Circumcision: The Truth I’ve Come to Know

I know that almost every guy I’ve ever known has been circumcised. I know this because if a guy isn’t circumcised, his friends usually take it upon themselves to tell others. Nearly every mom that I know has chosen to have her son(s) circumcised. When we found out that we were having a boy, my initial thinking was that he, too, was going to be circumcised. As my sweet little guy grew inside of my belly, I felt more and more conflicted. I loved him in a way that only a mom can understand. He had become part of me. There was a lot of pressure from family and friends to circumcise him. I heard it all- that it was “cleaner”, that it was traditional, that he would be embarrassed of himself someday, that he needed to “look like his dad”, that someone knew someone who knew someone who had to have it done later in life and it was soooo terrible.

So I decided that if I was going to potentially subject my baby to circumcision, I needed to see it. I needed to watch a circumcision performed. Youtube has plenty of videos. For anyone who gawks at the idea of watching a circumcision but condones the practice of circumcising infants, I have to point out how insensitive and cowardly that seems to me. A newborn baby is taken from his mother’s embrace and sent off to endure an extremely painful procedure- a procedure so horrific and graphic that you can’t even bear to WATCH it be done to him..but somehow you are still able to justify this trauma being inflicted on HIM, a newborn baby. I would suffer any pain if it meant I could shield my child from it. I know he is going to experience pain in this life, and I will ALWAYS share in it with him. I will hurt when he hurts. I will listen when he needs to tell me about it. I will feel his pain whether he wants me to or not. How could I subject him to pain that I chose for him and yet not even be willing to be there with him? So please, if you’re going to choose circumcision for your son, watch a video of the procedure before you have it done to him. And if you STILL choose it for him, go with him. Be there. Share in his pain. That is part of being a parent.

Anyways, I watched the video, and I cried like a baby. What kind of a society are we? How can multiple adults stand around and watch as the most innocent, precious being is strapped down to a plastic board and stripped of part of the most intimate and personal part of his body for absolutely no reason? What kind of a welcome is that to a sweet little baby boy who just entered the world? He has most likely known no pain. He has been sheltered from this cruel world inside his mama’s belly for all of his existence. He has been warm, full, and content inside of her. He naturally makes his way into the world and is then almost immediately subjected to this torture. And we all stand by as if this is normal and natural and GOOD for him.

This brings me to my next point. WHY ARE WE NOT UNCOMFORTABLE WITH THIS??????????? Are we just so obsessed with “fitting in” and being like everyone we know? Are we so obsessed with it that we are willing to sacrifice our sons’ well-being in order to not stick out? We will change his bloody diapers for days and not bat an eye. What the hell is wrong with us? Why are we doing this? Our perfect little boys should not be bleeding from their genitals. Why do all of our motherly instincts all of the sudden go by the wayside when circumcision rears its ugly head? I guess it still just comes back to our fear of being different. Please correct me if I am wrong.

I grew up in a very conservative, Christian area in West Virginia, the state with the highest rate of circumcision for newborn boys in the nation the last time I checked. I assume that a lot of the parents there have their boys circumcised because of the “covenant” referenced in the Bible. To my knowledge, in the New Testament, several references are made to circumcision that actually discourage the practice and/or speak of it as if it is completely unnecessary. Quoting from the Bible in front of me:

Galatians 5:2 Indeed I, Paul, say to you that if you become circumcised, Christ will profit you nothing.
3 And I testify again to every man who becomes circumcised that he is a debtor to keep the whole law.
4 You have become estranged from Christ, you who attempt to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace.
5 For we through the Spirit eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness by faith.
6 For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but faith working through love.

So drawing on that, unless you are Jewish or Muslim, religious reasons for circumcising are invalid.

Probably the most common justification I hear for circumcision is that it’s cleaner. Not true. Not at all true. What is clean about your baby urinating and defecating on an open wound in his diaper? Nature is so much more sophisticated than mankind. Do you really think that if it were “cleaner”, natural selection would not have already rendered the foreskin extinct?The foreskin is there for protection, for cleanliness, for GOOD REASON. It protects the most delicate part of the penis from debris and helps to keep the proper moisture balance- just like the eyelids. We are THE ONLY non-Jewish, non-Muslim developed nation in the world that still routinely circumcises our infants. We still have higher rates of STIs and STDs than almost all of the nations where circumcision is not the norm.

The excuse that my obgyn gave me for circumcision is that, “It pretty much just keeps them looking the same.” So let me get this straight, all little boys are born with penises that look alike. We cut their penises to look differently and then justify cutting the next one’s penis because we cut the previous one? Huh?!?!?!!!! No thanks. I believe there are times when “fitting in” or going with the crowd are appropriate, but I am definitely not one to go against my own instinct just to fit in with others. I would never encourage my children to sacrifice their individuality in order to be part of the crowd. In fact, I pray that my children are strong individuals who will ask questions and defy norms and find their own ways regardless of anyone else. The most incredible people are those who stick out, who think for themselves, who aren’t afraid of being different. My heart would never heal if I had allowed my son to endure tremendous pain and agony just to fit into a culture that gets drunk on conformity and high on acceptance.

Sadly, I have heard SO MANY parents say, “Yeah they messed his circumcision up…” I usually just remain quiet. What is there to say? It is done. I pray that all little boys will know a healthy and functional penis, but I know that is not the case. No men should have to live with penile issues because of a botched circumcision which was an unnecessary surgery in the first place. Some will have penile issues that have nothing to do with their circumcision. Some will remain intact at birth and later have to be circumcised. I know there are cases where circumcision is medically necessary, though they are quite rare in actuality. Just as some of us will develop conditions that require a part of our body to be amputated eventually, there have been such cases with uncircumcised men. This doesn’t warrant routine infant circumcision just as breast cancer doesn’t warrant routine mastectomies of baby girls even though it is much more common than penile issues that require circumcision.

So if you’re still reading, you are probably thinking, “Damn, okay you didn’t circumcise your little boy. He didn’t feel the pain, and his penis is just fine. So why are you still talking about it?”

I’d answer you with this: If everyone just stopped talking about it, where would mothers like me who were wavering in their decision find the information and the courage to say, “Enough. No. I will protect my son.” I was so lucky to know a woman who was passionate and outspoken, and at times even aggressive, about educating parents and protecting baby boys. She was such an invaluable resource for my entire pregnancy and labor/delivery and continues to be a good friend. She truly gave me strength. There were times when I may have given in to my husband and others pressuring me, but this woman gave me strength. She made me realize that it IS a BIG DEAL. No baby deserves to suffer through a needless surgery like circumcision. Thank God for her. She sparked something in me, and now here I am trying to pass it on to you.

I know that so many of you have already made the decision and had your son circumcised. My intention is not to make you hate yourself. You did what you thought was best for your baby. In fact, you should forgive yourself because it is a tragedy in our society, and you are really just another victim.

I write this truly because who could be more innocent than a baby just born into the world? Who has more potential than a brand new, perfect, untouched sweet baby? Who deserves the utmost protection and gentle care? Your baby. And he is going to be seeking comfort, warmth, safety. You are his advocate, his navigator, his guardian. Don’t let him down.

What I Wish for You, My Sweet Boy

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My dear little Jacob,

You have stolen my heart completely over the past year. From your warm, gentle snuggles to your precious, silly giggles, everything about you has me head over heels. At just one year old, you already have such an adventurous spirit and bright presence. I love you more than I knew I was capable of loving.

Daddy and I blew out your candles at your party last night as you attempted to touch the flames. You gently swiped the icing once and gobbled it off your finger with those perfect little lips of yours. I just beam when I watch you in action. As I looked at the pictures today, I thought about how someday you will “make a wish” when you blow out your candles. If you made a wish today, it would probably be to play with electric cords and stick things in outlets or to sleep with mommy and daddy every night. I wonder what your wishes will be next year or when you turn 18, 30, 50…. Whatever your wishes are, they will be your own.

As your mom, I have my own hopes for you. Naturally, I would love to watch all of your dreams come true, but I am responsible for preparing you for the world. Though I believe wholeheartedly that the world is still a good place, the world is not a fair or predictable place. The world is a chaotic but wonderful big sometimes cruel beautiful messy place. And probably more than anything, I hope that you learn how to persevere despite the inevitable setbacks life will throw at you.

In a recent heated conversation with my dad, your Grandpa Jim, he said to me, “Jordan what I love about you is that you’re a fighter.” That, my son, is your mother’s gift and her curse. I am a fighter…to a fault. That is how I have learned to make it. I am proud of that and ashamed of that at the same time. I have overcome and made my way through many tough situations with my fighting ways, but I have also hurt people and made a fool of myself. I hope you can find the balance that your mother hasn’t yet found. I hope you have the fighting spirit to not give up but the tact to let things go when need be.

I hope you learn to see through the bullshit (pardon mama’s language- there just isn’t an appropriate synonym) out there, too. And let me tell you, buddy, there is a lot- the material, the vanity, the fear of being different, the hypocrisy, the narrow-mindedness, the aversion to hard work, the addictions, the judgments, the fools who think they know something, the arrogance, the jealously…you will learn to spot it all. You won’t always see it at first, but something will feel wrong. You will get caught up in these things just as your father and I have from time to time, but I pray that you always find your way back to a healthy reality.

I want you to have the courage to be yourself while understanding that that doesn’t give you a free pass to be a jerk. Don’t allow people to walk over you, but remember that the bigger person is often the one who is somehow able to keep their mouth shut. Trust me, it is much harder to keep your cool than to blow up. I’m still figuring out how to do that. Speak your mind, but don’t waste too much time trying to convince people you’re “right”. Just have faith that truth will ultimately prevail.

Have patience. I’m still not able to bake cookies and wait until the next day to have one. You and I will have to practice that one together. I’m beginning to think that is the key to so many things in life- just having the wisdom to be thorough, patient and faithful that if you do what you believe is right, things will usually work out for you. Time is so precious and goes so quickly, but when you’re little, it seems like everything takes forever. Learn to be productive while waiting for things. Appreciate that down time. Someday you will be so busy that you would do anything for a few idles hours.

Don’t be afraid to love with your whole heart, even if she doesn’t love you back. You will get hurt, but you will grow from it. You will be happy you experienced it someday. Be forgiving of people, but understand that if you truly forgive someone, it is a gift to you, not them, because when you forgive, a weight is lifted off of your heart. You’re going to hurt the people that you love the most, and you will probably realize that your greatest pain comes from the regret you will feel for this rather than from any pain someone else caused you. That is the saddest part of life, and I, unfortunately, don’t think you can prevent it- only mitigate it. Try to learn to forgive yourself.

I only have twenty five years of experience with life, but these are things I know. I have felt like I have it all together, and I have had my world turned upside down. Just try to see the beauty in each situation. Try to learn from everything. Try to do better next time. You are a precious entity so full of potential. I will always be here thinking of you no matter where life takes you. You are my greatest accomplishment, and I cannot wait to see what yours will be.

Happy first birthday!

Love,

Your mama

 

 

“What’s a Sweetheart Like You Doin’ in a Dump Like This?”

Disclaimer: I don’t have any right to use the song lyrics that I like to use as titles to my blogs. I hope that by putting them in quotations I am giving the artists due credit for their brilliance.

I also know that many of you who know me would say I am inaccurate if I am considering myself to be the “sweetheart” in reference. I ask you to just bear with me and use your imagination.

Back to the story…

 

I was on my way home. I had just come out from under an overpass and could finally see the Los Angeles sky line. It was late evening, but there was still plenty of light. Traffic was crawling, and I was in a trance watching the cars around me. I was in the far left lane closest to the median. At this point, the median was actually just a steeply slanted concrete slab littered with trash and the occasional weed that had somehow managed to grow. All of a sudden, I saw it- one of the saddest images I have ever seen firsthand. I was literally within ten feet of a dead pitbull. Traffic was at a standstill, and I could see this poor creature’s body with great detail. He was scarred, bloodied, lifeless. I knew within seconds he had not been hit. He had been dumped. He looked as if he had been used as a bait dog in fighting, and then when he was of no more use, he was discarded.

I lost it.

I cried uncontrollably the rest of my drive home. I was overwhelmed by feelings of complete disgust with man, especially the kind that I was surrounded by day in and day out- the shallow, materialistic, selfish, cold, insensitive, wasteful, careless…need I go on? I had this feeling like before seeing that dog, I had been a happy little girl. Then I saw that sight, and in that instant, I became a jaded adult- full of cynicism. Intense I know, but the entire experience just had so much meaning for me.

By this time, I was totally miserable with my job which unfortunately was pretty much my life at that point. I had started the position with all of these high hopes for my career and my life, and instead I felt more hopeless and depressed than ever. The funny part was that the job was going well by most standards. I had learned so much, and I was confident in what I was doing. I had forged good relationships with most of my coworkers. I had gained a lot of respect from important customers.

When it came to my unhappiness at work, my issues stemmed from several directions. That boss who had bailed on me the first day, well, let’s just say that that was his general MO. And within a few days of my being there, HE WAS PROMOTED. WOOHOO! Then I got a new manager who was a real piece of work. Have you ever met someone who knows next to nothing, but has no shame in boldly exerting him/herself in every situation? Yep that was my new manager. There were fun things like conference calls scheduled by a manager and said manager never joins the call. There were other cool decisions made like changing customer pricing and not notifying the customer or the corresponding rep, so the customer ends up being overpaid $200,000. And the cherries on top were definitely the promises to customers made on my behalf without my knowledge. The ever-changing directions, the lack of professionalism, the general disrespect shown to other employees at the company…I could go on forever.

In addition to the professional problems, I realized that my personal beliefs really were just incompatible with the way business “worked” there. I won’t go into this in detail because it is pretty controversial, and I don’t have time to debate with myself tonight. I didn’t feel good about what I was doing on a daily basis. I didn’t feel proud. In short, I didn’t feel like I was someone I could trust, if that makes any sense. Any time I raised a question about the way something was done, my managers were quick to hush me up. I remember one day I asked a question, and my boss’s response was, “Jesus Christ, Jordan, why do we call a chicken a chicken?”  Good question. You tell me, asshole.

Then there was just my overall unhappiness with my lifestyle. I was eating like a king because of all of the business meetings at fancy restaurants, but yuck! I felt like a cow, and I barely had time to exercise during the week because I was usually out of my apartment by 6 or 7 and ready to collapse when I rolled back in the door to hundreds of e-mails that I was expected to return promptly. So between lack of sleep, bad diet, little to no exercise, general dissatisfaction with career, and lack of family or close friends nearby for support, my life was far from where I wanted it to be.

So I took some time off.

I went home to West Virginia, and then I went to visit one of my best friends in British Columbia. I used the time to think. think. think.

I knew what I had to do.

So when I got back to LA, I walked into the office with a written list of dozens of the issues that had brought me to my decision, and I quit. I quit a high-paying job where I had a company car with all expenses paid, full medical benefits, elaborate dinners, luxurious hotel accommodations, extensive training, lots of opportunity for upward mobility in the corporate world, blah blah blah. And damn it felt good.

It felt good to know that that was absolutely not what I wanted in life. I could never be fulfilled by those things, and I’d be damned if I was going to continue being miserable just to have all of that because in the end, what did I have? I felt empty.

Maybe this is all so cliche because duh- we all have heard a gazillion times about how money and material, etc. mean nothing. But despite having heard that,  I had naively thought that that job was going to do it for me. I had believed that that job was going to make me feel like I had overcome the inadequacies that I had felt growing up. Is this weird or are you getting me?

Anywho…let me tell you. The end result was amazing because I did feel like I had overcome so much. I had gone and done it and realized it was not for me. Nothing about it was for me.

So once my lease was up, I headed home. I drove across the country flooded full of emotion. I was scared, but I was also excited. I had no freaking clue what I was going to do. I felt like a failure in moments, of course, but then I would remind myself, “F that. You chose to leave because that place was sucking the life out of you. You didn’t need to stay to prove anything. You’re not going to be a slave to something you don’t believe in.” Then the excitement would kick in again. “Where am I going to go? Should I go to law school? Should I be a teacher? Should I join the Peace Corps? Oh my gosh I get to see Hector and Dorrien!”

I felt like my life was a mess, but I felt like I was on the right track. If you’ve been there, you know what I mean.

And as I sit here in my living room waiting for my sweet husband to get home, and I look around at the silly little toys scattered across the floor and I replay the days’ moments in my head- my adorable son laughing at me, his two front teeth gleaming as they sit a full half inch apart from one another in that sweet potato covered mouth and then later his tiny body collapsing onto me as he falls asleep and lets out the most precious sigh, I know without a doubt that I did the right thing.

I am right where I am supposed to be tonight, and I hope that when you read this, you feel like you are where you’re meant to be.

 

(I do have to mention that I made a few friends in California, and one of them really was such a great support to me during this time that I have to thank her. She was kind of like a mentor/mom to me, and she assured me that I was making the right decision for my life. She was and is so full of wisdom, and I am so glad that I met her and still call her a friend. For her friendship alone, my time in Southern California was worth it.)

 

Life keeps happening…sorry for the delay.

Phew. I apologize for how long it has taken me to get back to this, but I have a cool little dude who has cut two teeth, learned to crawl (everywhere) and decided to protest sleep more than ever in the past month.

So where were we?

Ahh yes, I was homeless yet again. This time in Los Angeles, and I was sipping a latte while browsing Craigslist. I checked out a few spots that day- a little studio in the Hollywood Hills behind the home of an eccentric older woman who assured me that I would love it there because all the clubs and hot spots were within walking distance. Meh. Not for me. Next I looked at a room for rent in Studio City. Nice place, but the guy looking to rent out the room gave me the creeps.  No thank you. I had two weeks before my job started, so I decided to jump back on the road and visit my Aunt near San Francisco. On my way out of the LA area, I decided to look at one more room for rent.

This time it was in a house with a family. The wife was a resident doctor, and the husband produced music. They had an adorable daughter, and they were only asking for $700/month which is a bargain for any livable space near Los Angeles. The room was furnished, and I would have my own bathroom. Though the room needed a “deep clean”, I decided that it was my best option for the short term. They were going to let me go month to month, so I could move once I found something else. I decided to commit to it.

I still wanted to visit my Aunt, so I thanked the family and got back on the road. I spent the next week or so visiting with my Aunt- just laying back and spending some quality time with her. We took a few long walks, went to a resort in Calistoga where we had mud baths and soaked in natural hot springs, had some good meals and as always great conversations. When I finally left her to head back down to Los Angeles, I was excited and ready to start the life that I thought I wanted.

When I got back to Los Angeles, I cleaned my room from top to bottom, spent a day hiking ocean side in Malibu, joined a kick boxing gym nearby. Within a few days, I knew I couldn’t last living at that house. The mother’s hours at the hospital were miserable, and she was constantly sleeping when she was home. That didn’t bother me, but the father… it turned out “producing music” meant sleeping in every day, waking up sometime in the afternoon, never lifting a finger around the house, and listening to obnoxiously loud music on occasion. Their daughter would often wake up and be alone in the living room or kitchen for hours before either parent was awake. She was eight. Not cool.

Thankfully, work was going to start for me soon, so I wouldn’t have to be home much. The distribution center where I would begin training was about an hour from where I lived. After I was “trained”, I would be given a “territory” which is basically a group of “customer” stores that are in a common geographical area. Obviously in cities, the customers tended to be closer together than in rural areas where there could be tens or even hundreds of miles between them. For the time being though, I would just drive to the “DC” (distribution center) each morning  until I started customer visits.

For anyone who knew me at that point in my life, I was so excited. I was so proud. I was so eager to learn. I have always been a very competitive person, and it was no different when it came to my job. I wanted to be the best I could be. I studied all the information that had been provided to me previously until I knew it verbatim. The morning of my first day, I made sure to leave with plenty of time, so I could be early. When I arrived at the DC, I was met by two sweet Human Resource representatives who walked me through all the paperwork, etc. Afterward, they asked me what I was supposed to do that day.

Ummmm. I have no clue. No one had communicated anything other than to show up there at 8am. They laughed and looked at one another knowingly. So they decided to have me sit with the Sales Admins- basically the administrative support personnel for the sales reps and managers. They were both very welcoming to me, as well, but I felt concerned. Where was my manager?  Why is everyone looking at one another funny?

So for the next few days, I just showed up. I bounced around and met everyone, and I learned a little about what each person did. I toured the distribution facility with the HR manager, and I started to get a general idea of the operation. Nearly everyone I met was friendly, informative, and had a genuine desire to be helpful to me. While all of the employees made me feel welcomed and enthusiastic, I couldn’t shake the gut feeling I had. What kind of a manager just lets you show up with no indication that he is not going to be there and no direction?

 

 

 

 

“Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans…”

Now a wife, a mother, and a homemaker living in a small rural town in Maryland…some days the rest of my life seems as if it could never have been real…

I grew up in a sleepy little town in the heart of West Virginia. Nestled in the Appalachian Mountains, Buckhannon is that kind of small town that you only learn to appreciate once you leave. My upbringing was simple and humble but a little unsteady- possibly more about this later. I went to a state school on a scholarship my Freshman year of college, but I yearned for something else, somewhere different, somewhere new…

I applied to schools all over the US as a transfer student for my Sophomore year, and I received a generous scholarship from a school in the Midwest. While visiting a relative in San Francisco the summer after my Freshman year of college, I met a man who would give me an opportunity of a lifetime. He was modest and unassuming. We happened to sit next to one another at a small charity event. We chatted back and forth- mostly small talk, and afterwards he gave me his business card and offhandedly suggested that I intern with his company.

Well I didn’t forget him or his offer. I contacted him once I was back at school and asked him about his offer. He was a man of his word and set me up for the next summer. I researched the company- largest healthcare company in the world. I would be working in the pharmaceuticals division. The headquarters where I would be were downtown San Francisco, so my relatives who lived near the city agreed that I could stay with them for the summer. Well like most families, mine is rife with dysfunction. I arrived in San Francisco the next summer to a raging family feud, so I had no place to stay.

I was essentially homeless, so I had to show up to my internship the first day and tell them I wasn’t able to start yet. My “boss” for the summer was totally laid back about it, and replied with “Shit happens.” Nice. So I stayed in a hotel a few nights and then ended up camping by Lake Tahoe for a few nights. I can’t complain too much about that… Anyhow a friend hooked me up with a friend who had an apartment in the city which he only used on the occasional weekend. I contacted him, and he agreed to let me stay the summer there for pretty dirt cheap.

The apartment was a typical bachelor pad- nothing nice. And the best part- my room. It was literally a hole in the wall- cut through the back of a closet and into the crawl space. And underneath me was a sizable “grow room”. For those of you not familiar with the term- a nice humid, artificially lit room where marijuana grows. After he gave me a speedy tour, he simply asked, “So are you hip to all that?”

Welcome. To. California.

I had to be “hip to all that” if I wanted the internship, so I did it. I slept every night above that grow room and went to work every day for one of the largest wholesale distributors of “drugs” in the world. It was a rad summer. Don’t judge me. The company drug tested me. I was clean. San Francisco is an amazing city to live and work in, and I ended up having a pretty great experience overall.

The following summer I returned to the company as an intern (with a more stable living environment). My internship was in a different capacity this time- I would be supporting the sales team instead of working in the accounting department as I previously had. (Accounting was my college major, but by this point I knew that I never wanted to pursue an accounting career.) This summer had a few memorable moments but was relatively uneventful compared to the first.

The company ended up offering me a full time job at the end of the summer- to begin the following summer and contingent on my successful completion of my degree. They initially offered me the position in Northern California, and I accepted. Toward the end of my Senior year of college, they informed me that I would actually be working in Southern California. I had only visited Los Angeles briefly once in my life, and I preferred to live in Northern California but nevertheless had already accepted the position. I knew not a soul in Southern California.

So in May, after wrapping things up at my small Midwestern college, I drove for several days over the Rocky Mountains and through the Mojave Desert and into the abyss that is Los Angeles. I didn’t have a spot lined up to rent yet, so I spent a few hours at a coffee shop browsing Craigslist once I got to LA. I’ve always kind of been a loner, so to be alone was not a big deal to me. I functioned best that way- no extra obligations or expectations to meet.

To be continued…