Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Things You Should Watch

And things that influenced my previous blog post...

And the one I watched today...

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

On Vulnerability

Over and over, I keep coming back to one section:

“Then I asked him how long it generally took for him to from the act of looking at porn to satisfy himself to returning to the foot of the cross to receive grace from God and be reminded that he was already forgiven and accepted.  He said it sometimes took days.  I asked him whom he was putting his confidence in—whom he was worshiping—during those days in between.  He said, ‘Well, I guess me’” (Saturate, Vanderstelt 60).

Specific issues aside, this particular story brought to mind a statement I’ve asked my students to evaluate every year:  You live out what you truly believe.

I’ve had a niggling in the back of my mind every time I’ve discussed that statement—one that told me my belief system wasn’t strong  enough to label myself with a million other people.  I was doing the community an injustice.  I was a fake.  I was a fraud.  And the one sentiment I think every human being understands:  I was doing it wrong.

I’ve written so much over the last five years.  I’ve let people into my struggle with infertility and my belief system without actually giving them to opportunity to see me.  I wrote with a heavy hand on the delete button and my mind firmly positioned in EDIT.

Feeling like I’m not enough has become a condition.  For someone who did some really good things at a really young age, I feel like I’ve never quite measured up…always mediocre.  At best, middle of the road. (And at worst, worthless.)  I keep trying to earn acceptance and approval from the people who make up my little world without appreciating the very thing that allows for joy is the thing that also makes me susceptible to disapproval or ostracism:  vulnerability.

Believe it or not, the lack of vulnerability is why Venderstelt’s story has replayed in my mind for the last week.

Any time I chose something other than Christ, I’ve worked for that forgiveness.  I refused to let the inner parts of me be seen.  I’ve worked to be sorry.  I’ve hidden and pretended that I’m A-OK when I’m not and hoped at some point that something I’ve done may be enough to bring me back to a place where grace can be for me.  But that’s not belief at all.

I feel like it’s some new revelation that belief means I’m willing to come to the foot of the cross and ask for forgiveness and trust that God is enough.  He is enough for my forgiveness.  He is enough to change my heart.  He is enough.  He is enough.  He is enough.  I don’t have to be.

For these thirty some odd years, I keep talking about being broken without actually letting people see I’m, you know, broken.  It’s embarrassing.  I’m ashamed of my downfalls.  My slips.  My choices.  I get red-faced over the things I’ve said.  The things I’ve felt.  The attitudes I’ve cultivated.

I doubt those things are unique to me, but fear is alienating.  It makes us believe others will hate us or disregard us if we put ourselves out there.  We keep trying to work to be whatever it is that will allow us to be accepted instead of understanding what’s available is imperfect and, well, broken.  And that’s not unique to us.

So here we are.  I’m not enough.

And I’m working on understanding that accepting my “not-enoughness” is exactly the thing that opens the door for authentic relationships—with others, with myself and with Christ.


Monday, March 2, 2015

I Don't Recommend BumGenius or Cotton Babies: The Why

Like women who planned weddings long before a fiancé was on the horizon, I planned for the children I didn’t have long before I knew they were a possibility.  In the worst days of infertility, I read multiple blogs written by women who had survived and speculated about the types of decisions I would make for my nonexistent little ones.

And then my reality was blown to smithereens by a surprise pregnancy and I had to decide where the rubber would meet the road with some of these decisions.  After several conversations about the feasibility, Favorite and I decided we would try cloth diapering.  Based on what I read, AIOs (all-in-ones) were the best choice for our lifestyle and the number one recommendation for AIOs on any blog I read in the time period I was waiting?  BumGenius.

So I bought six OBGEs (old BG Elementals) and six FT (FreeTimes) and thought I would determine which were our favorites after Ryan made his grand entrance.  And after two years of cloth diapering, I feel like I have a responsibility to share my experience.  So here it is: 
If you are considering cloth diapers for your children, avoid Cotton Babies and BumGenius.  Please hear me out on my decision not to recommend this company because I haven’t made it lightly.  But after several months of waiting, I no longer have faith in this company, their business practices or their product.

This weekend, stores sold second quality prints for above retail based on what they were calling fair market value via the buy, sell, trade pages.  Because CB has said they have no stake in the pricing on the BST sites, consumers and the biggest fans of their company exploded (mostly in their Facebook fan group: Cotton Babies:  The Cloth Diaper Flash Mob).

Before I get into the other things that will keep me from recommending CB and BG, let me address the Mob.  The group is, of course, high drama.  Normally, I can overlook all of the random posting, but the thing that got my attention last night was the fact that admins of the group, Whitney specifically, told angry consumers “It’s time to move on” as though their concerns regarding the recent upcharge on seconds didn’t matter.  In addition, #CEOMom, Jenn Labit writes in her most recent blog post, “It’s just diapers and it wasn’t worth it.”

Wait, what?  The fact that fans of the brand are upset doesn’t matter because we’re just talking about diapers?

That statement alone makes me feel undervalued as a consumer because I chose BumGenius.  Every time I put a dollar into their product, I was associating myself with their name.  And now?  I feel like that faith was misplaced.  The fury of the mob *could* be excused, but for the CEO of a company to write “And I heard the mob got crazy.  Which is crazy.  These are diapers” makes me believe my concerns over company actions will consistently be minimized.

Frankly, they aren’t just diapers.  They are decisions parents have made for the best interest of their family.  It’s faith we’ve put in a company—a company we promote every time we put your product on our children’s behinds.  So when the CEO of the company comments, “we may decide to price used diaper prints higher than you’re used to seeing in our stores…However, in the future, Cotton Babies won’t be selling seconds, ever again, at a price that is higher than original retail” I guess I’m supposed to feel better because used diapers will cost more but seconds diapers won’t cost *quite* as much as a brand new diaper.

Excuse me?

This whole mentality is enough to prove to me that CB is actually feeding the prints frenzy they claim they don’t promote.  Labit’s comments about selling used limited prints for above retail are proof positive of that fact. 

If that wasn’t enough, here’s another way the company is feeding the frenzy around prints:  A friend of mine warrantied a Jules.  The reasons are really unimportant here, but she sent her diaper in under warranty and was told she would receive a Jules in return or another print if Jules was running low.  She received a solid—Sassy.  The whole exchange would be a non-issue except Jules was rereleased not long after her diaper was warrantied.  Essentially, the extras were saved so there could be another hysterical buy-out of a diaper that would be unavailable in thirty seconds.

But the company doesn’t promote the crazy activity surrounding their limited edition prints?  Please.
Honestly, though, there are more functional reasons I cannot recommend BG.  I am not a print fan and owning an entire rainbow is no priority of mine.  If you don’t value prints or the rainbow either, why should you avoid BG?

I had been diapering with my BGs for four months before I joined any other mommy groups with cloth diapering moms.  I had bought my BGs six months previous (2 months before LO was born) and I was excited to hear other opinions about a diaper that was working well for us.  Imagine my surprise when I discovered the elastics are a joke in the CD community.  I thought it must be a fluke and there were a few customers who received diapers with bad elastic.  No big deal.  Every company deals with a fluke from time to time.

But the more I read, the more I realized it was no fluke.  Consumers were consistently reporting issues with BG elastic—3 months and 6 months after use.  My diapers started relaxing after 8 months, but I wouldn’t realize the extent of their damage until my next little one came along and needed to use the same diapers.  Of course, the elastics can be replaced, but the bigger issue is that the company has yet to address these concerns almost two years later.

On a recent Mob post, Jenn Labit herself asked what we as consumers would most like to change about the company.  Time and time again, moms responded, “ELASTICS!”  In the last day, Ms. Labit made another appearance to talk down angry consumers over the LE prints issue and was asked, again, when BG intends to address the issue of crappy elastics.  She responded that it takes a while to turn a big ship, but there are things in the works.

I’m bothered by those comments because the elastics issue isn’t new.  By the time I joined the cloth diaper community, it was an already accepted phenomenon that BabyCity diapers delaminate quickly and BG elastics relax early.  Even hardcore BG lovers didn’t argue the point.  So to state that it takes a big ship a while to turn and openly profess that there have been things in the works for the last six months (a comment from Labit again) is an acknowledgement that the company has refused to listen to its fan base for the last year and a half that I’ve been diapering (at the minimum).
Feeling undervalued as a customer yet? 

No?  Then let’s discuss the preorder nonsense they call a system.

Before Stellar and Jolly came on the market, CB promoted them for preorder.  I saw Stellar and was in love.  I love solid diapers and that deep blue?  Well, my boys needed it.  So I preordered four diapers in September with the understanding they would be shipped in early December..

When December rolled around, there was still no update.  Honestly, it happens.  There was an issue with the diapers and the delivery date was pushed back.  Fine.

Then, I got an email from CB stating their brick and mortar stores had been stocked with the new colors.  People should stop by and get them!  They’re so cute!  Those emails were accompanied with pictures—WALLS of Stellar and Jolly just waiting to be purchased.

And where was my preorder from three months before?  STILL PENDING.

It wasn’t until I took my issue to the mob and multiple other people made the same comments that the orders began updating.  My diaper made it in my hands almost a week after the stores had been stocked with the preorder product and more than three months after I had paid.  How is that good customer service?

There are probably skeptics who are reading and discounting most of what I’ve said to this point.  It’s cool.  You should critically evaluate everything you read.  So let’s assume the preorder issue was a lack of organization, the elastics issue is a fluke, and that the CEO of a major company and her employees didn’t attempt to silence customers when they shared an opinion of recent actions.  Heck, let’s ignore the print craze and the fact that the company supports it completely.  With all of those things taken out of the argument, I still wouldn’t recommend the company on one simple issue:  wash routines.

I’ve spent a fair amount of money with BG—far less than I would’ve spent on disposables, but a good chunk of change nonetheless.  Because I was conscious of my investment, I chose to care for my diapers according to the recommendations of the manufacturer.  I bought Rockin’ Green and washed my diapers.  And washed my diapers.  And washed my diapers.  I used ¼ cup of bleach once a month, and outside of the recommendations to bleach again for stink (which was frequent) and rashes (which were frequent), I stuck to the recommendation of a tablespoon of detergent and lots of rinsing.

Despite my meticulous care of the diapers, 12 of them delaminated. 

Because I was pretty naive, I didn’t realize what had happened.  My sister-in-law told me if my son’s clothing was wet, it sounded like the diaper’s PUL wasn’t in tact.  My response: “Huh?”  To test them, I poured a bit of water on each diaper and watched it soak and eventually drip through the water resistant outer layer.  Crap.  Twelve diapers—$220—that are nothing but garbage.

I contacted customer service.  My representative was kind, but explained that only the diapers still under warranty would be replaced.  I understood, filled out the paperwork and waited to see if my claim was accepted.

It was—for six diapers.  I asked what happened in order to avoid facing the same issue again and the customer service representative told me that Rockin’ Green had been removed from the recommended list because it was causing diapers to delaminate.  (Despite the fact that Rockin’ Green and BG “detergent” have the same basic ingredients.  Thought I’d throw that in here for posterity.)

Uh, what?

Never once did I receive notification from the company.  Never once was I told that the recommended detergent list had changed.  Never once did I learn that my diapers could be impacted by a decision that was previously approved.  My cost?  Six diapers that will not be replaced even though customer service told me it was likely the detergent that was responsible since I was following the recommended wash routine.

I’ve since scrapped BG’s wash recommendations.  Frankly, if they aren’t going to replace diapers that malfunctioned because of their recommendations, what’s the point in following those recommendations?  And when they don’t warranty my current diapers?  Big deal.  They didn’t warranty the six that delaminated under their instructions even though they stated the detergent was responsible.  And I’ve learned that it’s not uncommon for BG diapers to delaminate juuuuuuusssstttt outside that 1 year warranty.  I’ve speculated it’s lack of a quality PUL, but the company has been fairly closed about answering any questions I’ve had.

My BGs fit well, and unlike many angry mommies, I won’t be destashing them because I can’t afford to lose the majority of my diapers with two in cloth (and wait for new diapers and prep new diapers, etc).  But I can guarantee I will give no more money to a company who clearly doesn’t value my input or my needs as a customer.

When I shared my concerns, hundreds of women on the Mob implied that I would be the first to buy the print that is rereleased to draw attention away from this issue.  The fact of the matter is they are wrong.  I won’t give another penny to Cotton Babies until I feel comfortable that all of these issues have been addressed adequately.

Even then, there is so much water under the bridge I’ll have to take a long hard look at the revisions before I change my stance.  (And frankly, I’m a bit skeptical there are changes on the horizon). 

So for now, for your sake and the sake of your babies (and their bums), buy something else.  I’d be glad to make recommendations.

Monday, January 12, 2015

The Words

Words are a large part of my life.  In the last three years, the words that I've had a pressing to focus on were Obedience, Peace and Gratitude.  I can look at each of those words and immediately understand that God was/has been trying to education me through the circumstances of 2012-2014.  They are words that are still applicable, but I feel like I've missed their efficacy.

I'd like my word for 2015 to be Rest.  I'd like to rest in all the things I've prayed for and the whirlwind of change these last few years have been.  

In some cases, I've felt like I couldn't talk about these things because 1. some people have it worse or 2. it makes me sound ungrateful (or maybe I am ungrateful...that's open for interpretation), or even worse 3. I sound like a catty bitch.  

Maybe those are accurate descriptors.  I think it's just time I laid down some of the baggage I've been carrying so I can finally let it go.  

Baggage #1
I'm not entirely over our unscheduled exit from our previous church.

It's hard to know people your entire life and then realize that many of them really didn't like you and were not sorry to see you go.  Not long after we left, I pulled up emails from another church member who prayed regularly for me over a period of several years (via email).  I was nostalgic and needed some reminder that I was loved and cared for despite current circumstances.  When I reread those emails, I realized that almost every email for a few years included some sort of criticism from this man's wife.  She commented that she didn't like something I did, or the attitude I had or something I was wearing.  This is the same person who blames me for my family's exit from the congregation.  I thought her feelings toward me were new, but turns out, I had overlooked the fact that she never liked me and was quite vocal about that dislike to her family.  That was a hurtful realization, and it made me realize there were a number of people I've known my whole life who looked at the floor or the ceiling so things wouldn't get uncomfortable.  I'm not over it because I'm still angry with these people.  Thankfully, I've learned that their opinions of me are worth as much as a paperweight in space.  But I'm still angry.

In addition, I miss some of the groups from that church.  I don't want to sing Praise and Worship, but I miss the camaraderie that came out of that group--even though we ended up with an unwelcome fourth member.  I haven't been able to cultivate the same spirit that was in my previous Bible study groups and I miss the wisdom and acceptance that came from those women.  I miss the accountability and I have no idea how to get back to that place or prepare the ground for a new, worthwhile planting.

Baggage #2
I am angry that the pastor of the church we moved to is a liar and a thief.

Favorite and I carefully visited churches to try to figure out where we could grow.  Ultimately, we wanted to be part of a community that wanted to be part of the community in which it resided (not an insular community).  That's what we had where we landed.  We built relationships.  We were involved in multiple service projects.  We felt like a team.

And then we found out it was a lie.  We discovered reality more than a year ago and I'm still angry with him for promising us a place to heal while knowing he had created a fantasy.  None of it was real.

Maybe that should resolve since justice has been done and he's going to prison.  But it doesn't change those who are left in his wake.

Baggage #3
I'm still pretty resentful of the fact that we carefully chose and things were completely upended when this man was arrested.  

We had a small group we loved.  We were learning and growing and healing. The arrest happens, my best friend leaves and then our small group is disbanded because our leaders looked for employment elsewhere.

The open, informal atmosphere changed completely.  If we were choosing today, this likely isn't what we would've chosen.  

Will saying that out loud piss some people off?  I'm sure it will.  I'll be told I can leave or make the best of the circumstances we are in.  And that's fine.  You're welcome to tell me anything you want. 

Fact of the matter is it isn't always easy to just pick up and leave.  Previous circumstances made that abundantly clear.  In turn, we are all limited in many ways when it comes to making the "best" of the current situation.  You may not believe I'm doing much on that front.  I don't really care what you believe because I probably don't trust you and I probably like you less than I trust you. 

Baggage #4
One person who left had every reason to feel abandoned, upended and alone, but I'm bothered that she never seemed to care about the people who also suffered as a result of this man and his alternate reality.

And she need not give me that garbage about standing beside her because I would've supported her to the ends of the earth.  You weren't the only one hurting.  It wasn't all about you.  It still isn't.

I'm laying these things down here so I don't have to pick them up again.  It's time to rest and find something new in the future.  It's time to apply those lessons of obedience, peace and gratitude.  It's time to openly embrace the gifts I've been given along with the emotional ruckus.

Hey, 2015.  It's good to see you.  You've got a lot of healing to do so let's get on with it.