Bonnie Jean Feldkamp is a writer, wife, and mom of three kids whose ages span two decades. Her work has appeared in the New York Times; Brain, Child Magazine; Scary Mommy and more. Her Cincinnati Family mom blog earned Best Overall Blog in the 2017 Ohio Society of Professional Journalists Awards. She is also the communications director for the National Society of Newspaper Columnists. Find her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram @WriterBonnie or on her website at WriterBonnie.com.
“If the world comes to an end, I want to be in Cincinnati. Everything comes there ten years later.”
This quote has been attributed to both Mark Twain and Will Rogers. I’ll let you pick who really said it. Though the remark may be an outdated exaggeration, Cincinnati is steeped in tradition grown from a dominant German heritage (Feldkamp is almost as common as Smith around here). Downtown has progressed with the demands of the 21st century, but Cincinnatians hold strong to their roots. Me included.
I was born and grew up on the Kentucky side of the Ohio River where the Cincinnati skyline was always a sight to behold. At fifteen, I got a job at Riverfront Stadium. After school, I’d ride the public TANK bus to downtown Cincinnati where I’d watch the Reds and Bengals play while I worked in concessions. I worked there until I graduated high school in 1993. If you know your sports, then you know how cool that was. As a teenager, I got to work the 1990 World Series games. Very cool.
The conference is over. It was a great weekend. A joy to meet each and every one of you. I hope you take some of my affection for Cincinnati home with you. Presenters Howard Wilkinson and Polly Campbell shed light on the local political and food scenes. Jerry Springer weighed in with his perspective on celebrities entering politics, and if there was ever a Royal First Family of Cincinnati, the Clooneys would be it. Nick Clooney was powerful and insightful in his keynote talk. There wasn’t a dry eye after Clarence Page spoke of his high school advisor. Tears flowed because we’ve all been there. We all had that one teacher in our corner. Mine was present at the conference (he’s now retired and a columnist himself) and it meant the world to me. Josè Antonio Vargas and Rochelle Riley reminded us that America’s narrative isn’t always pretty, lets not forget. Peter Bhatia showed us what happens when an editor believes in his reporters and gives them the resources to tell the stories behind heroin crisis data we keep seeing. Connie Schultz was honored with the Ernie Pyle Lifetime Achievement Award. She reminded us that our job is to bring forward our opinions with integrity and tell the stories of common and disenfranchised individuals like DACA babies with no voice. These people and their stories need a spotlight more than any celebrity ever did.
Greater Cincinnati’s pride revolves around its ability to preserve the city’s heritage while baring its historic scars. When you live where the north meets the south, ideals clash. Some conference guests explored Cincinnati beyond the event speakers, to visit the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center and dive into the tensions of our past (and present) but also find hope for our future.
I live a little further south, in Louisville, KY, these days, but I still write in the Cincinnati market and I make a trip to the city several times a month. Driving on the I-75 interstate, “the cut in the hill” as it’s called, I still get a nostalgic pang when the Cincinnati skyline appears before me. Cincinnati is the city that raised me. I don’t really think things happen here ten years later but I do think this big city manages to hold on to its Midwest charm. When you leave, you may feel as if you had just visited the biggest small town in the country.
The Louie CK story is one familiar to me. His statement bubbled up a story of something similar that happened to me when I was 31 years old. I was watching my daughter play with her cousins in the backyard.
It was a hot sunny day and I decided to lie out on a towel and get some sun. In a two piece bathing suit, this mom was suddenly aware that the older neighbor man was excited by this. When I glanced his way, he showed me his erection.
What do I do?
This man muttered breathy things about “that puss” as he gratified himself.
The kids were oblivious and playing. I chose to ignore this creepy neighbor guy. He never touched me. He never asked me for anything, but he masturbated and he wanted me to know that I had prompted his excitement. He knew I would maintain normalcy for the sake of the kids.
I could have done more.
I could have made a stink.
I could have told him off.
My silence was not consent.
But I do feel guilt about it. I wonder if the man thought my consent was implied with my decision to do nothing but wish it to be finished soon.
I hadn’t told anyone that story until yesterday.
After reading Louis CK’s statement, I told my husband.
This one hurts.
Louis CK was a guy who in our eyes “got it.”
We quoted him daily.
We bought his shows. His movies. His stand up. Even the stuff for $5 from his website.
We watched him with our daughters.
We were fans.
I’m reading articles from people saying they could’ve done more – they should’ve done more. Because they knew the rumors were plentiful enough that they knew something was up.
I think we can all pinpoint a time in our lives where we could have done more. And we can “would’ve, could’ve, should’ve” all day long.
I remind myself that as we raise badass kids who speak up and speak out, we also have to remind them that sometimes it is okay to get through the situation and survive. Especially when you are the victim.
Whatever choice a person makes it will, no doubt, riddle them with guilt.
The neighbor guy does not haunt me (other horrors hold that honor).
Did he make my skin crawl? Yes.
Did it gross me out? Of course.
But he did not wreck my life. I did not have to work with him. He was not my mentor or boss. I wrote him off as a creep, kept my distance and a close eye on my kids.
I’ll likely treat Louis CK in the same manner. Distance myself from his work I once loved. I’ll catch myself remembering something he quipped and replace it with something more meaningful to me now.
It’s too bad. I really thought he was one of the good guys.
Ricky Gervais, don’t fail me now.
It is not my fault as a fan and it is not anyone else’s fault as a comic or co-writer or production company that believed in his work.
The fault lies squarely with Louis CK as it also does with the creepy neighbor.
Bonnie Jean Feldkamp is a writer, wife, and mom of three kids whose ages span two decades. Her work has appeared in the New York Times; Brain, Child Magazine; Scary Mommy and more. Her Cincinnati Family mom blog earned Best Overall Blog in the 2017 Ohio Society of Professional Journalists Awards. Find her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram @WriterBonnie or on her website at WriterBonnie.com.
Mother’s Day means I can put flowers in the ground without fear of frost. It’s the commercial name given to my annual ok-to-plant day. It’s time for warmth and new growth. Any other reason to honor the day has been determined by someone else. Consumers are expected to spend $21.2 billion dollars in honor of Mother’s Day this year and I wonder if my plants are included in that total.
When I was seven I lost my mother to a car accident. It happened in February and I still had to make a Mother’s Day craft with the rest of my second-grade class in May. I was told she would still see it in heaven. That set the tone for the rest of my school days. Whether it was a craft to make or a poem to write, the day served only to twist the knife for what I didn’t have. I was the minority along with foster children and others who have lost. We are the ones you can’t plan around because then the majority suffers.
My Dad remarried when I was eight. I got a stepmother. I love her very much. But that only made this Mother’s Day thing more confusing. Other children of blended families must have felt the same way. A stepparent in the mix is certainly more common than the death of a parent. Am I supposed to celebrate her on this day? I wondered. Do I give her my homemade gift? If I do, am I betraying my other mom? It was a hard enough struggle to try and understand how I could love my stepmother and all of the opportunities that she brought to my life. It made me feel that if I appreciated my stepmother then somehow that meant that I was glad that my birth mother was gone. This prompted me to grieve my birth mother even more. I had to know that I still loved and missed her and in my adolescent head that meant that I must actively mourn her. Otherwise I’ve just forgotten about her, right?
As an adult I’ve wrapped my brain around it a little better. I understand that I am allowed to love them both. Now, I am a mother. I am both a bio-mom and a stepmom in a blended family. We’re a miss-matched perfect set of genetics and love on our second-time-around.
We don’t celebrate Mother’s or Father’s day. Knowing the stress it put on me as a child, the last thing I want to do is make my kids feel as if they are obligated on this specific day to honor me, analyze my title and place me in some pre-determined category. Who I am and what I mean to my children is as individual as they are. No. On Mother’s day we plant. We put flowers in dirt and let the commercial expectations of maternal celebrations pass us by. In mid-May there’s no danger of frost on the ground or in our hearts.
I consider myself a pretty internet-savvy adult. I use it for work and for play. I even consult others on how to use social media for business promotion. Then I read Galit Breen’s book Kindness Wins. I felt pretty smug when I picked up the book, like I was going to read some common-sense strategies that any internet-savvy person would conclude for themselves. Boy was I wrong.
I am no stranger to cruel comments. Something about the anonymity of the internet just inspires fighting. I get that. I’ve seen that. I’ve tried to keep myself in check when it comes to my own responses to that.
What I didn’t know, hit me right in the face. In Kindness Wins, Breen showed me that I didn’t know how teenswere using social media. Yes, they post a ton of selfies and yes they engage with their friends. However, there’s a big part of their social interaction that is tied to belonging. Belonging is #3 on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.
The need to belong is felt most strongly at preteen through high school. In the preteen years kids start to shift from their family’s influence being the most important to the influence of their friends holding the most weight. What Breen Shows us in her book is how this feeling of belonging transfers from face-to-face interactions at school, the notorious lunch table, and social gatherings, over to social media.
I was shocked to learn about how adolescents use pictures and tagging to include or exclude people from certain friend circles. The judgement in these posts are harsh. Much harsher, I think, because over the internet children are not faced with the emotional reactions of those who are left out. Without having to contend with the real and emotional consequences kids can lose their kindness filter. This is where parents come in.
In Kindness Wins, Breen walks the reader through many scenarios with real life examples
to share with children. She also encourages the parent to self check their own behavior and to talk with their peers about internet kindness. We don’t have to be a nasty culture of anonymous bullying. It starts with us. Dr. Catherine Steiner-Adair tells us in her book The Big Disconnect that by middle school, children need to know how to use technology appropriately. And it’s up to us, as parents, to teach children that appropriateness. With Breen’s Book we can do that with purpose. Kindness Wins is not only informative, but it also acts as a hands-on workbook for parents with real tips and examples we can apply to our conversations now. Buy it HERE
Breen is right. Kindness does matter. In the end, it’s all that matters. I love that Breen helps each of us take responsibility in the parts that we play. After all, we can only control our own behavior. Let’s start today.
Lullabies are love songs to our kids. We hear them in the Disney movies and on the Spotify Lullaby Playlist. We love the classics and who can resist this Alison Krauss version of Baby Mine?
But, We also love those pop songs that bend in our minds and make us think of our kids. The following songs are some of my favorite songs that make me choke up when they play on the radio and make me think of my kids.
1. Kimya Dawson – Loose Lips (From the Juno Sountrack)
2. Coldplay – Fix You
3. Pretenders – I’ll Stand By You
4. I Hope you Dance
5. Sugarland – Little Miss
6. Pink – Please Don’t Leave Me- this one more reminds me of a teenager rebelling and singing for her parent.
7. The Dixie Chicks – Yes, we all know they wrote God Speed and Lullaby for their babies. But before that, on their Wide Open Spaces Album, there was this song and it’s still one of my favorites. I’ll Take Care of You
In some ways, humans have it better than other mammals when it comes to having babies.
We can control (most of the time) whether or not we want to become pregnant. If assistance and/or drugs are desired for labor and delivery, they are available to us. A newborn giraffe doesn’t have the luxury of assistance. He drops six feet from mom’s womb to the ground. Ker-Plop!
Think about water mammals like dolphins and manatees. At least a human baby doesn’t have to nurse under water. In this video we see the bubbles escape from the baby’s nose as she exhales with her gulps, but she must swim to the surface to inhale her next breath. It’s really cool to watch!
In other ways, humans definitely have it worse than other mammals.
1. Morning sickness is a pregnancy symptom exclusive to humans. This is one way we’ve been screwed by evolution. Humans have a relatively dangerous diet. It seems that food aversions women experience are usually to the most risky foods in our diet. According to a Cornell University Study “nausea and vomiting in pregnancy is beneficial by expelling such foods as meat and strong-tasting vegetables that historically and still may contain harmful toxins and microorganisms.” This symptom typically happens in the first trimester when the fetus is most vulnerable. So, though unpleasant, this is the body’s way of protecting the fetus from potentially harmful food-borne bacteria, parasites, and toxins.
2. Labor and delivery for a first-time human mother averages nine hours. For our closest primate relative labor takes two hours. The evolutionary cause is two-fold. First, because we walk erect, our pelvis has added responsibility. To walk erect our pelvis needs to remain somewhat narrow. However, to give birth we need wider hips. A woman’s pelvis is wider than a man’s which gives her a little sway in her gait, but it’s not as wide as it could be if humans still walked on all fours.
Secondly, our babies are born large yet physically inept. Most mammals are born at 3% the size of the mother. Humans, however, are 6% of their mother’s size at birth. This makes for an arduous labor.
In utero, our energy goes to brain development. Studies even show the extra cushion of fat an infant has at birth is to support the baby’s brain development. The chubby physique is to make sure the body has good fat in reserves to support further brain development after birth. Other mammals are born skinny in comparison. If humans were to have a gestation period comparable to other mammals, a woman would carry a child for 23 months in utero. Instead, a fetus is carried for as long as possible (9 months) then delivery happens just before the fetus’ head grows too large to pass through the birth canal.
Even then, 1/1000 births are delivered surgically (*via cesarean) because the baby’s head it too big. This requires our infants to depend on mom much longer that other mammals do after birth. More details found here.
*Yes, there are many other reasons a baby is delivered via cesarean but this statistic focuses on head size.
This is one of my favorite smoothies to make. It is great for expectant moms (Dad’s too) and is packed with Folic Acid and Vitamin C and it tastes great. If you’re in the “trying” stage of planning for baby, make sure you serve it to dad, folic acid is important for him to keep his swimmers healthy! Oh, the kids will love it too!
This recipe makes one smoothie
1. Start with the frozen peaches I use about half of a 10oz bag for making one smoothie. Toss those into the blender or food processor. Zap those first, but hold on to the machine while you press the button to start it. The machine will bounce and jump, but you need to reduce the frozen peaches down to little pellets before adding the other ingredients or else you’ll end up with chunky frozen peach soup.
2. Add one little green container of Activia peach yogurt. Blend
3. Add orange juice little-by-little until you reach the desired consistency.
4. Sometimes I add a little bit of Splenda to the smoothie if I got a less-than-sweet batch or frozen peaches. Taste before you make the final zap and then serve. These are sooooo good!