Musings

I’m Not a Midwife

When I was 9 years old my first brother was born. I was thrilled to be designated official videographer of the homebirth. After all, that obviously put me at the same rank as the actual photographer, and he was a wicked cool guy with an amazing camera. “Click,” as 3 year old Claire called him, wasn’t the only person at the birth I was taken with. Miss Kathy, the tattooed, motorcycle riding, short little grandma midwife whose house my parents practically lived at for the month of February. I decided that I wanted to be just like her. She is kind and gentle, but also strong, physically and emotionally.snail

For the next 9 years I would grow more and more passionate about my eventual career as a midwife. Since Mom had started working as a lactation consultant again when I was finishing high school, I was already in position to start studying. For the last two years of high school I was around midwives, doulas and other birth workers, attending homebirth classes, first with my Mom, then by myself once the teachers knew me better. This wasn’t just some passing fancy of a teenager; I had my apprenticeship worked out.

The first step was to become a doula. The August after graduation I enrolled in a birth doula training course. It had been said that this was where most potential midwives were weeded out, but I was determined that I wouldn’t be one of those undedicated, dispassionate students.

But I was. And at the same time, I wasn’t.

I finished the training, but afterwards I didn’t even attempt to continue with the certification. Throughout the class my passion, dedication and adrenaline had heightened. I was learning a lot, but most of it was only a continuation of things I already knew. It was easy for me. Then, near the end of the week, we had a session on working with abuse victims.

On the way home that night I sobbed.

It wasn’t only because of the emotional drain of talking about abuse all day. That had been fine at the time. I cried because I knew I was done. The road was taking me elsewhere and the destination wasn’t at all where I had expected. I couldn’t exactly put my finger on why, but there was a sense of completion. What needed to be learned was learned. I didn’t know it for a long time, but I have come to realize that this was the beginning of my journey to reconciling my past with my mental health, and beginning to seek healing.

The next 6 months were tumultuous. It was too late to enroll at community college, and I wasn’t sure if I wanted to do that, or if I was smart enough. What was my purpose? The passion I had felt was real, I have no doubt of that. It just didn’t lead me down the path I originally thought. Finding its location has been one of my missions this past year, and I still don’t know exactly where it is.

I’m halfway done with my second spring semester. There are still plenty of things I’m unsure of, but I do know that going to school was the best thing I’ve ever done. I’m a completely different person than I was, even only a year ago, and I’m a much better version of myself now. But if I were to be truly honest, even with the reinforcement of an invitation to the honors society and a job in the tutoring center, I often feel that I’ll be found out to be an idiot at any moment. I just finished my application to study theater tech at University of Central Missouri some time in the next year. There are a lot of things I don’t know about, but underneath the insecurity, depression and anxiety, I know moving forward is a good thing.

I still want to be like Miss Kathy. I want to be strong and kind. I want to inspire; to change people’s lives for the better. I want a little girl to look at me and say, “That. I want to be like that.”

I know I’m not a midwife. I don’t know everything I am, but I do know that I am a storyteller, a collector, a writer, and a teacher.

Musings

Creativity in Hindsight

Sometimes you don’t really understand what your art means, or why you make it at all. But that’s the thing about being a creative person. You can’t stop making things just because you don’t understand them. When I wrote Volumes of Rows, I didn’t realize that what I was describing was probably dyslexia. That swimming around before the words are finally stationary long enough to convey their message is what goes on in my head every time I try to read. It’s as if the characters are on a rubber band that bounces away and back in the millisecond after my eye touches it. I didn’t notice this until recently, but it’s comforting to have an explanation of why I read so slowly, have a hard time with spelling and punctuation, and trouble doing basic arithmetic.penandink

When I’ve explained what I see to friends, the general reaction is something about how terrifying that must be. The first time I heard this, I laughed. It never occurred to me that vision problems were scary; they’re part of my reality.

But reality can be a scary place. Some of us don’t even have to read the news to see that. Some of us just have to remember. I’m still undoing years of brainwashing and manipulation. There are parts of my self, my personhood,  that I have such a hard time accepting because of what I was raised to think and feel about my body and role as a woman. I’ve felt overwhelming embarrassment when I see a picture of myself that shows some evidence of boobs, or even one that simply makes me look good. The amount of shame I felt after going out with friends and dancing with an attractive stranger left me in a state of extreme anxiety for weeks, resulting in more than one minor anxiety attack (one at rehearsal, in front of the whole cast of about 30). Processing my adolescence is taking much longer than I had expected. I keep finding myself upset about things that I thought I had gotten over.

Creating helps. Writing isn’t something I choose to do, it’s something that happens. To be honest, sometimes I hate it. It burns. It feels like drawing a long thread out of my diaphragm, and looping it into letters and words and thoughts. Both the exit wound and where it contacts my fingers feel as though they are being rubbed raw. But I have to do it. To leave that thread in place would burn even more; eventually eating me up from the inside out. When I journal I don’t know where the entry is going. Most begin with something about how I don’t know what to write or how to articulate my feelings. Journaling is cathartic. Writing poetry helps me articulate my emotions that I’m still trying to accept. I create to find out what I feel. And I share some of what I create to validate my feelings and those of others whom have had similar experiences. But I can’t share unless I create in the first place. “You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.”

Musings

Odd Child

I was an odd child. Ever since I was very young, I have wrestled with existential issues.

Birthdays have always been torture. Parties would often both begin and end with me crying in my bedroom, trying to forget that everyone there was focusing on me, so eventually I didn’t have them anymore. It bothered me to get older, even when I was small. I was aware of the “normal”achievements of a child valuemy age and it bothered me that I was behind. I’m six years old and I can’t read. I’ve done nothing with my life. Great, another year and no progress. Why are we celebrating my survival of another trip around the sun? It’s not that big of a deal.

But I’ve decided I’m not doing that this year. This has been the hardest year of my life. I’ve been depressed for most of it. I’ve changed more than I ever thought I could. There have been so many times when I just wanted to give up. When I felt nothing and the numbness was overwhelmingly cold and the only hope was that of an afterlife. There have been times when I felt far too much, but the emotions didn’t feel real until I gave them a physical manifestation; a physical pain to mirror and validate the emotional pain. There have been times when I was terrified for no discernible reason. I started having panic attacks. Dots connected that painted a heartbreaking picture and all I wanted to do was forget. But I survived.

I’ve learned more about myself and my tastes. I’ve had crushes for the first time in my life. I’ve been incredibly confused about said crushes. I’ve grown as a writer and a person. I’ve gotten to act and sing. I’ve been published. I’ve connected with people. I’ve learned some things I need to do to take care of myself.

I’m not over my depression or self harm. It’s a constant fight. I’m not done by any means, but I’m learning to accept my feelings as valid without needing a reason or explanation.

For now, I’m going to celebrate surviving another year.

Musings

Vampire Legs

A purple striped tank top hung from a pipe in the steamy laundry room. At the top of a stack of shorts lay a matching purple pair. “Why can’t I wear them anymore?” She was young. All she knew was that purple was far superior to pink, and short clothes were much cooler in the summer. The green shorts could go. Blue too. But why did the purple ones have to be gone. “They aren’t modest. A boy could look at you and think about not nice things if he sees too much of your skin.” Modesty wasn’t a concept she really understood, but she didn’t want anyone to think of bad things when they looked at her body.

Face down on the couch, matted brown hair clinging to her sweaty neck. Her legs and feet, propped up on the armrest, were covered in a layer of dust. “Why couldn’t I have been a boy? I should have been a boy.” She adjusts a new, uncomfortable, sports bra. Boys don’t have to wear stupid bras. Boys can wear whatever they want. Even her name was better for a boy.

In a closet consisting of tshirts and men’s jeans, the only indicators that this isn’t the wardrobe of a teenage boy are two denim skirts and a few worn out sports bras. If clothes are meant to cover your shame, they should also obscure every indicator of what type of body is hidden underneath. Tight could be more revealing than low cut, after all.

“You didn’t bring any shorts? I could get you some when I go to walmart later.” A young woman hikes through the woods with her camp counselor on a muggy June day. “No, I like jeans. They protect your legs from thorns and keep ticks off.”

Thud. Squish. Mud makes the trail slick, but that’s what the walking stick is for. She lead a group of young girls down through the woods. It had been cool and raining nearly constantly all week, so her one pair of knee length cut-off shorts hadn’t made an appearance until today. “You have vampire legs.” One girl remarks about the utter paleness of the young woman’s legs.

A group of young people sit around a table discussing fundraising ideas. “What about a car wash? It’s cliche, but we could have the girls wear bikinis– and the guys could wear speedos if they wanted.” She lets out a mirthless laugh “Trust me, no one wants to see this.

A few college friends stand around outside a movie theater. It’s warm, but not uncomfortably so. Summer has just begun and already she has a slight tan on her shoulders, there’s even some warmth on her legs. “What are you talking about? You have great legs.” She blushes and scoffs, but doesn’t refute the complement. The idea of any of her body parts being “good” is still a foreign concept, but she’s learning the language.

She sits and looks at the clothes draped over the ubiquitous “laundry chair.” Are there any shirts with sleeves left? Only a couple that fit. It’s funny how the clothes can change, but the mentality of shame can stay around even when it hasn’t been fed in years.

Hey asshole. There’s no room for you here. The food’s all gone, the party’s over. Go home. I have new friends now and none of us need you. You and your squad convinced us we couldn’t live without you, but you were wrong. Everything you had to offer was a lie. Now we can see you for what you are; a dirty, soul-sucking parasite. Hell bent on making us weak enough to look for strength and then convincing us that you had the answers. But guess what. Despite your best efforts to convince us that our bodies and everything about our personhood was worthless and shameful, we stand together and spit in your face.

Get the hell out of my life.

Kaythanxbi.

Farm and Family, Musings

Pieces: Big Fur Coat

TW: self harm, self hate

Depression’s like a big fur coat,
It’s made of dead things but it keeps me warm ~ Iodine, Icon for Hire

(Internal monologue) No, you don’t need to tell anyone about this. It will only make them feel bad, or ashamed, or remember their own pain. It’s not that big of a deal. No, you do need to talk about it. Isn’t that reluctance a sign that it needs to be out in the open? Some people may not understand the thought process behind it, and they need to know that it can be nearly invisible. And I need people to know this about me. Deep breath.

I struggle with depression and self harm. I don’t remember not hating myself. As a small child I hated that I couldn’t learn to read or ride a bike. As a preteen I hated that I was a girl, that I had feelings that I couldn’t understand or express, and that I had night terrors. As a teen I had successfully turned off all handflowersemotions except hate and anger, but it wasn’t acceptable to express those, so I aimed them at myself as best as I could. I wasn’t always successful in this though, so my self loathing grew stronger. I couldn’t keep up with all of the things I was supposed to do as a good Christian girl. If I couldn’t even function in this obviously basic lifestyle, of what value was I?

I called a friend the other day and cried for a couple of hours. I had never told anyone about my depression or self harm. It wasn’t very visible. I was ashamed of my feelings. The feelings of loathing and worthlessness were so huge that they would fill me, and I had to find a physical manifestation. I wanted to cut, but I was so scared that someone would find out if I did anything that looked so deliberate. So I got very clumsy. I am naturally a clumsy person, I think it has something to do with the combination of being tall and having tiny duck feet. But this was purposeful. I would punch brick walls and “rap my knuckles.” I would kick brick walls and “stub my toe.” I would hit my head on, yeah, brick walls and “have a headache” (I often did have headaches). The closest I got to cutting was biting my fingers. I always hated how my hands looked, so I didn’t care if there were scars or scabs. Those could be explained away easily too. I love climbing trees and working with my hands, stuff happens.

Learning to love myself has been the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I couldn’t control my urges to act on my feelings. I couldn’t keep up with my “Christian disciplines.” I couldn’t do enough to make a difference in the world. My self worth was based on what I did or didn’t do. It wasn’t until someone told me that I was good enough and in control that I even considered either of those to be possibilities. When someone else told me that I had beautiful hands I laughed in their face, but it was another mile marker.

I’m still learning to see the good in myself. I love my hair and my eyes. I’ve figured out some things that make me feel not just like a girl, but pretty. I am a good writer. I have deep, poetic thoughts, and people like to hear them sometimes. I have accepted these things about myself, but what’s harder to accept is the fact that they aren’t consistent. Not everything I write has to be perfect, and that’s ok. My hair is a mess a lot of the time, but it has so much personality I love it anyway.

I wish I could say that I am past self harm. And I was for a while. But I have relapses. I slip back into patterns that should never have been in the first place. Part of me doesn’t want to write about it until I’m healed. But then, part of me thinks that sharing about my pain may be part of my healing. It’s just so damn hard to trust anyone when those closest to you are the ones that hurt you.

Farm and Family, Musings

Pieces: What Was That?

We throw tantrums like parties
We’re not happy ’til everyone knows we’re sick
And that’s just how we like it
We’ve hurt bad enough, right, we’ve earned it ~ Get Well, Icon for Hire

It’s taken me a long time to figure this out. I’ve been thinking about it for months. I haven’t been able to write anything because it’s been in the forefront of my mind, taking up all of the space. I hate writing about things that aren’t resolved. You write what you know, not what you don’t know. But sometimes we don’t know what the thesis statement is for a period of our lives.

I want to start out by saying that I love my parents. They were tricked by people who they viewed as authorities, who themselves had been tricked. But I can’t let that love keep me from telling my story.

Illusion_by_nondani

I read a website called Homeschoolers Anonymous. I would say I enjoy reading it, but that sounds wrong. It is full of stories of former homeschool students who have escaped the fundamentalist environment where they were abused, and how transitioning to life on the outside has been. It’s sick. It’s demented. The things that have been done in the name of Christ are abhorrent.

I read it for the same reason they write it. To validate our past experiences. Sometimes the stories are almost identical to my own, but not usually. They are usually much more abusive and extreme. There are aspects that I can relate to, but the intensity of it makes my empathy ache.

For a time this contrast made me question my analysis of my childhood. Was it really that bad? Was that really abuse? I mean, I only remember one short period of time when any of my siblings were bruised from spanking. I was only hit a handful of times because I was older when we started following a fundamentalist lifestyle. But then, if it wasn’t abuse, why do I still show signs of an abuse survivor? Why do I feel so validated by songs like Get Well by Icon for Hire or Shatter Me by Lindsey Stirling? Why do I still have such a hard time letting myself have platonic relationships, let alone harbor the thought of a long term romantic relationship? Trust issues and self harm don’t just happen without a reason.

A dear friend told me the other day, “Just because someone else had it worse doesn’t mean you aren’t allowed to hurt.” This is hard to believe sometimes. I don’t want to marginalize the experience of others. But I have to remind myself that it’s not a contest. Just because I was never beaten doesn’t mean I wasn’t abused. Emotional abuse can be very invisible, but have the same results as a belt. My parents didn’t hit me, but the way they made me feel lead me to hit myself.

Don’t tell the others but it’s all getting old
I mean how many more times must our stories be told?
And being lonely’s only fun in a group
It sort of loses it’s charm when it’s true ~ Get Well, Icon for Hire

Books and Movies, Musings, Poet Among Other Things

Saying “No” Isn’t Weak

Volumes of Rows is the only story I’ve ever finished, and I only finished it because it had to get out of my head. I came up with it as I was shelving in the library one day. Have you ever compressed a stack of paper and then let it go really fast? It makes this ominous creak that almost sounds like breathing. Now, our library isn’t all that large, so I knew I was nearly always in sight of the circulation desk, were something to happen. But what if I was alone? What if that creak actually was the books coming to life, but since someone can always see them, they can’t move? I came home that day and wrote down what played out in my head. The next week I had a gut check when I noticed that someone had left the large quilt book out.

After I finished trying to trip my sister, Meg, as she was learning to walk, I decided to torture her by other means. I attempted to convince her that aliens were going to come in our nearly two story high window, turn her brains to oatmeal and eat them with a straw. Now Meg, being very level headed and logical, had no reason to believe in aliens. I, on the other hand… have always had a very vivid imagination. I convinced myself of what I failed to convince my sister.

LimitsFor the past two years I have spent the weekends of October working at a corn maze. If you’ve ever been to a corn maze, you probably realise that there is a lot more to the attraction than a maze of maize. This particular maze features several rides and playthings, including a fairly tall zip-line. This year I worked the top of the line. I will admit, I wouldn’t have ridden this thing when I was little. I’ve never liked heights. As you can probably imagine, there were a lot of kids who would take one look and opt for the much shorter version. Most of the time the parents would suggest that they try the big line anyway. I loved it when a child who was scared at first grew to love the ride. You enjoy something so much more when you work for it. Seeing children overcoming obstacles is one of my favorite things. There’s a nearly visible shine on their faces.

Then there were the Shamers. The parents who would say some variation of “Don’t be a baby,” “He’s braver than you are,” or “Don’t be a sissy.” Some of these kids would eventually give in to their parents jeering. But some didn’t, and I applaud them all. The ones who did try because they faced their fears and the ones who didn’t because they took a stand. They didn’t give into name calling and pressuring. They ruled themselves and made their own decisions, even when those decisions weren’t popular. They set limits they were comfortable with. They had the strength to say “no.” Of course, they may later regret not riding. But, that’s part of growing up and making choices. You can allow yourself to be haunted by the Might’aves and the Should’aves, or you can learn from the experience.

My mind can be an eerie place. Because of this I have to be careful about reading or watching paranormal sci-fi or horror. If I give it the wrong encouragement, my imagination will run rampant and I can quickly lose control. There are times when I prefer movies to books, simply because my mind isn’t confined to a screen like a film is. I miss out on some things because I don’t enjoy certain types of entertainment. But I’m ok with that. To live a healthy life, you have to recognise your limits.

Books and Movies, Camp, Musings, Poet Among Other Things

Filling Journals

I’ve had journals since– I don’t remember not having journals. Sure, the entries were about 20 words long and illustrated because I couldn’t read for so long, but I had things to say, even when I couldn’t articulate, let alone spell them. I look back on some of those rudimentary scribblings and laugh. If they weren’t so old they’d be embarrassing. e678b832b693eac8bcb557b690cce3d8But even though I couldn’t write down how I really felt, and often didn’t actually know, I wrote enough to trigger memories. There’s one journal that Dad gave me around the time he was deployed overseas. It’s just about the ugliest shade of green, that one that is evidently the only dye color the military has, so I quickly took my crayons to it and made it mine. Our basement flooded a few years ago and it was barely saved. But on one of the pages, that has been threatening to fall out for years now, are a few words about how my day was ruined because Wendy’s messed up my baked potato, complete with a picture of how the spud should have looked. I remember that day. We had just been visiting one of mom’s friends and I was overwhelmed with the cares of being 9. It was the last straw. Either mom was pregnant with Adam or Dad had just left, but I was an emotional wreck and I couldn’t show it, I couldn’t write, I couldn’t draw, and now my lunch was a travesty.

I have another journal that my then best friend’s mom gave me. It has a picture of us in the front. Little, tiny, 7 year old us. This one is blue with vines, a picture window on the cover and a ribbon bookmark with a heart lock charm on the end. The one that I simply cannot remember not having is my Winnie the Pooh locking diary.

I used those two off and on the most, since the military surplus one was ruined, but I’ve yet to fill a journal. I’ve filled plenty of random notebooks with sketches of rooms and beginnings of stories, but I’ve never written my soul from cover to cover. That’s what a journal is. The soul on paper. Whether it means what it says or is just a symptom of the true condition is for the reader, usually your older self, to decide.

But that trend is about to change. 4980f05fdb74af85e118941df03bd15f

I have six pages left. I really don’t know what to do with myself. It feels as if my filling of that last page will end something in my life. I got this journal 2 years ago when I was a finalist in the library’s poetry contest. It was the year that Meg was also a finalist and Claire was the Honorable Mention. I didn’t win anything, but it was my last year of eligibility. I graduated high school right after that, and then started writing in the little book at Camp that summer. Only first few pages actually bare the thoughts of a baby counselor, as I quickly got too busy to write. Instead, it chronicles the heartache of a life turned rightside up. Learning to accept my PCOS, giving myself permission to live, embracing my gifts. It’s all in there. It hurts to go back and read who I thought I had to be. But the closer I get to the end, the less it hurts and the more it is beautiful. Most of my “poems” are actually journal entries, written as I’m falling asleep. They are raw Annie. What she sees with her eyes, but also with her heart. Moonshadows. Will-o-the-wisps. Dew laden blades of grass.

The closing of my little book coincides with the closing of my first semester of college. I never thought I’d go to school past what was required. I had no need to. I began the journal feeling broken and purposeless. I close it happier, more full of life, and whole. You don’t come through a chapter like that without scars. But scars fade. They remind you who you are.

Actions in Activities, Musings

How To Be a Girl

“If I were a boy, life would be so much better. No one would care what I wore or what I did.” She looked up at the enormity of the sky outside her window, laid her small head of matted, mouse brown hair on a pink Barbie pillow, and fell asleep.

“I have hips. When did that happen?” She sits on an examination table in a cold doctor’s office, looks down and notices her own, fully formed body for the first time.

I went directly from being a little girl to being a woman. At least, that’s how it feels. Those years that most girls get to grow accustomed to their bodies were stripped from me. No, I get it. Everyone is awkward during puberty. But I wasn’t just awkward, I was resentful. From the time I was 9 until this past year, I resented and hated the fact that I am female. During those years, the only emotions I truly felt at all were anger and hatred, so of course that was the only way I could view myself or my body. My parents never taught me to think this way, it was the 905dfa71e173a5a222272b7585f56c14pervasiveness of the ideologies of the purity movement in our church and homeschool community that hammered it into my brain, but the purity mindset was still encouraged. I am the one who took the encouragement a step further. The feminine form was something to be hidden, if not ashamed of. I still hated skirts, because all things that are feminine were weak and therefore must be eschewed. So, I wore boys jeans even though I was beginning to get tiny teen hips and they didn’t really fit right. I wore unisex t-shirts and sports bras almost exclusively. It wasn’t hard at all. It’s easier to find clothes when you just need to cover your shameful nakedness and hide your seductive form.

I recently got cast in a play at school, and it’s been so, so good for me. I realised that I still often carry myself like I’m ashamed to be alive, even though I’m happier now than I ever have been. I slouch. I mumble. I look at the ground when I walk. I avoid eye contact. As far as I’ve come, I’m still not used to being a girl. But I noticed something else. One day at rehearsal our director was talking about not being ourselves on stage, but being our characters. Mrs. Martin is a very posh, English gentlewoman. She crosses her ankles when she sits, with her shoulders back and head held high. Whereas I sit hunched over with elbows rested on the desk in front of me, my legs either out in front or tucked up under my seat. The first time I felt this dissonance between myself and a character I was portraying was at comic-con last spring. I was cosplaying for the first time, and I had chosen Snow White from Once Upon a Time in her huntress get-up. As I walked through the crowded hallways I noticed my attitude. I was standing straighter, but walking more urgently. Like the hunted princess. I was running from the Evil Queen (who, incidentally, is by far my favorite character), and it was all I could do to keep from breaking out into a sprint.

So, what now? Well, I have lines and blocking to memorize. Lines for Mrs. Elizabeth Martin, and blocking for Ms. Annie Hall. There is still so much character development in the works. Who is this girl with such a complicated past and such an ambitious future? How does she carry herself across this stage? She is a princess and a storykeeper. She carries herself with grace and love and confidence. What is her motivation? Life. Vivacious, glorious, abundant, splendid, Life.

Farm and Family, Musings

10 Reasons Growing Up in a Big Family Wins

My family has 6 kids. The dynamics of things are kind of different when you have this many people living under one roof. Dishes are mountainous. Laundry is unending. Privacy can be illusive. Ziplocks are a hot commodity, and I’m still not sure why. But even with things that could be perceived as hardships or inconveniences, life in a big family is pretty awesome. I found a Buzzfeed post the other night (don’t judge me) listing 23 things you get used to when you live in an above average family. Since a lot of my facebook friends are from large families, this sparked quite a hilarious conversation (primarily about food and socks). Since everyone seem to be challenging people lately, my mom challenged me to write a blog post of the 10 best things about living in a large family. The list was not allowed to be sarcastic, but could be humorous. Easy. Without further ado, roughly in order, but not really, my 10 favorite things about living in a large family:mylifeessgood

10. You have several personal book, movie, tv and music reviewers. I cannot tell you how many times one of my sisters (and even Adam every now and then) has sent me a link to a new song or artist. We compare Pandora stations. We send each other youtube videos. The number of books that have been thrown at me by my siblings isn’t too great yet, since I’m the oldest and self proclaimed family librarian, but there have been a few. For instance, Claire read The Hunger Games before either Meg or I did. Usually I’m the one who reads or watches something first, but I’m predicting that this will change once we are all grown up.

9. You have a built in study group. For most of my life, Meg and I have been at about the same skill level in most things. I understand some things better than she does, and she understands some things better than I do. We all bounce ideas for writing assignments off each other. Two heads are better than one, right? How much better would three or four head be?

8. You have a higher chance of being fashionable. This isn’t always true. At all. But I have noticed, at least in families with many girls, that the likelihood of someone having a built in fashion sense is fairly high. Some people have a friend with taste, I have a sister. Well, actually, I have three, each with their own sense of style. If I want to know what looks good on me, I ask Meg. If I want to find an epic t-shirt or other quirky-cool item, I ask Claire. If I want to just have fun, I’ll let Hannah dress me (If you follow me on Instagram, you may have noticed this).

7. You have a brute squad. “I’m on the brute squad.” “You are the brute squad!” Have you seen the new version of Yours, Mine, and Ours? There is a scene near the end where two of the boys are being harassed by some bullies at school, and one by one their siblings intervene. “That’s just ignorant.” “And you know how you get rid of ignorance?” “Butt-whoopin’.” Not that I condone violence or anything…

6. You learn how to fight fair. Come on, you know it’s true. Fighting happens even in the most peaceful homes. But this is simply part of life. You will, at some point, disagree with someone, probably get emotionally involved, and have to resolve the situation. I’m not saying fighting is a good thing, but since it happens throughout life, I’m figuring you may as well learn how to do it well. Getting involved with speech and debate is also very helpful, and actually made us fight less, and more efficiently. Siblings don’t always resolve their issues. There are plenty of estranged and strained relationships, but I would speculate that the majority of people with siblings have good relationships with them.

5. You learn how to live in a group setting. Obvious right? But after spending some time at camp, I realise how important of a thing this is. Once when we were discussing what to have for dinner, spaghetti was suggested. I stated that everyone hates spaghetti, and so other ideas were brought up. Mom brought spaghetti up again, and said she liked it. Then, one by one, every single member of my family betrayed me. “Everyone else likes spaghetti. Annie just hates it so much that she fills to room with her hatred.” I’m pretty sure we ended up having spaghetti that night. (for the record, I don’t hate spaghetti, I just don’t like to have it more than, say, once a month, and rarely choose it if there are other options.)

4. You have different perspectives on life events. You may have best friends that you grew up with, but even they probably weren’t there for everything. A brother or sister, even if they are older or younger, you probably share many of the same memories.

3. You develop a family lexicon and innumerable inside jokes. If we pull up to a drive-thru and someone shouts “Get out your coffeemakers!” don’t be surprised. In fact, if we say just about anything, and start to giggle or nod, just assume it is part of our family culture, smile, and carry on with your life. You can probably ask about it if you really want to know, but we may or may not even remember how the trend or saying got started. It’s just what we do.

2. You get to see kids grow up, without having to raise them yourself. Don’t get me wrong, I do want some littles of my own one day, but not yet. Having a toddler in the house, but being able to leave and not have to worry about him is just about the coolest thing ever (sorry Mom). You get to know humans in progress, and learn from them, and watch them be hilarious, but they are still your peers on some level, or at least they will be eventually.

1. You learn how to entertain.  When I was about 9 years old we lived in Middle-of-Nowhere KY, 30 minutes from a gas station. At this point there were only 3 of us, but we were still homeschooled and still fairly secluded. We had tv, but not cable, and PBS kids cut out in the middle of the afternoon. We had internet, but it was dial-up (I still got hooked on gaming… Very slow gaming.) I couldn’t read at this point either. This left us with essentially one option for occupying our free time (which, in all honesty, was most of  the time). We played, and we played hard. But this wasn’t just building mud villages and becoming dirt people. We learned how to not only entertain ourselves when there is nothing else to do, but also how to be generally entertaining. In life, if you can make people laugh and keep their attention, it doesn’t matter what you aim to do, people will notice you. And when people notice you, sometimes they give you a job, and sometimes you make relationships.

Well, there you have it. These don’t apply to all families. I know some families where the opposite of many of these points is true. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Having a big family is hard. We fight hard, we play hard, we love hard (“I love you SO HARD!”). And I wouldn’t have it any other way.