Monday, December 16, 2013

Has the Onion Gone Too Far?

I am not a fan of dark humor. This is mainly because, well yeah, it attempts to make jokes of things that most people find hurtful or offensive. Ridiculing illness, poverty, injustice, natural disasters, oppression, and the like, is just not my cup of tea.

So you can probably guess that I am not a regular reader of the Onion. To their credit, they do post some funny stuff that does achieve the goal of good satire by poking fun at politics and other scandalous matters. These articles usually make it to Facebook and I have been known to give them a click.

That is sort of, but not exactly, how I came upon the Onion’s 2013 Holiday Gift Guide. In this case, a furious friend and fellow advocate posted it to a FB group I am in because this time they hit too close to home. The gift list includes petrified dead babies from Pompeii, terminally ill dogs, prosthetic legs for dads who have lost theirs, and white babies that *might have Down syndrome.

While I was checking out the offensive post, I noticed that the cover page post was a tasteless piece reporting on how “thousands of Americans will notice the first signs of dementia in their parents this holiday season.” Hardy ha ha ha, that is so funny, not. After poking around the archives for a while, I found lots of similar not so funny posts.

In fact, if you do a search at the Onion on Down syndrome you come up with plenty of insulting and dehumanizing posts. Back in ‘08 they even referred to Sarah Palin’s son Trig as retarded. If you want to bitch about an Onion post, well folks start there.

The Onion’s 2013 Holiday Gift Guide is not funny, not even the parts that have nothing to do with Ds or dying dogs. But this isn’t THE post where they went too far. That happened long ago. To read that gift guide post, and only complain about the fact that Ds was mentioned feels wrong to me, like maybe you think the rest of it was perfectly fine. I doubt the children of wounded warriors whose dads are just getting used to their new legs or the people whose dogs really are dying right now agree with you.

My point here is that the Onion is in the business of being offensive. It is dark humor. And listing a white baby who might have Ds for sale is just one of the many offenses on that list and on that site. If you want to cry foul, then maybe you ought to scream it from the top of your lungs for more reasons than just Ds. And maybe you should stop reading the Onion and stop buying from their advertisers. Write an email to the Mormons and tell them that buying ad space there rubs you the wrong way.

I sent an email to the Onion’s CEO Steve Hannah letting him know that I thought the majority of the list was offensive. Then I let him know that people with Ds have it hard enough without “funny” publications like the Onion making their hill even higher. I also informed him that $1275 is a ridiculously dirt-cheap figure for a white baby with Down syndrome. We paid $27,000 for ours. I am sure my note ended up in the trash folder along with thousands of other emails complaining about thousands of other hurts.

If you feel like writing to the Onion to let them know that Ds is not something to make cruel jokes about, please do:

And, if you have $1275 you want to spend (or even $5) on giving the gift of a baby with Down syndrome, please check out my friend Nykki’s donation site. She has had a certain little man with Ds on her Christmas list for quite some time now.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

A Signed Copy of Sun Shine Down Goes To...

Between when I reviewed the book, Sun Shine Down, and when I pulled the winner, I talked to the author Gillian Marchenko and she agreed to sign the winner’s copy of the book. How cool is that?

And that winner is Amanda, #3 on the comment list. If you would email me your complete name and address at ds.mama (at) yahoo (dot) com, I will pass it along and your prize will be on its way to you.

For those of you who didn’t win, contact your local library and ask them to carry a copy. That way you and many others can enjoy the read for free :-)

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Mom, You’re a Hypocrite

That is what my ten year old son said to me as he walked out the door on his way to school one day last week. Ouch, it stung a little. Let me tell you what happened and you can decide if he is right.

In an effort to raise my kids as non-sexist as possible, I encourage them to make choices about toys and whatnot based on what they like, not whether it is made for a boy or a girl. When we go through McDonald’s drivethru for happy meals and the speaker asks, “Boy or girl toys?” I answer with the question, “What are the toys?” After hearing the options the boys decide what they want, and sometimes it is the girl toy.

When the boys lined up behind Masha and Autumn to get their nails painted a couple weeks ago, I gave them several colors to choose from and daddy painted their nails right along with their sisters’. You might even recall that a few years ago I bought my oldest son a pocketbook and he took it to school on and off for a couple weeks.

I know that my boys have gotten chastised by their peers for their gender-bending. While the purse still hangs in the Gecko’s closet, filled with hidden goodies, he no longer takes it out of the house. Jade came home from school after wearing the nail polish and told me that the girls in his class told him that he isn’t supposed to wear nail polish. That night, after boy scouts, I asked him if anyone noticed and he said that a boy laughed at him and called him a girl. His answer? “No, I am still a boy and I am my own person.”

It is hard to let them make their own decisions about this stuff knowing that the odds are they will be made fun of, but it feels worse to force them to comply with our society's unwritten gender rules. Actually, it feels so asinine trying to explain why they can’t wear nail polish or carry a sleek bag with lots of pockets that I would rather they just do what they want.

But then I blew it.

Masha has an awesome winter coat. It is thick, plush actually, with stitching on it that looks swirly. The hood and sleeves are edged with faux fur of the same deep blue color as the rest of the coat. She looks all set to travel to Alaska every time she puts in on. She hates it. She really really hates it and refuses to wear it. I had to swap it out with a lighter-weight suede coat.

On that morning, she once again refused to wear her awesome coat and Jade piped up, “Can I wear it mom? I love her coat.” And I said, “No.” Then I pushed him out the door with his handsome navy and yellow winter coat. Gecko was stuffing his backpack while this was taking place. He was the last one left in the entryway and on his way out he said it: “Mom, you are a hypocrite. Aren’t you the one who is always telling us it doesn’t matter if it was made for a boy or a girl; you can choose what you like?”

My brilliant comeback was, “Just go to school, okay?”

I’m making up for it though. A certain little somebody wants an Easy Bake Oven for Christmas, and he’s getting it.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Sun Shine Down - Review & Giveaway

I like books that can make me cry, and true stories - memoirs - that make me cry are even better. In fact, if you write a memoir and I read it and don’t cry even once, then I wonder what the heck you wasted my time for. If I borrow your life for a while, I want to feel something I have never felt in my own. Sun Shine Down by Gillian Marchenko accomplishes that. And considering I have lived through my own birthing of a child with Down syndrome, that was no easy feat.

ssd Gillian is an American married to a Ukrainian and living in Ukraine when she gives birth to their third child, a girl with a surprise diagnosis of Down syndrome. The birth itself was traumatic and the aftermath was even worse. Gillian found herself in the inbetween space of wanting to, and knowing she is supposed to, love her baby and not quite being able to. She is both physically (the newborn is in the NICU for weeks) and mentally separated from her child. Her story is one of how she found her way to loving Polina.

I think most people take loving a baby for granted. You just assume it comes naturally, and in most situations it does. But sometimes when our expectations clash with our reality, love does not come easily. Gillian turned to many outside sources for support. Some good, some dangerous. The book is very honest about her sorrow and depression (which she was always prone to.)

The book is a little shorter than your average memoir, but I actually appreciated not having to wade through her whole life history or every needless NICU detail. She focused on the things that mattered, and she writes about them so artistically that I could not evade feeling what she did. Most Christian writers (Gillian is a born again Christian married to a pastor) can’t help but let their faith drive their narratives, but not Gillian. God was in the book but he wasn’t the “fix.”

The climax of the story is obviously that Gillian falls in love with Polina and even though you know it has to come sooner or later, when it does you’ll get chills and you might just find yourself crying again. In most stories, the resolution is the last thrill you get, but not in this story... Gillian included an epilogue that brings you back to Ukraine where you get to meet the girl who will become their fourth daughter. Those last paragraphs left me wanting more from her.

If you are looking for a good read to curl up with this winter or a great story to give as a gift to your favorite reader, Sun Shine Down will do the trick. If you’d like to score a free copy, leave a comment below. I will pick a random winner in a week or so.