Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Through his eyes

He-Beat has discovered the camera on my phone. It always makes me laugh to find these crazy surprises later on, seeing how unfocused they all are.

Still, it's interesting to see the world through his eyes.



Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Making nice

On Sunday, the Beats met their uncle Lucas for the first time. This past year has been one where family has traveled either specifically to see them or has modified work obligations to squeeze in a visit. So far, it's mainly been my family, which has resulted in Grey covering me to met up with them and then making sure he's checked himself in order to not instigate a fight. This time it was my turn.

I'm still a bit raw from how everything went down during our time in the trenches. Even though there's been some back and forth, there's never been an actual sit-down to talk about it. Which had Grey very worried that the limited few hours he had seeing Lucas would revolve around that.

Instead, I played nice and made the focus about the Beats. It wasn't hard to do, given that just before Grey and Lucas got home from the airport He-Beat was coming out of time-out from throwing a shovel full of dirt into She-Beat's face.

And so the evening was spent with them meeting their uncle, learning about their cousins and then them hugging him good-bye he and Grey could spend the few remaining hours catching up.

All of it leaving me in a weird place yet again because though I managed to avoid so much unneeded drama, I did so in a manner that is foreign to me. I'm not one who makes nice unless I'm resigned that the other party in question won't be able to change. Which is completely new as each of these encounters we've had has been in an attempt to heal the relationships. To grow.

But maybe, like so many things, this is my new normal. Or it needs to be. Making nice, projecting kindness and learning to let things go.

Monday, September 18, 2017

#MicroblogMondays: Picking battles

Not sure what #MicroblogMondays is? Read the inaugural post which explains the idea and how you can participate too.

It's an ongoing part of the morning routine. Following breakfast, the Beats race upstairs, strip out of their pajamas and select their outfits for the day. Sometimes if I've had a little bit of time, I'll lay out 3 options for each of them, hoping to reduce the bickering that always results. 

I know it's part of wanting control and being more independent. Frankly, I'm grateful even to have these battles, as it not only shows normal development but that we even are lucky enough to be battling over outfits.

In addition, their choices are resulting in harm. They are clean, their clothing is weather appropriate, it fits and is school appropriate. All the major points have been hit.

Still, how does one convince a 4 year old that her Moana nightgown cannot also double as a dress (seriously, I haven't been able to come up with a single reasonable answer)? Or that tutus every day may not be a great thing? Or that the yellow shirt has already been worn once this week?

Picking battles. Usually with me losing most of them.


Friday, September 15, 2017

Making friends with fertiles

One of the best perks Grey and I lucked into with our new home is the mini-community of families that exist across the street. Dubbed "Backyard United Nations," this group is made up of a handful of families from all over the world that have unfenced backyards that connect to one another. Within days of moving in, the Beats grabbed Grey's hand and insisted on going over to this community in order to check out all their toys introduce themselves and make new friends. And this group welcomed all of us immediately, adding me to an ongoing text chain so we be included in gatherings, impromptu play dates and to offer support.

Yesterday, despite a desperate need to get dinner prepared (and despite protesting howls from Jaxson and Daisy about needing dinner 30 mins ago), the Beats and I went over to the Backyard to check in with this group. As they raced off to play on the trampoline, I wandered up to one of the dads who has a confused/resigned look on his face while looking at his phone.

"How are you?" I asked.
"I don't know." He responded.

Looking up, he proceeded to tell me and two other women who joined us that his daughter was married today. Immediately we all turned to look at his 4 year old daughter who was happily climbing a tree.

"Really?" said one of the mothers.
"Were you invited?" I asked
"No," he responded. "In fact, I just found out about the wedding due to a video one of the teachers sent me."

Cue snickers from the group.

"Course, I should have known this was coming," he said. "I mean, she's had 2 separate boyfriends since the time she was 3 months old. And you know they're firmly committed to one another if they insist on using the bathroom together." 

Snickers turn to laughter.

"Wait?" I ask, "you said there were 2 boyfriends? Who did she marry?"
"That's the thing," he says while scratching his head. "She married the one that she didn't seem as interested in." 

Cue confused looks from the adults

"What was the deciding factor?" one of the other women asks.
"Apparently she married who could got to the church first."

****************
One of the biggest downsides to being an introvert is establishing social connections. I flat out suck at making small talk and introducing myself in new situations. Infertility added a new level of social isolation given the pain that would come from questions like "do you have any kids?" to overhearing discussions about pregnancy and parenting.

But one of the things that comes with resolving is finding a way to integrate yourself back into society. It literally feels like coming out of a coma and all the sudden dealing with a world that has changed while you've been absent from it. Hence the coming up to speed with all things that I couldn't begin to focus on while in the trenches, but also integrating myself back into social settings that I actively avoided.

Initially in this process, I avoided anyone who was fertile. During my pregnancy this was extremely easy to do as it didn't take much for me to scare the crap out of most anyone around me simply by sharing my history. But then the Beats arrived and started daycare. And suddenly the friends they were making and the families we were bonding with came from all walks of life, including people who became easily pregnant (one family accidentally conceived their son the night before my transfer).

I'll be honest, it's been a weird struggle. On the one hand, there's this ginormous, life-altering trauma that Grey and I lived through that so many cannot begin to fully grasp (and my story had what is considered a happy-ending). I find myself editing how much a share at a time as there's been so many failed connections due to them being scared off. 

But on the other hand, there's a lot I do share with these families. From cultural interests to political views to values to insights about family. The friendships have formed and expanded due to elements of the core that are there. And often that can be enough to begin opening the door to those less than pleasant discussions and shared stories. 

******************
About 3 weeks ago, my parents came to visit. My mom has really been trying, respecting boundaries and space better than Grey and I expected and we've been trying to reward that interaction. Still there are moments that are hard (I've come to expect that), usually leaving me in a reflective space that Grey and I have to talk through.

There were a couple of moments during this visit. The first was my mom sharing that my sister had suffered a miscarriage at 12 weeks during her third pregnancy. My mom has never experienced miscarriage and found my sister in a state as my sister had already been happily sharing the news she was pregnant and assumed everything would go well. Facing the reality of loss had hit both of them hard. It was during that story she asked me about my losses. When had they happened? How had I been effected? As I answered her questions, she was quick to remind me that because my losses were so early, they couldn't possibly have impacted me to the same level as my sister (um, no), but then also confessed that she had never experienced miscarriage so her only perspective was as an outsider (bingo).

The other moment was when she told me she had been sharing my infertility journey with others. That with infertility becoming more of an acceptable topic, she was finding so many of her friends had gone through similar experiences and pain and it shocked her how common infertility was. What got me was both this knowledge I was now one of those stories people used to cheer people on when they were in the trenches (I literally felt sick from that one) but also how flippantly my story was being shared. 

Explaining this to another mother who is also an infertility survivor lead to an interesting discussion. The shared knowledge of how difficult it is to share this part of our lives that had altered the way we both view the world with those that struggle to even begin to relate. But then she pointed out something I hadn't really considered.

"It sucks, because there's this comfort that comes with finding people who truly know this aspect and can easily relate to all that's happened. But the thing is, if we limit ourselves only to those people, aren't we doing everyone a disservice as we're not growing beyond? We're not given ourselves a chance to grow, our families a chance to move beyond, but also not giving others permission to fuck it up so that they can learn and grow too. If nothing else, I think it's worth putting myself out there and to have those discussions where we all come away feeling less than comfortable because learning happens in that discomfort. My scars have made me tough enough to do that."

So that's where I'm at. Reaching back as I promised long ago to everyone in the trenches as well as everyone who's on their path of resolution. But also finding I'm starting to reach forward. Allowed myself to be hurt a little bit as I form connections with those I use to shun in order to protect myself. Because even though it's scary, there's a lot of potential good that is there.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

31

It happened again. Another school shooting. The 31st one for 2017. All keeping up with the average of one per week.

This one was a bit closer to home. Grey's parents live in Eastern Washington and MIL works in the elementary schools. She's okay, though a bit rattled. But we know people in the region and there are childhood memories of the area for Grey.

All of this leaves me both sad and angry. 31 school shootings in 2017 alone. 31.

I don't care which side of the gun rights argument your on, there's something seriously wrong when it's become expected, yes expected, that one day a young kid is going to pull a gun on his/her classmates in a setting that is meant for learning and growth. There's something seriously wrong that these shooters even dreamed this was an option for dealing with all the fuckery that's going through their heads.

And there's something seriously wrong with our society that there's the assumption its just going to magically stop without doing some serious overhaul.

Guns are not going away. Anyone who believes that laws and regulations alone are going to "cure" society only needs to look at abstinence programs for sex education as a comparison about how that one is going to work out. The truth is we need to talk about guns. People need to learn about basic gun safety, types of guns, uses of guns and how guns are acquired. Parents need to start having that oh-so uncomfortable conversations with family/friends/children's friends about whether they keep guns in the house and if there are guns, how are they stored and secured.

We also need to start interjecting ourselves into other people's lives. We need to know the friends of our children and know what's happening with them. Both to be sources of support but also to celebrate with them for the good times. Community needs to be built, to the point of nosiness, because so many of these kids/families are struggling silently.

Finally, we need to have serious conversations about mental health. Posts about depression and anxiety are not a joke and shouldn't be ignored. Even if the person posting is normally happy and easy going.

Today, a mother and a sister are grieving the loss of their son/brother on the heels of grieving the death of their husband/father. A preventable tragedy. It's time we prevent more of these. We're overdue.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Rabbit holes

It's been a busy summer. So busy, that activities like hiking and visiting the beach have been put off. To make up for it, Grey and I have been scheduling time to get into the woods and wander, giving the Beats a chance to burn off a ton of energy stretch their legs and explore their surroundings.


Watching them run down the paths, toss rocks into streams and stop to explore the oddities that only nature can produce, I'm amazed at how much these two have grown. Gone is the baby fat, the need for being careful and protecting them at all costs. Replaced are two individuals who charge through life, asking many "whys" along the way and amaze us with their observations and insights into seemingly simple mysteries.

Next year, the Beats begin Kindergarten. They will be entering school the same time as local friends but also two of their cousins. A realization that not only blows my mind but also brings me back to my time in the trenches when we were fighting to expand our family. This idea/wish of even being in our current reality seemed so far away and so far fetched.

In many ways, life has changed. But at the same time, life hasn't changed. The activities Grey and I pursue, how we lead our lives and even what we value is still the same as it was many years ago. And if there has been change, that change has come from who we are and evolved for our core foundation. It's a weird thing to explain, especially to anyone who hasn't lived with infertility.

A few years ago, I saw a movie based on a played called Rabbit Hole. The play gives insight into one families world following the loss of this son. But what struck me most about was the scene where parallel universes are discussed. This idea that there are alternative lives given the outcome of certain events (traumatic or otherwise) is intriguing, but also very real. The manifestation of "what ifs" and thoughts about lives that could have been.

This realization of the Beats starting Kindergarten as the same time as their cousins has lead to another realization that they will be entering Kindergarten at the same time as their would-be siblings would have. If those previous IVFs hadn't ended the way they had, one of those parallel universes would have been our reality.

All of this has left me in a heady space, thinking about leading me to consider all those rabbit holes, leaving me to spend some time in the interspace between them. Themes have been emerging, seeing what would have been different, but most importantly what wouldn't have been. What would have remained the same regardless of the events that have shaped my life.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

One of those days

It started last night when my phone died. I knew it was nearing the end of its life as the battery would run out during the day and the phone wasn't functioning as it had before, but last night the black screen despite multiple rescue attempts signaled we had hit the end.

Then at 1:30 am, I woke to find Grey frantically searching for his glasses and then screaming threats at someone going through our recycling. Its amazing how bold this individual was, ignoring the threats until I raced downstairs and turned on the exterior lights.

Almost 4 hours later, the same guy returned with an older man who was donning head lamps. The fact that a woman would emerge from a house at the hour, wearing nothing but a night shirt, to yank away the bag of glass bottles that had collected while screaming threats, followed by then announcing to the vehicle license plate number to the entire neighborhood is likely to leave a lasting impression to all involved. On an aside, Grey still hasn't forgiven me and is amazed I wasn't stabbed.

This on top of learning the phone store doesn't open till 10 am, a repair guy wanting access to our unit at some undefined time (because he can just text me), having to unexpected drive to (and park on) campus in order to deal with phone repairs and in order to make the two meetings I have today. And trying not to pee my pants after an older woman in line in front of me managed to lock herself and the bathroom door key in the bathroom at the coffee shop.

Feel free to laugh at me.

The theme of "those days" has been more frequent recently. Petty annoyances that if not dealt with usually snowball into something more crisis like. It's a challenge to not let stuff like this ruin a day, setting me in a grumpy mood that is hard to counter.

About 3 weeks ago, Cyrol resurfaced with an email congratulating Grey and me on the sale of our condo and taking credit for the sale. His rational was him suing the association, specifically naming me in the small claims court claim, was meant to benefit us as it forced us to pull our unit off the market (btw: not the reason) and landed us with a much better offer for our unit. Hence we should be thanking him. And, oh by the way, how are the Beats?  As I sat on the train, reading that email in complete disbelief at how he had sewed together this rational, I found myself realizing that most people haven't been through the amount of shit that Grey and I have been. Hence the jumpiness and hot responses that freaked out the recycling thieves this morning. Why its a struggle to return to the calm.

Here's hoping the day gets better. Because as of 9 am, its already been fun.

Monday, September 11, 2017

#MicroblogMondays: Reaping what is sown

Not sure what #MicroblogMondays is? Read the inaugural post which explains the idea and how you can participate too.




On Sunday, Grey decided we were overdue for doing some peach picking. So after confirming that there were still peaches to be had, we loaded everyone in the car and made our way out to a local orchard.

The Beats are at an age where picking fruit off a tree or a bush is both highly entertaining for them but also productive for us as they now are able to follow directions and help with selecting quality fruit. As they filled their bags, I found myself able to have a quiet moment, watching them and seeing how they not only interacted with the trees, but also those around them. There was kindness and care in those interactions, regardless whether it was plant, animal or even mineral. 

"
Life is an echo. What you send out, comes back. What you sow, you reap. What you give, you get. What you see in others, exists in you."


~Unknown

Friday, September 8, 2017

14 years young


I dawned on me the other day that Jaxson and Daisy are both 14 years old. They've been together as long as Grey and I have been married (Daisy was adopted 2 days after we returned from our honeymoon). Its so hard to believe they are this old. And that there was a period in my life where they weren't there.

This reality of their age is hitting me as they are starting to show signs they of it. Though still highly skilled at doing all things cat, there's also the moments where they loose their balance, or miss sticking a landing. The other day, while deep in sleep, Daisy fell out of her bed (a first for her). They both move a bit more stiffly and slowly. Nothing serious enough to suggest pain or problems, but still a reminder of where they're at.

It makes me sad to think of the day that comes when Jaxson and Daisy are no longer on this earth. They are part of our family, but its deeper than that as both of them were sources of comfort and support when so many were unable/unwilling to be during those dark moments as well as the joyous ones too. Those memories associated with the smell of their bodies, the feeling of their fur, the calming purrs during the tears and even the howls in those early morning hours.

I know there's nothing I can do to stop the inevitable. Frankly, I don't want to as it would reduce the specialness of this period we have. But I'm left today feeling so grateful for the past 14 years and hoping for so many more.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Worth nothing

Back in May, Grey and I made the decision to once again list our condo in Seattle for sale. Given that the first time had ended so poorly due to a borderline unethical move by our then management company with the resale certificate language (written to maximize profits for them and their partners on a pending massive maintenance project for the building while potentially bankrupting the association), we where feeling pretty hopeless about being able to sell. Still, our rental manager encouraged us to try, promoting a strategy of complete transparency to any perspective buyer prior to accepting any offers.

So we gave the go ahead with listing and held our breath. Two days later, right before the planned open house, we had an unexpectedly good offer. And though we spent the next month holding our breath, waiting for all of it to fall apart, closing was actually painless and we finalized the sale two days earlier than expected.

The evening the money from the sale was wired to us, Grey and I sat down with a bottle of whiskey and our laptops. Within 30 minutes, we both sat back and looked at one another in disbelief. After years of sliding deep into debt, first with the condo, then infertility and paying for treatments (and mental/emotion health support due to that trauma) out of pocket and finally shouldering more debt due to parenting twins, we found ourselves in a place we hadn't planned for for at least another 3-5 years.

We had paid off all our debts. We were worth nothing.

The past couple of months have been a bit surreal given this new reality. Though initially it may seem like nothing has changed, daily decisions have. Instead of stressing about moving debt around and making sure all bills are paid on time, we now only have a handful to be mindful of. Canceling credit cards has been a fun experience, with customer care seemingly baffled that I no longer want to keep open accounts that don't serve a purpose (to me at least). The idea that we can actually have a saving account, can focus on building retirement, put together college savings accounts for the Beats and (most shocking) actually be saving to purchase a house is still something I struggle to grasp. But most striking is the lightness I feel. That I know Grey feels. One truly never understands the burden they carry until suddenly the weight and pain are gone.

It's odd to be in this place of privilege. It's something I'm increasingly mindful of, not only given all we've been through but also knowing full well that the majority of this people in this country (and the world) are in a similar boat. We live in a world where resources are far from evenly distributed, with so many having to chose between essential needs like food, housing, medical care and even clothing, while far fewer flaunt their excess. And yet, we aren't allowed to really have conversations about this. Just beginning them usually results in people adamantly how actually they are the exceptions, actively fighting this notion that somehow they may actually be part of an elite and privileged-class. Or that the 2016 election was actually fueled by this as so many who are struggling just to make ends meet have felt unheard and forgotten by this country's leadership. How though many claim they are integrating, the truth is there's still this separation due to branding and gentrification.

The question that Grey and I now face is how to balance this. The reality is, though we were privileged to be able to find a way to pay for fertility treatments and childcare, we shouldn't have had to. I'm acutely aware that there are so many that would not have been able to do what we did, even though doing so was a great sacrifice. Additional, there are many who are finding their ways of life eroding. One could argue that they are solely responsible due to lack of education or unwillingness to undergo job retraining, but when teachers, first responders and many workers who power our cities and daily lives can no longer live in the communities they support, we've got a big problem. So how to do we counter the "separate" mentality that has been growing? How can we promote what we want to see without sacrificing ourselves in the process?

Honestly, it's something I'm really struggling with. I don't want to become that person who stands in front of someone, telling them I understand when what I'm actually doing is silencing them and their reality. My goal is to build with people, create a community where we are supporting one another and fostering a future where we all can see ourselves in. But I also know I no longer can do so with sacrificing myself and my family entirely in the process. This week has been a reminder of that, with meetings involving some amazing community leaders and builders. To see them model this way of life and what they are growing. But there's also been the reminders with the interactions with our new neighbors. The community spirit and support they have been fostering and how they've welcomed Grey, the Beats and I into it as if the most natural thing in the world. But doing so with the clear understanding that a lot of this building together requires finding like minded people. This screening that happens out of necessity to find those who will support the efforts to build and grow with while severing the ties with those who clearly aren't.

Because the reality is, there's a lot to be said about being in this place where we're worth nothing. To finally be able to refocus and rebuild. Its something that I hope so many more are able to find themselves in soon. A privilege that shouldn't be limited only to select few.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Learning through play

I don't even know how to start this post. I've been told that for moments like this, the end is best and to work backwards from there. So here's my feeble attempt at telling you about an ending and how I'm suddenly mapping out a new beginning.

It all started at the end of June. I was a couple of weeks into teaching an intense summer school course, finding myself exhausted with learning new material, writing lectures and problem sets all while dealing with a coworker who had decided long ago that I was subpar (and was hence making life very difficult). In a moment where I felt I had gotten my nose above the water, I decided to check the status on the course I was slotted to teach in the fall. And I found I couldn't access the website.

Thinking this was odd, I reached out to a friend for coffee with the hopes of gleaning some information. One coffee date turned into a scramble for more information, snowballing into a situation where I didn't know what was happening or what to believe. By the end of the week, I learned my contract wasn't being renewed. Without any warning or feedback that there was a problem, this news rocked me. For the first time ever, I was told I was being let go and I'd be lying if I didn't confess there's been quite a bit of anger.

The truth is, though, I haven't been happy in this position. Though things seemed like they would go well, there's been a number of things that have left me questioning my decision to leave my postdoc early. But the assumption I was operating under was that it was just a matter of getting through the first run of the course and then working with the team to address and revamp the course for a better second round. A week after the news though, I came to my own conclusion that I was done. On the heels of this news, I had a hellish weekend that ended with me on campus till also 11 pm on a Saturday night (and some interesting car ride home due to the number of drunk drivers on the road) as my co-instructor had decided the first exam averages were too low, so we should regrade all the exams immediately so they could be returned at the promised time. This on the heels of having 5 months of conflicts with her over anything one could think of. And in that moment, where it became apparent that I was working way too hard at something I wasn't enjoying (and with people I really didn't like) and that it was time for a change.

And so began a month long reflection on what the hell I wanted to do with my life. I've gone the extreme, looking at leaving science altogether and abandoning all I've done for the past 6 years. It's tempting just to call it all a wash. But in my quieter moments I've found that maybe the answer doesn't involve an extreme change, but instead just a small shift. What if instead of abandoning everything, I just abandoned what was making me extremely unhappy? And what would that look like?

Years ago, while working at the Beat's daycare, I was helping one of the lead teachers set up an activity. I can't remember what exactly the goal was, but her emphasis was simple: children learn through play. Over the short period I worked with those teachers, I found examples of this time and again, be the lesson have more formalized goals or not. Success always came through play, be it messy, nonsensical or very simple.

The thing is, learning through play isn't limited to children but is actually a universal truth to all humans. Be it video games, chose your adventure, art projects or lab experiences: we all learn best through the process of touching, exploring, breaking and doing something ultimately we deem as fun. There's also a selfish element here as I'm at my best when I'm enjoying what I'm doing and feel like my work is valued. In short, I teach best when I'm engaged in the play too.

So for the rest of the summer course, I tried incorporating play back into my teaching. During those 3 hour lectures twice a week, I played trivia with my students as they learned about the circulatory system (did you know that Count Dracula is believed to have had a condition called Porphyria?), respiration (did you know some reptiles can have such low metabolic rates that they literally go for extended periods without breathing) and sexual reproduction (apparently I'm highly skilled with teaching about sex without causing most people in the room to revert back to their 12 year old self-conscious selves) and made a point of being present during lab section (which was seriously cool). And though I was limited with what I could for assessments (as an aside, 2-3 hour exams should be banned), I tried to make myself as available to my students as they struggled with mastering the material.

But I also decided to try something different. The day I received the news about my termination, I reached out to some contacts who were leading novels ventures, hoping for new opportunities. And one emerged. Though at an inopportune time, I suddenly found myself in a new world that I had long been searching for. I met people who were driven to bring science to the community, to give K-12 teachers training in content in order to enhance their classrooms and to do teaching were the focus wasn't on the final grade, but what the students were learning from the experience.

Damn, it's been fun.

So combined with me declaring that I never, EVER, wanted to assign another grade in my life, the simple shift in incorporating play into my teaching has laid the framework for making one of the scariest and most experimental leaps I've made in a long time. At the beginning of the month, with Grey's and E's blessing and support (and from BnB, who's been insanely awesome), I signed a contract to begin a journey as a teaching fellow with a brand new community lab.

Could this all explode in my face? Absolutely! Grey and I both know that here's a very real chance that all of this could end with me back in the unemployment line and rapidly job searching all over again. Is there any job security in the path. Currently, a big fat NO. And what exactly this does position looks like? Well, that's currently defined with each day I'm at the learning lab with the executive director. Hence a lot of uncertainty.

But here's the thing: my goal with transitioning away from being a bench scientist was to go on to be a science educator. And if I'm being really honest, I haven't been doing that for the past 7 months. Over the past 3 weeks, though, I've begun doing what I've always wanted to do. Daily, I meet new and fascinating people who have also made this leap and are blazing the trail for making science accessible to the general public in a manner that actually works. The other element is I'm tried of playing it "safe" as usually what others consider good career moves have actually been fairly shitty for both Grey and me. The advice is outdated at best and we're both tried of following it as its only lead to misery.

I honestly wish I had a roadmap for all that laid ahead and how it would turn out. It would make things easier just to know what to expect. But Grey reminded me the other day that infertility survivors are well equipped for navigating the uncertainty and pitfalls. We know how to pick ourselves up in situations that would crush the average human being. And maybe that's the biggest part of this whole situation: that instead of scrambling for the answer out of this situation I'm finally able to see those roads that aren't as traveled that could end in ways that are better than ever expected.

Wish me luck.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

A new set of firsts

Today, Grey and I packed up the Beats and drove as a family to their school. Off-loading everyone from the car, we all collected of separate backpacks and made our way into their school. After unpacking their backpacks, unloading nap rolls and newly-labeled fall clothing and exchanging kisses, Grey and I made our way to the bus stop and rode together into the city.

First day of pre-kindergarten. A transitional year out of daycare and prep for Kindergarten. Where has the time gone?

First day of a new commute for me. Though there are 2-3 days a week where we separate when I have to go onto campus, I'm now also battling for a space on the train.

First week on a new position. The story about that one has been epic, scary and strange.

All of these are new firsts. New chapters to the ongoing adventure. All of it bringing moments of excitement, dread, calm, confusion, pining for the past and hope for the future.

More to come soon, I promise


Monday, May 29, 2017

#MicroblogMondays: Moment of silence

Not sure what #MicroblogMondays is? Read the inaugural post which explains the idea and how you can participate too.

Today is Memorial Day. A national holiday that for many Americans has lost it's meaning. As a child, I remember taking a stroll through the cemeteries and seeing veterans from my grandfathers' generation handing out poppies. I remember seeing the flags, the service men and women dressed in their military best. And I remember the tears for those who gave their lives fighting for this country.

Though due to inclusivity, I'm no longer making announcements about veterans in my classrooms. But it doesn't mean I won't do so on my personal time. 

For all those grieving the loss of someone who gave their life in service, I'm so sorry. But I also am honoring your loved one for their sacrifice. For your sacrifice. Giving a moment of silence

Thursday, May 25, 2017

The Sandwich Approach

Walks have become a daily ritual for me. Whether it be hitting a wall with preparing course material, needing a break following an over-stimulating conversation (either good or bad) or simply as I way to regroup and think, this 15 minute break that occurs regardless of the weather (and I mean regardless) has become essential towards maintaining my sanity.

It's on these walks, as I allow my mind to wander, that I find myself reflecting on all the craziness, both internal and external, that has been affecting my life. And it's amazing what observations that can come during some of these mind wanders. Whether it be observing spring flowers.


Or stumbling on a mini-petting zoo.


An aside: every place of work should have a petting zoo during periods of major deadlines.
All reminders that life can be insanely simple and complex all at once.

So what's been happening that's been keeping me from writing? That's instead put me into observation mode that involves reading and reflecting? The answer to that is both complex and simple. Fear and uncertainty mingled with guilt, complex emotions and a craving for simplicity in at least one area of my life.

To make sense of it all, I've been taking the sandwich approach. Similar in format to the ever popular "compliment sandwich," I've been allowing myself to acknowledge the hard and the fucked-up while inserting the good/amazing in the middle. Because without that middle, that amazing filling that fuels, what am I left with? And why try.

So let's start there:

  • In March, I learned that my position is being transferred to another department. What this means is both my appointment goes from a 10 month appointment to a 12 month, comes with a formal training plan and a director to oversee my progress. Which is insane to think that I'll be getting feedback on my career path choice.
  • This appointment also comes with a raise. A substantial one.
  • In April, I was called to a last minute meeting with this director to discuss a potential teaching opportunity for the fall. Within 5 minutes of sitting down at the table with 2 other people I had never met, I realize that the chair of the department was offering me a course for their first year graduate students to help design and implement for the fall. After taking a minute to recover (which included some insane laughter and me resting my head on said table), I accepted the offer and am in the process of working with another faculty member to map out a schedule/syllabus for the fall. It's still all surreal.
  • Grey has been rocking at his job, with his team making great strides with their project. Between the new commute, the work and the people he's working with, I haven't seen him this happy in years.
  • We are officially out of diapers. After almost 6 months of no diapers during the day, He-Beat made the final leap to being dry at night (She-Beat has been there since last fall). After the experience of 16-20 diapers a day, it's amazingly freeing to only have to worry about underwear.
  • The Beats continue to grow and thrive. Which is amazing to watch and a daily reminder of how lucky I am. 
  • A new relationship is brewing between Jaxson and Daisy and the Beats. With the discovery that both Beats are skilled climbers (Grey says they're in their monkey stage), have figured out all the baby-locks (and have future careers as cat-burglars) and can open the fridge without much effort has come some interesting moments of intervention. Combined with their daily chore of feeding the cats and the realization that it's far more effective for the cats to wake up the kids than to try to get me out of bed, a new alliance is forming. Grey predicts the adults are screwed.
Looking over this list, it's a good middle. Which helps me whether the following:
  • I start teaching summer school in less than a month. Though I am excited about this course and what I'll personally learn, it's also an intensive 7 week course (3 hour lectures!!!) that teaches half-a-year of college level biology. A meeting with the previous instructor that ended with "don't be afraid to fail people" has left me more than a bit concerned about what's ahead.
  • In addition to this, Grey's contract at his current position comes due July 1. As of now, we don't know if he'll be unemployed again in a month, which is terribly frightening. Apparently management is meeting, so we're hoping he'll have an answer sooner than later. Still....
  • We're moving. For two different reasons. The first being that 800 sq. feet is far too small for two soon-to-be 4 year olds, two adults and two cats. But the other reason is....
  • I've had a falling out with Martha. With the Beats growing has come the noise complaints and the accusation that kids are "harming the house." Attempts to work things out have been completely ignored or refuted, so we're in a weird place of avoiding one another. I'm both heartbroken but also resigned.
  • The cherry on top of all of this is that we put our condo on the market. 24 hours later, we got an offer. A very good offer. Potential buyers immediately signed off on the resale certificate (which I really didn't expect) and 24 hours after our counter-offer, we found ourselves in contract. There's still the appraisal to get through. There's also the fact that they could break contract. But right now the close date is set for July 1. 
So the sandwich. Especially following moments where the fear seems so intense and walking doesn't quite take the edge off. 

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Privilege




Activity directions: +1 for statements that are true; -1 for statements that are not true. Write down total score at the end.
  • Your success (academics/career) is generally attributed by others to your intelligence and hard work.
  • Your accent/use of language is not perceived as foreign or strange by most people.
  • At least one of your parents went to college
  • Your family has never been referred to as "Broken.
  • You are not seen as a "credit" to our race/ethnicity/socio-economic status/gender.
  • Holidays you celebrate are commonly recognized and observed.
  • You've never had to seek academic accommodation 
  • Most of the people are your place of work/campus look like you.
  • You've can speak openly about your significant other with relative certainty that others will not raise an eyebrow.
  • You've (almost) never had to modify the way you speak.
  • You've never been questioned about whether or not you work at your company/attend your institution as a student
  • You've (almost) never had to worry about your physical safety.
  • You are not/were not a first-generation college student.
  • You never had to worry about having enough to eat.
  • Medical care has (almost) always been accessible.
  • You do not live with PTSD, depression, anxiety or another mental illness
  • When you discussion future occupations, you can envision workplaces where people who look like you are working.
***********************
Privilege. Just the word is enough to cause an awkward moment in any conversation. The idea that unearned benefits to a subset of people solely based on their identify or upbringing is enough to make any anyone uneasy. But what's most provoking is when that accusation has been laid squarely on you. We have a stereotype of what privileged individuals look like: lazy, vapid, narcissistic, all with a polished exterior. And yet the truth is that those who are privileged are often just as hard-working as the rest of us. The difference lies in the safety net.

The discussion of privilege has been an ongoing one between Grey and I since we first met. Though Grey is a white, cis-, heterosexual male, he's also a first generation college graduate who's father actively discouraged him from doing any higher education. His sister was the one who blazed the trail to higher education and all of them went the community college followed by transfer to a 4 year institution route. But it wasn't easy as his family's social circle didn't know how to support college students and often there was jealous and a sense of betrayal for all of them moving beyond what this circle understood. This same support was lacking to from those that he would soon consider his peers as Grey struggled to fit into a world where a certain standard of behavior/mannerisms was assumed. My own background is better as college was rarely questioned, but my mother was highly threatened when both my brother and I chose to go on for more education outside the standard 4 year degree. Hence my own struggle to social fit into a world where those around me seem groomed for from day one, adding a fun layer to the imposter syndrome.

Yet, neither Grey nor I are allowed to talk about this. Any mention of our situations and struggles is quickly silenced or we are admonished for daring to assume others haven't had it hard too. Most recently sitting in an inclusivity workshop, a vast amount of time was spent calming those who immediately felt uncomfortable about facing their privileged. They were quick to cite all their hard work and hardships. All while suppressing the very population they supposedly wanted to better serve.

******************
In May, the Washington Post ran a powerful article about "Black Branding." The theme is a simple one: those with money and resources displacing those that have lived in an traditionally impoverished area, usually from several years. Gentrification is a recognized problem in many American cities, but what is most toxic about this is the attitudes from those coming in. From organic food to school choice to child care, they claim attraction to areas due to diversity, but they don't actually integrate.

It in these settings, where the differences between haves and have nots is glaring. Yet opening the discussion is extremely difficult as most of those in positions of privilege have honed their defense mechanisms. Grey and I both have been accused of not being mindful of diversity by these very people, all while counter arguments are quickly squashed and shunned. After all, their intentions are good. How could that possible make them in the wrong with their actions?

It's frightening to witness.

******************
Back in January, Bent Not Broken wrote a beautiful post confessing her privilege. On the heels of the Women's March, she talked about all privileges she had that she felt should not be privileges at all, but basic rights. For the past 7 years, starting with infertility to loss to a difficult pregnancy to going amazingly into debt to having to relocate just to exist, I've wondered aloud the exact same thing. And what I've come to realize is that the only way we're really going to see these changes is to start with the difficult inward and outward analysis. In means listening to others, even if we disagree with their viewpoints or feel insanely uncomfortable about what they are suggesting about us. It means stepping outside our comfort zones. It means realizing that real change only comes when we agree to be open to all, even if it requires us to do the hard work of address our core beliefs.

Where we've seen this in my classrooms is creating inclusive environments where learning goals are the focus and all students are welcome, despite their background or beliefs.

Which has meant including those that may be in the minority of political views, letting those know who voted for Trump that they will not be bullied or minimized.

It means not acknowledging veterans publicly as we have students from war-torn areas with families that were destroyed.

It means encouraging students to complete group work in libraries or other public spaces.

It means quietly pulling some students aside when they make jokes or comments that may be inappropriate and allow those who may have been offended to make the first move instead of assuming.

And it means often times listen to stories or opinions that trigger a deep-seating fury calmly, with curiosity and with an attitude of trying to understand.

Because at the end of the day, despite all the hardships and hurdles, Grey and I know we are privileged too. We are the privileged majority from the infertility community who is parenting. We are the privileged graduate students who are working in key institutions where we are making an impact. We are privileged to have access to medical care, to healthy food and a clean source of water. We are privileged in that we can now afford to pay our rent, our heating and electric bills and not have to worry about that happening.

And we are privileged because we finally have something of a safety net that we can build under us. Something that we can actually give to the Beats and hopefully generations to come.

Monday, May 22, 2017

#MicroblogMondays: Purpose

Not sure what #MicroblogMondays is? Read the inaugural post which explains the idea and how you can participate too.


Monday, April 3, 2017

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Infertility - maybe a cooler disease than we thought?

A major perk of living with Grey is learning about new biomedical technology. Whether new blood tests to new scientific techniques, he's on top of the trends.

So when he sent me this link, especially on the heels of Mel's post about the hierarchy of disease, I got pretty excited.

A mini reproductive system.
Researchers hope that the synthetic reproductive system will provide another avenue for studying diseases such as cervical cancer, and allow them to test new contraceptives and fertility treatments before being used in people. There is no good animal model for the 28-day human reproductive cycle, says Teresa Woodruff, a reproductive scientist at Northwestern University in Chicago, Illinois, and a co-author of the study. The artificial system fills an “urgent unmet need for us”, she says.
Maybe infertility isn't as uncool as we thought?

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Finding a happy place

Today was a rough one. This whole week has been really. Between students coming back from Spring Break, modifications to lecture (topic was quantitative genetics, for anyone interested) leading to more modifications to problem sets and staff meetings. All this on top of the first week of a new job for Grey, which means new daycare for the Beats and a new commute. Add in fighting about condo business.

And yeah.

By 2 pm, I was looking for a distraction. Which I rapidly found through prepping for lecture on Thursday.


Warning: skip the last minute. It's a massive infertility trigger. I like Kim, but that one made me cringe.

But it lead to me finding this and looping it throughout the day

Grey is definitely rolling his eyes over all of this. But I've found my happy place.

Monday, March 20, 2017

#MicroblogMondays: Door

Not sure what #MicroblogMondays is? Read the inaugural post which explains the idea and how you can participate too.


"You are much too big. Simply impassible
You mean impossible?
No impassible . . . nothings impossible."

~Lewis Carol; Alice in Wonderland.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

For a small black dog

I'm terrible at eulogies. At finding all the right words to say when remembering someone beloved who's passed. So for the past week I've been putting this off; holding onto all the thoughts and feelings. It's time, though. Ms. Sofi deserves her due.

***********
I met Sofi on a typical indian summer morning after an atypical move across the country. It wasn't what one would consider the kindest of welcomes, with her barking at me and the Beats, but boundaries were clearly defined about being in her space and respecting her limits. Over the course of the year, we would get glimpses of her as Grey, the Beats and I began getting comfortable with Martha, Bert and her. The understanding was clear: Sofi was to be greeted but not touched. We were not considered part of her inner circle.

All that changed over the summer as Martha's garden began to bloom. Daily trips down to water plants turned into picking adventures for little hands. Particularly with the cherry tomatoes. One night Martha asked me about making sure that some stayed on the vine as Sofi was fond of tomatoes. And so one uneventful night, after the Beats had picked some of these oranges orbs off the vine, I collected them from little hands and proceeded to roll them in the direction of this small black dog.

3 weeks later, Martha gently asked me to stop as Sofi was now jumping out of bed at 5:30 am upon hearing me move upstairs with He-Beat, barking for her offering of cherry tomatoes.

Though I held off with the morning offerings, continuing to cheat occasionally and rolling a few her way, a bond had formed. And the conversations began, leading to lessons that I needed to heal. To the outside world, these seemed trivial, with her barking at me as I would walk past Martha's door and me stopping so she could come out to look me in the eye and give me an approving grunt. But these were more than that.

Sofi kept me honest.

***********
It's easy to eulogize those that fit into the ideal. The popular ones that check off all the right boxes, giving the imagine of a life out of a storybook. We hear about how they were kind, how they excelled in certain areas, how they made an impact on the lives they came into contact with. All in a manner that makes it seem almost flawless.

But the truth is we all have our flaws and faults; our skeletons we wish to hide from the world. Some do a better job than others of hiding this, going so far to project a world that appears fantastic, but the truth is never fully erased. In addition, some of us have some gnarly-looking scars that run down to our bones. Hiding these scars is next to impossible, even though they scare so many.

To the outside world, Sofi was unforgivably flawed. Her aggression and short-temperedness made her impossible to love, resulting in her being isolated. But the truth is Sofi was insanely protective of and loyal to those in her circle. Like the rest of us, all she wanted was to be loved and to love in return. Hence the snowball that came as many didn't have the patience to respect her boundaries.

What Sofi taught me is the importance of healthy boundaries. Of not pushing back when those boundaries have been established, or giving in to outside forces, simply because the other party didn't understand them. The giving in was something I've long failed with, assuming that by not doing so I was reenforcing a truth about being irreversibly flawed. But that's always when the problems would arise as those who pushed usually had their own issues that most often lead to some public (in one case very public) blowup. Sofi taught me that it was okay to have those boundaries. That those who were worthwhile would respect them.

Hence she showed she wasn't flawed. She was just tired of being hurt by an ideal that she never felt applied to her.

***********
Martha recently shared with me the story of how Sofi came into her life. As the legend goes, they first met when two guys she knew were looking for a dog sitter. The concern was that their dog was aggressive, but Martha assured them she could handle it. So she babysat, spending the weekend with a high-energy small black dog that barked a lot and was quick to snarl. But Martha noted that she was also fun to watch, having lots of bouncing energy, a fast walker and had a trademark of digging deep claw marks in the dirt to show other dogs she had been there. The babysitting was a one-time event and this could have been the end of the story.

But two years later, things changed. And Martha tells this better than I ever can
I am working on my computer on a Saturday morning  - deep into Photoshop - and I hear a voice - an actual man’s voice saying “You are going to get a dog today”. I knew it was odd to hear a voice like that, but I didn’t freak out…I had never heard voices before, but what the heck. 

I told the voice, no, that I wasn’t going to get a dog that day. That I was busy.  

The voice repeated itself and I told it again that I wasn’t …I didn’t have time…that you need
to buy at least a dog bed..etc.” No more words from the voice but I saw a small
black dog run across the inside of my head.  I thought nothing more about it - being
really busy and slammed with deadlines.

Then….Thursday evening of that week..I get a phone call from my friends. They say that they are putting Sofi to sleep the next day. She has bitten everyone. She has gotten multiple tickets from animal control because she barks so much and can be heard from the street.  Neighbors complain. They keep her confined to the kitchen in a small bed because they are afraid she will go down the hall
and bite their girlfriends. One of their sisters has a new baby and has forbidden them to visit if they are bringing Sofi.  So….they have been wracking their brains to see who would ever want her…and they remember I baby sat two years before and said that I had experience with aggressive dogs. Did I want her?  


I immediately remembered the Voice from Saturday morning and told them that yes, I would be right down… that she had announced herself to me a few days before -- letting me know she
was headed my way next. I drove right down to their house and picked her up.

Before I did…I checked with Mr. Bert who I knew would have to help me walk
her sometimes.  I called Mr. Bert and asked him if he remembered Sofi and that she needed a home immediately and was he up for it. 


He said “yes” real fast and I questioned him “why?” He answered “Like me - black, homeless, island.  He saw the similarities between the two of them and was willing. 

And so their life began together, building trust and a routine. Martha confessed that those first couple of years were rough, ultimately they all became family. And Sofi was the glue. She still is.

*************
I mentioned that Sofi kept me honest. But not in the way most assume. Every morning as she would bark at me on my way out the door, I would make a point to stop and acknowledge her. And in that moment as I squatted down to greet her, she would waddle towards me while looking me dead in the eye and give me a gruff. Occasionally she'd get so close that she would brush against me, causing Martha to hold her breath in worry. But each time the message was clear.

Be honest. Be who you are.

And though that may seem so simple, the power behind that daily reminder has given me courage to advocate for myself and my family as we've gone through some very hard times. It's also allowed me to make less than popular decisions about asking for space and time. Something that I normally fail at as I'm usually racked with guilt.

For the past 2 weeks, I've missed those daily reminders. I feel like something so precious has been lost and though I know she was old (13 yrs and 9 months to be exact) and so sick, the hole that has come from her not being here anymore has left an undeniable ache.

Because the truth is, Sofi saw something in me that I've been so very afraid of. She saw I was broken too. But she reminded me it was okay.



Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Muscle memory

Don't worry
Your wings still remember how to soar
Even when you can barely lift them up
Just let them breathe and steal the wind
~Brenda Busuulwa

It's hard coming back, reestablishing a routine. Originally the break in writing was meant to be temporary; a hiatus to focus on all the turmoil. Coming out of that required more activation energy then I anticipated.

So what has been happening? Where to even begin with that. I could tell you about surviving a semester of managing a course, finding new and exciting forms of high-conflict personalities and living through two minor snowstorms that left us once without power (and had me shaking my head at the locals) but still had me trekking in for classes. I could tell you about the promising job interview Grey had followed by an awful follow-up with the CTO (who was a jerk), the depth of depression that followed and the fear of free-falling back into debt and looking into food stamps.

I could tell you about the phone call to Martha, having to tell her Sofie died. How I missed Sofie passing by only 2 mins, finding her on curled up on the couch with Bert. How even though we knew it was coming, how heartbroken I am to not see that little black dog every morning.

But I could also tell you about my students. Our students, actually, as I have a coworker who is proving to be an amazing ally as we navigate this semester. And how these students remind me daily why I love what I do. I could also tell you about the phone call that came a couple of days after the asshole interview with Grey's dream job. How they hadn't forgotten about him and how eager they've been to bring him into the company. And how he starts a new position, one beyond what we even imagined possible, next Monday.

And I could also tell you about the Beats and how much they have grown during all of this. How they also start in a new school next Monday. With so many tears from me as we are saying goodbye to trusted teachers and friends. But how now we are all commuting in together.

I could also tell you that through all of this, I've thought a lot about this space and this community. About how the decisions of a few can change the lives of so many. But of also how echo chambers have a very negative side-effect of shielding those in the bubble from the painful realities of others. How sometimes it takes throwing bricks to shatter those walls and make everyone aware of the work we all need to do.

So I'm back. Flexing muscles that haven't been used for awhile. But muscle memory is an interesting thing. Even when you're still trying to figure it all out.

Monday, February 6, 2017

#MicroblogMondays: Extremophile

Not sure what #MicroblogMondays is? Read the inaugural post which explains the idea and how you can participate too.

Extremophile: an organism that lives under extreme environmental conditions.

That pretty much explains my new normal as of last week. 

My course is in full swing, with registration (~400 students have been enrolled, but I'm still mediating section changes), finalizing employment of teaching assistants, navigating administrative logistics and then the standard things that come with a course (writing practice problems, reviewed a practice quiz, preparing all of them for Quiz #1 and navigating lecture). 

Normally all of this would be good stress. But add in Grey being laid off, bad news about taxes (because unlike our current president, Grey and I do pay them) and 2 full months of being sick and it's been just too much.

I often wonder what happens to people when they live in bad stress for too long. People around them certainly don't tolerate hearing about it (I laughed after getting the "just relax" and "maybe you need a vacation" comments). But it's also clear that when things are bad for too long, things start to give.

Today Grey has a phone interview. His meetings from last week have already yielded a positive lead  on a new position (the new company is waiting on money). So there's hope, even though hope and I don't always see eye-to-eye. Still I'm very tired of all of this. 

Monday, January 30, 2017

#MicroblogMondays: Another new dawn

Not sure what #MicroblogMondays is? Read the inaugural post which explains the idea and how you can participate too.


"Do not worry that your life is turning upside down. How do you know that side you are use to is better than the one to come?"
~Rumi

"Cause in the end, they'll judge me anyway. So whatever." 
~Kid Cudi




Saturday, January 21, 2017

Marching in Boston

I hadn't planned on attending. Given my dislike for crowds combined with juggling logistics of caring for the Beats, I planned to cheer on my fellow sisters (and brothers) attending the Women's March from afar. What changed my mind was walking into the lecture hall we'll be teaching in and seeing the inauguration being broadcast over that big screen. I just about cried as I watched the Obamas make their way on stage. And the silence that found our entire group when the cameras panned to Donald Trump spoke volumes about the thoughts that ran through my brain.

Grey didn't miss a beat when I told him I thought I should attend. Even after a night with He-Beat being sick, he took over childcare responsibilities, free me to make my way into the city. For anyone who assumes men don't care about what is happening, I can assure you his actions demonstrate how untrue that argument is. Armed with cash, a transit pass and a cell phone, I set off to protest.

And though I didn't stay long (and unfortunately was unable to connect with friends due to poor cell service), what I saw returned my faith in humanity. After a day where I was sick to my stomach, I felt a renewed sense to continue fighting for what I believe in.

Justine posted a beautiful testimony as to why she marched. Today I marched in a similar spirit, to protest the new political establishment that is pushing an agenda that I'm morally opposed to. But the march was also a community building exercise. To see people from all walks of life come together to also openly support one another.

"Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into a friend." ~Martin Luther King Jr.




























 
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