of. It’s not enough to be violated. It’s not enough to matter so little that you don’t even get a choice in what happens to you.

You have to justify. You have to prove what you’ve claimed. It’s no wonder that women and men in staggering amounts just choose to opt out. Why prolong things and expose yourself to embarrassment…criticism…shame?

It happened to me. And just because it wasn’t a stranger in a dark alley doesn’t mean it wasn’t real. It doesn’t mean I deserved it. It doesn’t mean I hurt any less. It doesn’t make it any less legitimate.


So while Mr. Akin sits in Missouri with whatever opinions he wants to have about situations he will never face, I will try with all my might to let everyone know that things like this are not okay. It’s not okay to trivialize someone else’s hurt. It’s not okay to make blanket statements when you don’t know what the fuck you’re talking about.

Help a little more, talk a little less. I think that’d do some good for everybody.


Because I’m not a Christmas Card sender

I’ve tried before, a couple of years I even got the cards out in time.

I felt very accomplished those years. But it’s been a long time.

So in light of the fact that I’m not organized or competent enough to send out individual paper cards, here:

Also, in the tradition of those lovely people who do a family update letter every year at Christmas, I will do this.


The year started out like they all tend to do.

Resolutions were pretty much abandoned by week 2.

I turned 31.

The institution of marriage was defined by people in all different ways.

Ava lost her first tooth. Max lost several of his.

Lucy turned one.

Josh and I decided to go back to school, and we had our 5 year anniversary.

Josh was in many plays. I was in none.

Max and Ava and Dan were also in plays.

I started going to a for real shrink.

My sister got married.

Osama Bin Laden was killed.

Occupy Wall Street began.

Josh said goodbye to his grandfather.

I registered my domain name and began to blog with fervor.

Josh and I finished our first semester of school online.

And oddly enough, that seems to be all of note I can really remember.

I am giving myself this week of mostly leisure, so you may not hear from me for a while.

I love you.

From a random act

I had promised myself I wouldn’t write about this. It seems…exploitative. Wrong.
But for some reason it keeps presenting itself.
Let me preface things by saying I’m not claiming to be some big mournful friend. I am not that, to the point that I wasn’t even Facebook friends with these people. I don’t really know why – there was no ill will. It’s just not something I ever did – hunt them down and friend them.
Anyway, it doesn’t matter.
Tuesday morning, Josh was getting up and dressed for his day. He was up and about like always, and on one of his trips in and out of the bedroom, I heard him catch his breath. I turned over to see him standing in the doorway, his phone glowing in his eyes.
“Amanda Cossey was shot. She’s dead.”
It was the most bizarre thing I could imagine being said. He might as well have been talking about goats with purple horns and allergies.
I saw faces, names, confusion of memories and high school and passing acquaintances.
Amanda had been in school with me for years. I remember her as bubbly and popular, but one of the rare kinds of bubbly and popular where she actually seemed sincere. I remembered basketball games and cheerleading.
And then it was just there, like something raw in my belly. I felt completely useless, and the kind of pretentious that makes you feel dirty. 
This sounds awful – but she wasn’t my friend. She was a remembered presence, someone I thought of fondly.  I hadn’t seen her since high school. I didn’t know when she got married or when her baby was born.
To feel the way I felt was somehow misplaced.
I’m still not sure why.
The day passed, the requisite Facebook statuses were posted. News stories
I know it’s normal to be confused when something like this happens. 
Except, dammit all, it’s not. Nothing about this is normal. And it doesn’t matter if we were friends or not. 
The fact is that a girl I knew is dead. Not because she was sick or because a car crashed. Because someone saw her as an obstacle instead of what she was…

A wife.
A mother.
A friend.
A sister.
A daughter. 
She wasn’t these things to me. 
But it doesn’t seem to matter. 
I don’t want to be one of those people who immediately jumps on any tragedy to talk about how great the person was and how close we were. 
I have good memories of Amanda. She didn’t deserve this kind of end. 
I hope one day we understand things like this. 

To win and to lose

I’m giving up. Whatever this virus is does not plan on leaving anytime soon. 
I could, at this point, regale you with tales of how crap I feel or how abnormally every function of my body is progressing, but I think I’ll spare you. BECAUSE I LOVE YOU.
Yesterday was Max’s chess tournament. Like I mentioned, he’s been prepping for it for months. Nonstop. Last year he played and came home with a “participant” ribbon after beating exactly no one. He was rather wounded, and apparently he was having none of that this year.
So he went. He competed. He emerged the second most victorious.

Second place, baby! We were all so proud.

However, as happy tales often do, this one has a dark side.


Ava, who is fresh into the accelerated program and therefore only this year got a chance to play chess, she competed too.


Apparently Ava has inherited my utter inability to stratergize and plan, and therefore she shares my absolute suck at the game of kings.


She played one game. She lost. It didn’t go well.


She was upset upon the homecoming because everyone was so excited for Max. 


Which presented a dilemma. Of course we were sad that she didn’t do better, we were sad that she was upset, but MAX WORKED HIS ASS OFF. He wanted to do well and so he did, whereas Ava would “practice” with Max only if he played with no queen and often she’d just quit when her brain started to tire out.


I tried to be gentle. I tried to be understanding. But maybe she learned a lesson.


And at least she didn’t yell, “SHIT!” when she lost, I was a little worried about that.

Thoughts on competition

(looking for the giveaway?)

So we’ve talked about the competition that I’m in for the blogging scholarship. A normal person would link to the voting thing right about now, but I’ve pretty much given up hope of winning. YOU’RE WELCOME.

Which is good, because it frees me up to say what I really think.

I mean, I was never officially hindered, but if I were talking trash and then I accepted ten grand from them that would be a little bit of bad form. Which I try to avoid. Sometimes.

But I won’t be accepting any money from them, so I’ve got some things to say.

Within a few hours of the email announcing the finalists, several of the finalists had hundreds of votes. Within a day or so, the numbers had escalated to tens of thousands.

It was intimidating, especially considering that the top contender at one point had 64,567 votes to my 75.

Then Friday night I got an email saying that the votes had been reset, due to “ballot stuffing” – which is a term I’ve never heard before. But I suppose it makes sense.

The same people are winning now, which is what was expected I guess.

The reset, though, led to a situation I hadn’t anticipated. I soon received an email from a fellow contestant, and this dude is PISSED. He’s angry that the suspected cheaters were not removed from eligibility (basically there was no way to know that it wasn’t done by a third party, the people said), and he’s calling for people to petition the proprietors. Then the website edits his comments calling for the petition, saying they don’t appreciate “hate mail.”

Hence commences a series of “reply-all” conversations, picking and sniping and keeping serene zen all in turn.

Which brings me to my reevaluation of the entire situation.

I think online voting is a shit way to determine something like a scholarship. I purposely haven’t perused the other blogs because I tend to get down on myself, so I don’t know how I stack up against any of them, hence this statement is unbiased: I think merit and need and all around awesome should be factors in the decision. I think it should be decided by committee or whatever. The current system is obviously flawed.

Besides that, we all know that popular doesn’t always equal best. Ashton Kutcher has five zillion followers on Twitter and Ke$ha is a thing.

Proof provided.

What Josh said

looking for the giveaway?

Yesterday was Josh’s grandfather’s funeral. Josh gave the eulogy, and because it was so beautiful, here it is.

For Grandaddy:
First of all, on behalf of my family Iʼd like to thank you all for coming today.

Your presence with us on this day means more than youʼll ever know.
My name is Joshua Candler Steen, I am the son of Eddie Norris Steen, and the grandson of the man whoʼs life weʼve come to celebrate here today: Gilbert Norris Steen.

As a young child I spent a great deal of time with my grandmother and granddaddy. Like clockwork on Saturday morning Iʼd get in the car with my dad and weʼd drive across town to the little white house on the corner of West 6th Street. As a young child this was incredibly special for me! Up the stairs in the back, into the kitchen, through the dinning room, and around the corner, and there theyʼd sit. I could close my eyes for you right now, and every day for the rest of my life, and see them sitting there and hear their voices as I walked around that corner. My grandmother with her crossword puzzle and granddaddy in the rocking chair. “Hey there, boy!”, heʼd say to me with his typical wide- eyed grin.

As I got a little older, I spent even more time with my grandparents, as my parents went on trade shows and other things related to the teacher supply store they had owned. Now these were incredible times! Weʼd get in the white van, when it was first new, and go on adventures. Weʼd ride over to the train tracks and heʼd tell me all about the trains, and how they worked. Even as a child I was able to understand that he had taken pride in his work, and how he had wanted to share that with me in a way I could understand. Weʼd drive into town and get me a Happy Meal, and they just always seemed so much better when I get to eat them at their house. (I really think this was because I was allowed to squeeze out as much ketchup as the little plate could hold.) Weʼd go lots of places and say to just about anyone that weʼd meet that I was his grandson. As a kid it seemed to me that my grandparents knew just about everyone around, and I got to meet a lot of interesting people and experience many different things.

There are so many wonderful memories that I have as a child, and most of them I can relate back to the time spent at their house. Reciting Bible verses on the hearth, playing catch in the backyard, trying to catch fireflies on a warm summer evening, and just sitting in that old iron swing and talking with him. He was the only grown-up I knew that had just as much energy as I did, and it seemed as if he always had something special just for the two of us.
I watched him like a hawk; how heʼd trim the hedges, brush his hair, and drink his coffee. I copied his mannerisms, learned to take pride in how I presented myself, and most of all how he treated my grandmother.

He had this magical way of making you feel like you were the most important person in the world at the very moment; that Iʼll never forget. He was charismatic, bold, stubborn, fiery, and compassionate all rolled into one. Heʼd do anything for you, if only youʼd ask.

Iʼve been fortunate over the year since my grandmother has passed to learn of all the things that he had done for many people, most of which have already departed this life.

When I entered into my teenage years I began to notice subtle changes in him and my grandmother. They began to slow down, they didnʼt go as many places as they once did, and it seemed as if they were getting smaller in many different ways. I remember giving Granddaddy many of my clothes that I had outgrown. Heʼd joke with me about how tall I was getting, and Iʼd always tell him heʼd catch up with me someday.

High school came and I made fewer trips across town to see them; for the rest of my life thatʼs something Iʼll regret. They were there for my big moments; proms, contests, performances, and graduations just like they had been for my t-ball and basketball games as a child. They were a constant in my life, even if I had thought I had outgrown them.

My first semester of college wasnʼt exactly the best, and I remember driving over to their house one afternoon planning to tell them things hadnʼt gone as I had planned. Up the stairs, into the kitchen, through the dinning room, and around the corner. Iʼm not sure what I really expected that day, but I was greeted just as I had been every single time I had entered their home. After a bit of talking, I got up to leave and he followed me to the kitchen. “No matter what you do, Iʼll always be proud of you, boy.”

Several years passed and my life changed quite a bit. I got married and became the stepdad to two of the coolest kids I know. I remember the overwhelmed look on Emilyʼs face as she was thrust into the middle of a Steen Holiday meal. Granddaddy came up to me, pulled me aside, put his arm around me and said, “You love that girl and hold on to her.” Through all of the good and bad times of being a husband Iʼve remembered those words, and will never forget them.

Over the last few years, our family has been transformed by the vast reach of the effects of cancer and Alzheimerʼs on two of the people who have been the biggest parts of our livesʼ.

On my birthday in 2009, I was preparing to take a moving truck full of every possession that my little family owned and move to Jackson, Mississippi for an exciting new job and life. As we were putting the final few pieces into the truck my cellphone rang. “Your grandmother has gone to the hospital and you need to come before you leave.” We rushed over, and as I held my grandmotherʼs hand in the little room in the ER, she began to cry and tried to apologize for “ruining” my moving day, in that sweet and loving tone that only she could. It was then that I had noticed Granddaddy, just kind of there to the side. He didnʼt recognize me. “Gib, itʼs Josh.” At the time I had written it off as him being flustered by the sudden rush to the hospital.

We moved to Jackson, and came back a year later for the birth of our daughter. Iʼm so thankful that we were able to share our wonderful little girl with them both in their home, albeit just once or twice. In the weeks that followed many difficult decisions had to be made. I stood in the doorway as my grandparents embraced each other for the last time in their home the day Granddaddy was moved to Booneville. In all the confusion that had begun to cloud his mind, it seemed like he always knew her. It was very difficult for me to see these two wonderful people that I had loved so much slip away.

I stopped by the hospital in Booneville to see granddaddy quite a bit, as the visiting hours there worked really well with my work schedule. As many of you know first hand, there were good days and bad days. Several times Iʼd slip in, visit with the staff, and just watch as he ate his meal. One of the last times I visited him there I had gotten to take him in his chair up and down the hall. I talked, and he just sat quietly and listened. Time was ending, and I had wheeled him back to his room. I leaned down, kissed the top of his head, and he reached out to grab my hand. “Hey there, boy. Howʼs that baby?” I proudly showed him every picture on my phone that I had. As we said goodbye that day I could see that sparkle in his eye that I had known all of my life. “You tell Momma Iʼll be home soon.”

The journey over the last year has been rough and hard to bear for all of us, moves to nursing facilities, and a couple of trips in and out of the hospital. As this day approached it seemed harder and harder to imagine that we would have to say our final goodbyes.

But the man that weʼve come to celebrate today would expect us all to leave this place in love, joy, and hope.
Heʼd be proud to know that his two sonʼs were steadfast and faithful to their mother when he was not able. Heʼd laugh with us through all of our joy, and love us all, even when we didnʼt give as much in return.
He has given each and every one of us a memory or a thought that weʼll always hold near to our hearts as we remember how he changed our lives.

For me, Iʼll close my eyes, go up those backdoor stairs, into the kitchen, through the dinning room, and around the corner, and there heʼll be in that rocking chair smiling at me. “Hey there, boy.”

I am proud to say today that I am the grandson of Gilbert Norris Steen. I am charismatic, bold, stubborn, fiery, and compassionate all rolled into one.