Friday, August 22, 2014

roots, wings, and bad-ass moms.

There are two 
gifts we should 
give our children. 
One is rootsand 
the other is wings.

Thanks for giving me both, mommacita.
I'm incredibly grateful for the 
strength of my roots. 

I'm trading in "blessed" and "lucky" for grateful this week. Thanks to the reflections of a colleague and some similar reflections I've had of my own, using the term blessed as often and as flippantly as so many have grown accustomed to is irresponsible, and sometimes downright offensive. It is a recent habit I have found myself taking up, and not one I want to continue.

I'm not one to preach the bible or even pretend to know most of what it contains. I was raised christian and I believe in god, but I am no expert when it comes to christianity. However, I refuse to believe that my god "blesses" some of us over others based on anything - our faith, our prayers, or even our ability to love and forgive. I do not believe that god "blessed" me with the privilege to know that I can bring a son into this world* and not worry (a single, tiniest bit) about if he is walking down the street in eighteen years and is stopped by the police that he will walk away without bullets in his chest. I don't believe that he (or she) blesses me and other white women with that piece of mind, and then chooses not to bless other  - equally loving, faithful, and forgiving - women with that same privilege.

I have absolutely no idea why I was born where I was or why I was born the race that I am. But I do know that I certainly don't believe that god has chosen me above others because of the depth of my faith, size of my heart, number of my prayers, or anything else.

I do know that we live in a country that thrives on systemic and deeply ingrained racism. As a result, the opportunities I have in life are not due to blessings from god, nor, more often than not, even my own achievements and abilities. They are most often due to the color of my skin. If and when I take advantage of these opportunities, god is not blessing me. In fact, every time I take advantage of these opportunities I need to ask myself what I will do with it - if I will selfishly hold it close and use it for myself, or if I will use it to help - to work to change the very reality I am naming right now. 

I am grateful for the roots and the wings (and everything in between) that my mom and dad have given (and continue to give) me. While I have undoubtedly been selfish and careless with many opportunities I have had in life, the opportunity to share the gifts that my parents have given me - my capacity for love, forgiveness, and compassion - is not one I will waste. 

And, every day, I am finding more of the strength, courage, and humility I need to make sure I don't selfishly waste other opportunities...

*I know there is some irony here. But it's for another day.






Sunday, August 17, 2014

finding a reason. (also, we have a really incredible - and over qualified - babysitter)

it's not this hard for the hens
This (to the left) happened Monday evening, following my last blog post, and the wifey simply could not resist. While we won't know the final outcome and survival rate until Tuesday, things have been going as amazing as we could have possibly asked for. All of the prayers, good juju, positive vibes, and loving thoughts that have been sent our way have certainly been landing in the right place.

In fact, I'm a little (or a lot) embarrassed to admit, when the embryologist (aka our world-class babysitter) called on Saturday morning and said, "all of your embryos are looking beautiful," I actually got choked up and had tears well up.* It was minuscule glimpse into the heartwarming joy new parents must feel when strangers tell them that their baby is beautiful, no matter how bold of a lie it may be. (Although, since it was coming from our embryologist, she was likely pretty genuine in sharing her feelings about those 8 celled little beauties.)
an 8-cell embryo (what ours looked
like on saturday) - only 6 cells are

visible on the plane shown



As stressful as the last sixteen months have been, as unfair as life has seemed, and as uncomfortable as I have been in all facets of life - physically, emotionally, and socially - it's quite possible that we are finally starting to be able to make sense of what reason(s) this all could have happened for. I'm a firm believer that everything happens for a reason, no matter how twisted or heartbreaking the sequence of events is. This has, without a doubt, tested that belief (and then some).

While I spent much of our first year of marriage wondering what on earth could possibly be god's (or anyone's) reason for the journey we have been on, these last couple of months (which up until mid-July were mostly free of doctors and the-worst-kind-of-ultrasounds for the first time in a year), we had a chance to gather our wits, gain some perspective, and take ourselves out of the whirlwind for a hot second and breathe (or more appropriate, perhaps, chill like villains in the eye of the storm). Whatever you want to blame it on, we both feel older and wiser, in a good way, and although it's tough to forgive the heartbreak of losing a life-to-be and having to traverse the rocky and steep climb of trying to bring a miniature Boven-Betz into the world, we have definitely gained a ton and learned so much about ourselves, our relationship, and our loved ones through this Indiana Jones-style adventure. (I don't think that is actually an accurate descriptor, but it sounded fiery and fierce, which does feel apropos.)

The light is certainly getting closer and brighter at the end of the tunnel as we try to find our way out, and figure out the reason. And, perhaps, maybe there's lots of reasons.

For one, we've learned that the toughest times makes us love each other even more than we thought possible, and our marriage as tightly bound as the best of 'em.

I've learned that I am resilient, and if I need to be, a pretty tough bitch.

I've developed a deep understanding and empathy for not just people struggling with infertility, but for anyone who battles an illness or suffers from heartbreak that is invisible to the eye. There was a whole world of people (1 in 10 women) that I was only subtly aware were going through such painful grief and loss. Not only do I have an intense respect for these fellow ladies (and their partners, friends, and family), but I have hopefully succeeded in increasing familiarity and understanding of this diagnosis, and all the grief that comes with it, with an even larger group of people.

And, at the risk of being repetitive, I've learned about how much I value kindness, love, and empathy in my friends and family - and been blown away by the capacity which which our friends and family have shared those things with us. I have a new appreciation for what it means to be a selfless, thoughtful, and caring person, and friend. As we sat surrounded by many of our friends last night (and, as weird as this may sound, actually champagne toasted the eggs - because our Denver family is that amazing), I sometimes can't believe how lucky we are to have such awesome people in our lives. While I have always had an enormous amount of gratitude for the few close friends I have kept in my life, going through the past year and half and having our friends and family stick so close - even through new and uncomfortable experiences, lots of welcome questions, and often many gross/weird answers (they have to do what to you?) -  has taught me a whole new (and even more meaningful and mature) understanding of what I have to be thankful for.

If I can come out on the other side of this a more empathetic, forgiving, open, grateful, and loving person, that's certainly a meaningful reason. I'll take it. It still doesn't make the whole thing make sense or seem less unfair, but it's something.


*For context, I also just started sobbing uncontrollably during Mulan, rudely interrupting my bang-up sing-a-long to I'll Make a Man Out of You, at a moment I have never felt inclined to get emotional about in my previous 10 to 15 viewings of the movie. Thanks hormones. Thanks.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Strength. ("buckle up, lady")

Strength.

I've run up against the concept of strength many times in my life. I'm not sure what my first experience with strength was, but I know a few that stick out as defining. Most of them involve my parents. There was the time my father had his life turned upside down by a mysterious stroke that left him without sight on one eye and forced to stop doing a job he had spent over 15 years enjoying to make sure he continued to provide for us - and never complaining once... even as he went off to work at midnight. In fact, we spent more time together during those first few years than we ever had - like our ritualistic Monday night Ally Mcbeal watching. Clearly an unfair life event, one where it's extremely tough to find the purpose or the reason, but I don't recall either my mom or my dad making a scene, we carried on. Even further back, as a kid, realizing how hard my parents worked to provide an amazing childhood and life for my brother and I - no matter the long hours or the multiple jobs, including late nights waitressing to make ends meet. Never a complaint from either one, just lots of love and attention for us whenever they could, which was always. There's countless examples of my parents exemplifying strength when it came to making sure their kids could achieve whatever crazy dreams we set our sights on (which at times included everything from my free-styling hopes of being a children's author/illustrator and owning the entire island known as Mackinac to my more type-A vision of being POTUS). 


An important side note, me working on the island for a year in a clothing boutique and almost throwing all my dreams out the window for a ridiculous Texas boy is BASICALLY the same thing as me owning the island. Basically.
mommacita hiking into the
Grand Canyon

There's also the year I spent watching my mom battle cancer (like when she fearlessly walked into my classroom of 7th graders wearing a red baseball cap with no hair to match mine underneath), and everyday she has spent as a victor for the last 6 years. Or seeing my dad find enough strength and humor to support his mom, unconditionally, as my grandpa lost a war with a cancer of his own, long before it should have been his time. Not to mention watching him love and support my mom through her battle.


There has been no shortage of those who model strength in my upbringing, and I'd like to think some of that bad-ass nature rubbed off on me along the way. Hopefully, god-willing, one day my son or daughter will reflect on the ways in which his or her mothers exemplified and embodied strength. One of those stories may even include how they come to understand how they were brought into this fierce, crazy, and oh so incredible world we live in (I initially accidentally typed "world we love in" ...fitting).

our first ever picnic

Because that, my friend, is why this idea of strength is weighing so heavily on my mind and heart in this moment. As I have shouted from the roof tops (and by roof tops I mean this blog), the last year and a half has been no picnic (although we did go on a lovely picnic recently). I've also continued to emphasize that while my/our story is heartbreaking and sanity-testing, there are many untold and told stories that, if we are playing the comparison game (which we shouldn't, but I will anyway, because as every operating style and values assessment I take tells me, I highly value competition - shocking, I know), are certainly even more unfair, devastating, and infuriating. Having now begun the more treacherous part of this journey, the $30,000 (plus) path we hoped and prayed we would never even have to take, I am even more in awe of the strength of other women who have gone through multiple rounds of IVF, countless IUIs, multiple miscarriages, and still somehow find the strength to carry on, and battle on.


While the financial strain is hard to wrap my head around, even being knee deep in it, it doesn't even compare to the emotional and physical strain of the process itself, and all that comes with it - especially the social norms, conventions, and taboos - that exacerbate the feeling of loneliness, hurt, and failure. What's more, when the journey begins - the journey of a life time, a journey with $30,000 price tag - the rest of life's little adventures, trials, and tribulations don't just close up shop and say "peace out, y'all." 


Since starting my "pre-cycle" meds early in July, I've traveled to Atlanta, South Florida, Chicago, Las Vegas, and Wisconsin. I've found out that my role at work is changing, my team is changing, and as a result of the many changes have been working through some major challenges, mental and emotional roadblocks, and just plain frustrations that have really tested my values and character. I'm also pretty sure that all of the people and situations that were put on this earth to drive me batshit-crazy have crossed my path during the last 45 days... There was the time I spent three full hours on the phone with AT&T because of a billing error on their end that still has yet to be figured as I sit here today. Or, the time that the pharmacy I am paying the big bucks to for the good stuff (aka hormone injections) simply didn't ship my order out and every person I talked to over the course of four hours was plum-mystified by that fact and could not tell me why (or even have the audacity to make up a convincing story so I could have some, albeit false, piece of mind). Yet, they expected me to trust that when they "shipped" it the following week, arriving the day before I needed to start administering them, that it would actually come ("Ma'm, I think at this point you are just making this more and more frustrating for yourself." SERIOUSLY? I'm pretty sure the fact that you and your podunk pharmacy didn't ship my medication and can't tell me why is what's making me frustrated right now). Or, the icing on the cake described in my last blog entry when I was charged twice for a test I took once and no one seemed to be concerned with the bigger issue that someone else's pee was tested under my name.  All just the normal stuff that comes on your plate as a functioning adult (even though, I must say, I do my job properly ...so why can't everyone else do theirs right?!).

But hey, that's what makes life interesting and keeps your blood flowing, right? ...and your blood certainly needs to be flowing when you visit the magical island of fertility that I call CCRM. The only good vein I have between both my arms (the righty river) deserves a party of its own when this is all over.

I bring all this up to point out how lucky I am.  My ability to find the bright spots and see the blessings amidst a whole lot of pain, unfairness, and heartbreak I attribute to the strength I was raised with (and that was beaten in to me by poor decisions in early adulthood, too). I am surrounded by an amazing group of friends who have taken the time to understand this crazy ride we have been on, no matter how taboo or strange it is to have as dinner table or bar conversation (sometimes too weird, for all of us). Has it been sunshine and rainbows with everyone? Of course not. But, compared to many I have heard from in the last several months as I have shared our story openly, losing a friend - although disappointing and full of unsettling emotions - is fiddlesticks, especially compared to being cast off by your family, or not being able to share a huge piece of life with any of your friends. How do you go through hell - day after day filled doctors appointments, the worse kind of ultrasounds, blood draws, hope constantly chased by fear and loss, surgeries, miscarriage, toxic chemo drugs, devastating news that somehow manages to be followed by even worse news, injecting yourself with rage-inducing hormones three times a day and your life being dictated by "inject yo' self!" alarms on your phone - without even being able to hope for a call or text from your mom or your best friends eagerly asking for an update? How do you survive spending your life savings on something that has no money back guarantee, getting the worst possible outcome, and not being able to cry to your mom? Or, even more awe inspiring, decide to try again? These bitches are crazy bad-ass dictionary definitions of strength. Mountains and mountains (and more mountains - a whole mountain range, if we are going Oprah style here) of grit, strength, and an unyielding determination to not give up on dreams.
daddy and the wifey @ arches

So, as I lay in bed, desperately trying to sleep but resigning to failure thanks to the two large and spiky nerf footballs pushing in on my bladder and forcing me to pee 7 times in the last 83 minutes,  I'm grateful for my mom and my dad who are rooting with all they have for "Camp" to be part of our lives in the next year. I'm grateful for my brother and sister-in-law who compassionately navigated having another child of their own amidst all our heartbreak and loss, and text me daily sending us love and checking for updates. I'm grateful to a close circle of amazing friends who have had the patience and kind hearts to love us through a year of struggles and sadness, continuing to ask questions without reserve and fist pump while shouting "come on, lots of eggs!"...helping me laugh and find strength on the toughest of days (and in the midst of hormonal rages). I'm grateful for my mother and father in-law who helped us think through the decision to go ahead with IVF and continue to be the voice of reason and concern around my health coming first, at all costs. And I'm incredibly grateful for my wife, the only person I could have imagined going through the last 16 months of insanity with. She has helped me remain full of grace and love for others even when I have been pushed and tested beyond what seems fair. We love each other more than we did the day we said "I do," which I didn't think was possible. On a day and weekend where hurt and disappointment in others got the best of me (likely thanks to the ridiculously high levels of estrogen raging through my body), I'm feeling pretty lucky that I have loved ones who have the patience and listening ear to ground me in where they know my heart thrives, and restore my grace for others (and myself).


Here's to a kinder week.

...and, say it with me, "come on, lots of eggs!"










Monday, July 21, 2014

the $110 that sent me over the edge

I hope to never again have a pile of crap-that-makes-me-batshit-crazy as tall as the one I am currently surrounded by. And, quite honestly, that wish is likely to be granted. It is tough to imagine a pile higher than the one I (with some help from others) have managed to assemble. That's not to say that there aren't quite literally billions of people with plenty more on their plate than I have - as that is certainly true...we can definitely chalk the entire pile up to first-world problems, no doubt. I sincerely hope, however, for the sake of each of those people, that they have the patience to handle it all better than I currently am. Because quite frankly, this girl is at her tipping point.

After a rather tumultuous work trip in Vegas (Vegas was not the challenging part, to say the least - jetted spa tub in the room? yes please!*), I was incredibly happy to arrive home on Saturday evening. Although we missed the window to pick up the furry son and I'd have to wait until morning to see him, I was eager to sit on the couch and catch up on some Bachelorette (admitted without any shame) and attempt to forget about the week. The mail had even been delivered, so I had four days of mail and magazines to look through and enjoy, even. What a delight.

...and that's when I found the envelope with the receipt for $110 from CCRM that made me lose my mind. Seriously, I went into some sort of brown to black out rage mode and left a message (on Saturday night at 6:00 pm) for their billing office that I don't remember a single word of (except rage, lots of rage). Now, let's be real, $110 is a fair chunk of money, and no one would be happy to be charged that for no reason. To put it into perspective, however, in a separate envelope I received receipts that same day for two other charges from CCRM that were in the ballpark of $20,000. So, in the grand scheme of things, what's $110? No big deal, right?

False. In a world that feels out of control, every single day, only exacerbated by the challenges last week, that $110 was equivalent to a person hitting you with their car, giving YOU the finger, and then driving off ...and to top it all off, your horn not even working to be able to have some sort of last word (so, in other words, really crappy potatoes). 

On July 1st I went into CCRM (my second home for the last year - Colorado Center for Reproductive Medicine) to get my labs up to date, as most of them were done last April and May, which means they were out of date for the coming year...another year of CCRM induced "bliss" (i.e. stress). In order to have your stuff (embryos) stored near everyone else's, they have to regularly check and make sure you are free of all communicable diseases. Part of the panel of tests includes a pee sample, which, for me, is a nightmare. They never manage to tell me ahead of time that I am going to need to take a urine sample, and as a result, I never have a full enough bladder to have any success (no matter how many bottles of water I sit and consume in the waiting room - I have the bladder of a blue whale compounded by serious stage fright). In the past year, there were at least 3 instances where I had to give a urine sample and was unable to for at least an hour or more - the cruelest part? All three instances were for a pregnancy test. HELLO, do we not understand the problem here? 

After trying for about 45 minutes to fill up with water and make the magic happen, I still failed. I asked the front desk to see if I could "complete" this part of the test when I came back on the 15th for some other tests and was told that was fine. Somehow, several days later, I got an email from my nurse with my results from that test - the one I gave nothing, not even a drop for. When I was in last week, on the 15th, I explained this to my doctor and my nurse and did finally "complete" the test (I was SO ready). I got a call later that afternoon from the head of the nursing staff trying to figure out what happened and why I was taking the test "again." She let me know that she was going to have to charge me again (actually she said bill insurance, which we don't have for infertility, because most people don't, which blows and thanks-so-much-for-reminding-me), and I made it very clear that I was not OK with that. She said, "are you sure you didn't leave any urine, not even just a few drops?" NO. I did not. In fact, I said, "Shouldn't we be more concerned here about the fact that somehow someone else's urine got sent in with my name on it?" I mean, right?!

All that said, somehow I still ended up with a receipt mailed to me for $110 for a communicable disease test that I had already paid for, and after making it very clear that I would not be paying for it twice, as they had only used my own bodily fluids once. And that, my friends, was the little piece of paper that sent me right over the edge. [insert black-out rage]


So, small victories matter, and I finally just had one. After more back and forth, CCRM assured me the $110 charge would be credited back. After a week and weekend of what felt like endless pokes to the eye (gut, leg, butt, ear, wherever), I immediately started crying as though I had won the Pulitzer Prize because I managed to contain a single, small, but mighty fire. In a world where we are tossing out so many g-notes we're making it rain, and yet have zero control over what happens next, an extra $110 was enough to make me lose my feeble and barely hanging on mind. On the bright side, I got to enjoy the satisfaction of having made a wrong right, of having controlled something, and that, right now, might be worth a few g-notes in and of itself.

*Random fun fact: Due to another cruel twist of fate, I was unable to enjoy the fancy jetted spa tub in my room in Vegas since I had a (super minor) operation at CCRM on Tuesday which prohibited me from submerging my body from the waist down in any pool or tub for 3 days. Seriously dissappointing.

This too shall pass, friend. This too shall pass.




Monday, June 2, 2014

the first time I didn't cry

Getting the words out of my mouth in order to tell the story of my life right now is not easy. It has been difficult for many, many weeks, but the last four have been, without a doubt, the absolute toughest.

Most people knew I was having surgery, so of course, being kind, caring and thoughtful people, many people asked me how it went - emails, calls, and texts all asking how I was doing, how I was feeling, how everything went. The outcome of the surgery was so unexpected I didn't prepare anyone for the answer to that question being anything worse than maybe, "having a very painful recovery - body isn't healing quite like I'd hoped." But that was not the answer I was able to give anyone. It was false. I wasn't just in physical pain. Something had gone horribly wrong and no amount of rest and pain medication was going to help it go away.

Too many people feel forced to keep the subject of infertility and the pain and grief that comes along with the diagnosis to themselves... once I started putting my heart out on the table (or internet, I suppose) for everyone to see, hear, and experience, I got such a warm reception from so many people either going through something similar, with friends and family going through it, or just happy to be a support and empathize - ready and willing to listen to me yell, scream, or just cry. I'm finding my strength in sharing my story, in being open, and being vulnerable. I have no control over this. This is beyond my sphere of influence, my wisdom, my power. In surrendering my struggles, frustration, and quite frankly, utter devastation to anyone who is willing to listen, I am finding my voice. I hope it helps others find theirs. I'm acknowledging that I have no control over this situation and that it, quite frankly, sucks hard. There isn't a hippie vegan diet, work-out regimen, form of yoga, acupuncture, or anything else I can do to heal myself or mitigate this diagnosis. There isn't a 1%, 0.01% or even 0.00001% chance that I could naturally conceive a child, no matter what crazy fad I try.

I tried a lot of crazy things over the last year, ignorant to the fact that nothing was going to help. There was the eating of pineapple cores (eaten like corn on the cob, and once even pureed into a lovely sorbet), the banning of sweet potatoes for weeks at a time (which, if you know me, is a big deal), hokie pokie fertility yoga and meditation ("...there is a golden glow emanating from your uterus..." seriously lady), and many other things I can't even remember.

Why can't I remember, you ask? Probably because I would do them in the middle of the night during bouts of insomnia in which I spent hours pouring over online trying to conceive forums where people talk in acronyms ("DH and I BDed CD12 - I Oed CD13 hoping AF won't show up, TTC 3 years"), say things like "baby dust," agonize over symptoms like "my right kneecap is fluttering - am I pregnant?" and talk about bodily functions and fluids with a little more candor than most of world's population is comfortable with - including doctors and nurses. I think I once drank half a gallon of cranberry juice at 2:15am to try and make up for the all-consuming panic that had taken me over after realizing I had accidentally consumed caffeine earlier that night.

Before I move on, I should note, my right kneecap DID flutter.

But just because this is an uncomfortable topic, it doesn't mean I should be silent. It doesn't mean that I should only share my sadness with my wife, my mom, and BFF. When someone is grieving about the loss of someone or something, society supports them, loves them, and cares for them. Any infertility diagnosis means some kind of loss, especially one of this magnitude. And with my miscarriage (and now with this diagnosis of sterility), even though I never got to post pictures of a (only-cute-to-me-because-I'm-the-momma-and-that's-ok) son or daughter on facebook, it doesn't mean I didn't experience the death of a child - the loss of the life we had already begun picturing with our little snowflake. Still, infertility and miscarriage are not to be discussed or brought up unless behind closed doors, in private conversations. There is an army of women and their spouses grieving over the loss of a life - lives - that most of the world doesn't even count as valuable enough to allow open, loving, and supportive dialogue around.

My experience is not everyone's. There are millions of stories out there that are similar and yet so different, so full of emotion, and so unknown. Someone has to start talking.

love from the wifey on my first
work trip after the surgery
I didn't shy away from sharing the diagnosis and outcome of my surgery with those who asked how I was feeling. I was feeling awful - bursting with sadness, what would be the reason to lie? To keep this whole subject taboo? So I told people my diagnosis as if I was someone sharing a diagnosis of any other kind of disease. I managed to choke out, through waterfalls of tears, the fact that physically I was not doing great, but the emotional side of things is what is hurting the most. That over half my yearly salary stands between my wife and I's ability (or chance, rather) to have a family, raise a child, and have the life that I had imagined since I was old enough to remember.

Day after day I shared the news. Day after day I cried. But every time I openly shared my diagnosis, I definitely didn't feel worse. I felt empathy and love being sent my way. I got texts and messages, sometimes out of the blue from people I rarely see or spend time with, overflowing with care and support. I was able to answer questions that people had never been able to ask about someone going through something like this before. I started the conversation.

One day, about three weeks after my surgery, I was sharing what was happening with me with a close former teammate and after I got the whole thing out, I realized something shocking. I wasn't crying. I had managed to tell her my story, my update, my "news," without sobbing. My voice cracked, I wavered on the edge of tears, but I didn't cry. As sad and uncomfortable as tears can feel (to me and to others) - they heal. I was making progress. I was finding a way to cope through starting a conversation and sharing my story - one that is not nearly as rare we are lead to believe. I have cried telling my story since, and will continue to. The tears are far, far from over, but I'm figuring out how to find some semblance of strength and perseverance in the shadows of some ugly and challenging beasts.


Thursday, May 29, 2014

the cosmic irony?

"Not perfectly, not all the time, but on good days, I can appreciate the cosmic irony: My body is confronting me with exactly the lessons I most need, the ones I most don’t want to hear. I am not in control. I need to rest, learn patience, take better care of myself. I had to quit running – literally... and take life at a slower pace. There’s an important difference between accomplishing everything I have to do and doing everything I possibly can." - Infertile at 29: What it’s like succeeding at everything but IVF

I came across this post (that resonated in too many ways) last night, in the middle of a meltdown. And by "came across" I mean searched Google for "IVF at age 29" and then read every single hit as if my life depended on it. You know, just casual web-surfing... (I'm breezy!). 

From the type-A need for control to the midnight pharmacy runs hundreds of miles from home while on a work trip - it felt like someone was narrating my own story. A delightful read, really (in an utterly tragic, heartbreaking, painstakingly too real way).

Can't stop... Won't stop... 
That's pretty much been my May mantra. I've been going at warp speed since my surgery and as devastating as the news and outcome of the surgery was/is, I have buried myself in work and been able to live in the candy-land version of reality. 

Then, last night, with only one day of work standing between me and the end of May - marking a huge deadline on many projects in my world - I was just three hours of face time with my last pilot region (for the foreseeable future) away from life slowing down a bit. Upon realizing this, I stopped being irritatingly anxious about the design pilot I have been putting my heart and soul into for the last six months and was able to actually feel emotion about my personal life for the first time in many, many weeks. 

Sounds great, in theory, but actually just opened the floodgates for even more anxiety - and unfortunately, not the kind that can't be absolved by putting my head down and getting to work. The kind where I just have to sit and ruminate... wonder what to do, what we will decide, how to be happy, and try to imagine my life in two dramatically different lights - with two very different endings (how on earth am I ever supposed to be fine without something that most of the country/world gets to take for granted?). Now I can ponder (relentlessly) why I made the choice to do non-profit work and make half the salary I could be making in the corporate world and not have to think twice about this decision (which clearly results in a ridiculous amount of frustration, shame, envy, and everything else that feels awful). I can sit and stare at the pricing worksheet from the doctor that outlines the unfathomable amount of money to do IVF - just once. Wonder, wonder, wonder ... all about things that I can't easily take care of, fix, or come to a "strategic" or "logical" conclusion about (which is pretty much my forte in life). 

sometimes even the traffic signs...
Bottom line: Being able to have a family should never be tied to being (or knowing) daddy warbucks. It's cruel (and downright unfair, to be perfectly twelve-years-old about it all). I think a close friend may actually spell this out even better every time I share bad news when she just responds with, "F!*k". Yep - that sums it up nicely.

I've been trying to sort out my emotions (outside of the obvious bottom line) in order to even begin to write about them and process for the last few weeks, but have had the luxury of being able to distract myself every time I get close to being in that space. There's lots more reflection, sorting out, and thinking to work through, and without anxiety from other parts of life to lure me away, I'm quite sure there's a couple of short novels waiting in the wings - soon to appear. 

So much to make sense of. (If that's even possible when life feels so upside down and backwards.)

Friday, May 2, 2014

we can only go up from here

(alternatively titled: worst. birthday present. ever.)

I've never had a lot of "bad" birthday presents. Growing up, birthdays were incredibly special and although I didn't get a bunch of presents usually, whatever I did get, meant a lot.

There was my preschool birthday, potentially one of the most documented experiences I have of my childhood pre-digital photography (that's not actually saying much, the Bovens weren't really into taking pictures after 1990, or so). I only recognize one or two of the kids in the photographs, but I remember getting a my little pony that smelled like honest-to-god magic (and the fact that one of the boys I recognized may have gone onto be my "first kiss" on a soccer field the following year). There were several years where my Uncle came and got me and took me to Toys 'R' Us and let me pick out any one (very reasonably priced) toy I wanted - my Easy Bake Oven that still lives in my parent's basement was a treasure from one of those trips. There was the year I was obsessed with Winnie the Pooh, and my birthday included getting a real bed (obviously the Bovens rocked waterbeds up until 1995 - and beyond) and fittings for it to match the bear of the hour. Or, even just how my grandma would pick me up for the day (skipping school) and take me to get lunch and pick out a chocolate from the Fanny May candy shop.

Birthdays have always been awesome, even adult ones - like when your BFF shows up in your classroom with a sugar-free cake in-hand (because you still aren't consuming processed sugar) and has a incredible surprise evening planned with the rest of your friends, or when that same BFF has your partner blindfold you and transport you around town for an entire evening of champagne and ridiculous food at swanky-too-classy-for-everyone-places.

Plenty of really, really happy moments.

Then there is the year I turned 11. The year I thought my mom was planning me a huge surprise party, but was in fact making secretive plans to move her best friend (whom I called aunt) out of her then-husband's (whom I called uncle) house on the day of my birthday. So, you can see how I naturally thought all of the closed door and secret conversations with her daycare clients and our family members were about me, and an absolutely amazing birthday surprise party to match the one my brother had the year before for his 13th was on the horizon. Clearly, it turned out to be quite a bit of a let down (to say the least, for all parties involved). However, this story finally gets to live the rest of it's life in the shadows, thanks to the bangin' gift I got this year. (Yes, my mom felt terrible that I had misread the signs - likely still does to this day - and I am certain I still had a wonderful birthday, even if I don't remember it thanks to the not-surprise-party debacle of 1996).

The road to having a family has been a tough one, to say the least. It's been a physically and emotionally draining year. Too many stressful, hopeful, crushing, painful, sad, and uncomfortable moments to count. The love from so many of our friends and family has been unreal and unmatched. If I had it my way, I'd have stayed shut in my house for the last several months. Being a hermit is in my bones, especially when I know I am in no shape to be around others. However, we are lucky enough to have such incredible friends that that has been impossible. Even when I have spent the day sobbing (uncontrollably, which, turns out, is one of the foremost causes of headaches in my life these days - not alcohol) thanks to another round of disappointing efforts, there's someone who insists on coming over or hanging out, even if only for a minute, an hour, for a drink, or for dinner.  The outpouring of love and support from one of my recent blog entries alone was unbelievable, and at the risk of sounding incredibly cheesy (it's not a risk, I'm certain it's cheesy), quite literally warmed my heart, made me genuinely smile for the first time in weeks, and reminded me of just how many awesome people the wifey and I have in our lives (both presently, and in the past).

In April we tried again, and as always, put every bit of optimism and hope we had into praying for a positive. My body failed us again, however, and we knew the next step, if we wanted to continue, had to be laparoscopic surgery to figure out and better diagnose what exactly is at the root of the infertility. The surgery had to be scheduled for the 29th of April, which meant I was going to ring in the big 2-9 in recovery. Given the previous tests I had been through, our doctor was almost 100% confident the surgery would be entirely diagnostic and exploratory. Given my ectopic pregnancy and miscarriage in December, she assumed there would be scar tissue for her to break up while she was in there, but that was it. She explained that there was a very small chance that she could get in there and discover something else (such as damaged or defective tubes that would need to be permanently blocked off), but that it was highly, highly unlikely, given the results of my previous hysterosalpingograms (HSGs). We were prepared to have a better idea of what was going on, be able to tailor my current treatment for what she found, if anything, and continue on with IUIs.

I woke up from surgery and soon after my doctor was at my side. With my sometimes eidetic (but always annoying) memory, it's not surprising that I remember every second of her visit that I wasn't supposed to be able to recall at all. I'm thankful for that, as it meant the wifey didn't have to share the devastating news with me. My doctor shared that the ends of both of my tubes (the "feathery" parts that look like little tentacles, if you are recalling 5th grade sex-ed right now) were damaged, something known as fimbrial phimosis. She went on to say that the fact that I had gotten pregnant at all was somewhat incredible, and that if I ever got pregnant again it would only be ectopic. Given the life-threatening danger of ectopics, and the impossibility of my tubes ever leading me to a uterine pregnancy, she permanently blocked off both of my fallopian tubes using small metal clamps that will forever call my belly home. I woke up to find out that I was, barring $30,000+ (and the odds being ever in my favor), permanently sterile. The doctor wiped my tears as a lay there in a drug induced haze, unable to do anything but let the tears fall. Happy effing Birthday.

My doctor had taken the wifey into a little room just before coming back to see me to share the unexpected news. The wifey said she'd spent the hour before they let her come back and see me just crying and trying to figure out how she would tell me. As soon as she came back she could tell that even though my eyes were almost lifeless thanks to a recent onslaught of heavy duty pain meds, she knew that I didn't need a reminder. They didn't let her stay long, I was still in the initial recovery room, so we just cried for a minute or two together. What do you say when something that was supposed to have been the impossible, the less than 1% chance, is now the reality?

I stayed on a pretty solid vicodin regimen for the first 36 hours and didn't have to process much. Yesterday, on my birthday (still on plenty of vicodin and in plenty of pain, but out of the 24-hour "no major life decision window" that suddenly made much more sense to have been on my pre-op instructions), we spent most of the day trying to figure out how to even make a decision like this. How do two educator-salaried people try and make the decision to take a $30,000+ chance at having a child through IVF? It's the scariest, most difficult decision I will ever have to make. You can't put a price on having a family, obviouslyHowever, being able to be financially secure and support that family, should we be so lucky to be successful, is just as critical. And IVF certainly isn't guaranteed, either. So, we are very far from coming to a decision, needless to say. Four days out of surgery I haven't made a lot of progress in terms of physical or emotional pain, so it's going to take some time.

What's the silver lining here? If there is one, it's that we can only go up from here. I haven't been dreading my thirtieth birthday, but I haven't exactly been chomping at the bit for it to show up with bells on. Thanks to the worst birthday present I could possibly have imagined for my 29th, it will now be pretty much impossible for turning 30 to be be disappointing, depressing, or anything less than average. So, in the spirit of being optimistic, cheers to that.

29th birthday and get-well
awesomeness did make it's way to
my bedside (aka coffee table)

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

The Smilers.

Oh the smilers.

I started noticing "the smilers" several years ago when supporting the LGBT world became "cool" and downright trendy (because it being morally right wasn't enough, you know...). The wifey and I would be walking down the sidewalk (holding hands like the majority of people in love do in this country... nothing too out of the ordinary) and someone, generally a middle-aged white woman, would stare us down making sure that we noticed the giant - borderline creepy - smile on her face. Sometimes, to really make sure we got the point, there was even a "hello there" or "good morning" with some emphatic syllable inflection to accompany it (and then an even more giant smile... we wouldn't want there to be any mistake about that smile's purpose and who it was intended for).

At first, I thought it was really kind. Straight out of Pleasantville. I would think to myself (and sometimes say to the wifey), "hey, thanks for showing us you approve, rock on!" and I would be sure to give them a big ol' smile back. In turn, they would get to feel all warm and fuzzy inside for having shown the gay ladies that they were "hip" and supported the gays. They may have even headed home, hopped up on their gay-supporting jollies, and watched Ellen (and then told all their friends about it).

Then, after a year or so, I realized how silly it was. Why does this feel validating? No one does that to straight couples walking down the street (generally). For a period of time, I actually became really annoyed with it. I felt like this person shouldn't get to feel all "sally-do-gooder" just because she used her smile muscles on the bike path one morning. Instead, why doesn't she spend more of her energy actually doing things that move us towards having equal rights in this country? I know... she could be doing both, I have no effing clue. This was not the point, in my eyes. In my mind, some straight, forty-something white woman who was likely happily married (legally and without stares) shouldn't get to profit happiness points off of just lifting her cheek muscles when crossing paths with me and my lady. You're not helping any cause, you're just smiling.

And now, truthfully, I just don't care. When an 80 year old woman does it, I find it pretty damn adorable, to be honest.

just terrifying, right?
I even do it myself sometimes. Yep. I'm a smiler. I give the big, "please notice me I'm doing this just for you," ear-to-ear smiles. No, not when I pass lesbians on the bike path (coming from me that just looks like I'm flirting or a super creeper... likely the latter). I do, do it, however, when I pass by pit bulls and whoever is walking them. With pit bulls being illegal in the city and county of Denver, but clearly one of the most lovable and loyal dogs in existence, I simply can't help myself. "Rock on you fellow pit bull lover who is laughing in the face of a very ignorant ordinance!" (see? sounds just as dumb as the thought bubble above the lesbian smilers' heads). And, the truth of it is, I probably look ridiculous when I do it - something straight off the crazy train. But, having seen how many times a person gets that terrified look in their eyes, crosses to the other side of the street, or turns in the other direction upon spotting my momma walking her pit bull (who is the kindest and most lovable dog I know, terrified of her own shadow), I do it anyway.

Who knows, maybe it's the same reason some of those crazies smile at the wifey and I.

run, fast, now.






Monday, March 31, 2014

there's no walk-through for this

I've been thinking about putting pen to paper on this post for several months. No matter how many times I write it in my head, I haven't been able to bring myself to actually type up the post. I'm always hesitant to put my heart on display when it comes to writing blog posts. The therapy it provides my anxious mind to sort it all out on paper, however, usually ends up far outweighing how naked it can leave me feeling. Not to mention, there's really nothing that gets my goat worse than Facebook over-posters... the use of Facebook to share your day's events (unless something spectacular/ludicrous happened), look for sympathy, or broadcast the personal (or, as it turns out, excessive pregnancy - and to a lesser extent baby - picture posting) makes a little piece of me die inside for that person.

I worry that my blogging is no different, but the wifey was quick to comfort me with the fact that anyone who has to read this has chosen to do so by clicking here from Facebook (or Pinterest, Google, etc.). People who are interested or curious can choose to dig in, and those who aren't get to skip right on by the link, never having to look at any picture or read a single thing I am feeling, thinking, or processing. So, that said, I'm going to take a giant leap of faith here and write a post that terrifies me to publish. But, this is my outlet, this is how I process. Deeply personal and emotional or not, this is who I am right now (so take it or leave it, bitches).

I knew that falling in love with my wife was going to mean a more challenging life. I don't think I anticipated, or could have anticipated, in how many different ways that would be true, but I knew the headline. I'm certain I knew what I was signing up for because it's precisely why I spent the first twenty-two years of my life avoiding it. Twenty-two years of blatantly ignoring a massive and awesome piece of who I am.

There's a lot of things about being gay that make life different. The entire world revolves around heteronormativity. Up until the last few years (and even still today, for the most part), you don't see many lesbians on television, in movies, on the news, in magazines, etc. (yes, I know, there's Ellen, of course there's Ellen). When opening up my favorite magazines I find countless articles on "how to have a romantic date night with your man" and "the best cities for single ladies to live in" (which used the ratio of men to women as its basis) but need to go online to order a subscription to "Curve" if I want to have access to the closest thing to mainstream lesbian culture - if such a things exists. While I am extraordinarily privileged to be a white person in this country, I don't see myself reflected when I turn on the TV, watch a movie, pick up a magazine, or often even listening to most of my friends, family, and colleagues idle chatter and gossip.

But that's the tamest part of it all.

When I'm in certain parts of the country, I don't feel safe holding my wife's hand walking down the street. I don't just feel uncomfortable because of funny looks and averted eyes - I actually have to wonder as I look at people if someone is going to lose their shit (verbally or, less likely but still crosses my mind, physically) on us because of who we are, who we love. We couldn't pick up and move just anywhere in the country and expect to live the same as we do and be welcomed as we are in Denver - that's just not a "luxury" we get have.

When I'm at the store - any kind of store - the clerks assume my wife is my sister, aunt, mother, friend - anything but my wife. If I'm not too annoyed or tired to bother, I'll correct them. Which is a little ridiculous considering that growing up, when I went anywhere with my brother every waitress, clerk, and person walking down the street assumed we were together without question (a whole different level of disturbing, but extremely illustrative of my point). People who make assumptions and then are ignorantly bold enough to act on them are exhausting. Just plain exhausting.

I fill out very little paperwork or surveys that ask me questions that make sense, where I can explain exactly who I am and who I'm in love with. Just today I was looking into "love languages" (don't ask) and once I told the survey I was married and female it went on to ask me 30 questions that all talked about "my husband" and how I feel about all the heteronormative things he does and doesn't do. Needless to say, I have no idea what my love language is, nor will I likely ever again make the effort to find out. Just by taking silly Buzzfeed quizzes I get be reminded of the fact that according to mainstream culture in this country I'm not "normal." Even in a quiz like "What's your ideal color?" (again, don't ask - I'm probably making that quiz up) I have to pretend I'm straight and use my imagination to figure out what my answer would be to several questions. It seems a little trivial, but it adds up - it gets old.

Nothing, absolutely nothing, however, compares with trying to have a family. While lesbian and gay parents are just as incredible as straight parents (sometimes, more so, I tend to think), God did not make it easy on us. Biologically, its complicated. It's also expensive. It's not "just like straight people but with the help of a doctor." My child can't have the biological make-up of both me and my wife.

This isn't what I was referencing, however, at the beginning of this post. It's not taboo to talk about being gay, having kids, or feeling like an unwelcome misfit in society. It is taboo to talk about infertility and miscarriages, it turns out, however. And, as a result, few people in the world, outside of those affected, have a fucking clue about how to talk about it and support you through it all. It's heartbreaking to witness and extraordinarily painful to be on the receiving end of these people.

Starting last May, my schedule has been dictated by my monthly cycle and my doctor (she's a lovely woman). With the diagnostic testing we had to do as a result of needing to have some assistance in trying to have a child, I was reacquainted with my PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome). I rarely, if ever, ovulate on my own. That's  a pretty critical part of making a baby, straight or gay. So, enter "infertility," stage right. As if already being two women who, by definition, were not physically able to make a baby on our own, wasn't enough - let's add infertility into the mix. Sounds like a party, right?

By October I am pretty confident I had already lost my sanity. My life was already revolving around doctor appointments and trips to the pharmacy. On a single day I can have three different alarms on my phone to remind me to take three different hormones - one of which I am lucky enough to have the pleasure of injecting into my own stomach with a nice sharp needle. If my previous blog posts haven't made this crystal clear - there is already a whole lot of crazy happening up in here... adding hormones to the mess is like putting butter on a stick of fried butter at the Minnesota State Fair. Unnecessary, and quite honestly, a little cruel.

Life had to go on. In September I missed a team retreat due to doctors appointments. In October I had to change flights several times in order to get to a doctor appointment and travel down to Birmingham for work. In November I waited until the last minute to schedule a site visit with a colleague because of the uncertainty around when I would need to be at the doctor, have tests done, and take certain medicines. I was able to be there the whole week. That month, the hormones and biological magic did their thing, and I got a positive - I was pregnant.

The day I arrived home from that trip was when I discovered I was pregnant (something that my dear teammate had already called the week before when I continued to tell her weird things I was noticing like my earring causing me inexplicable pain after a couple hours of wear). Yet, what should have been the happiest moment of our lives turned into nothing but a nightmare. The phrases "everything happens for a reason" and "if it's meant be" become cruel and insensitive punishment to someone going through infertility and miscarriage. From the very day we found out and got the positive, I knew something was wrong. As much as I wanted to celebrate and let the six trillion pounds of weight disappear off of my shoulders, I couldn't. Sure enough, within a few weeks the doctors determined it was an ectopic (tubal) pregnancy - something that there is no solution to other than induce a miscarriage (and, in many cases, have surgery to remove the entire tube...), otherwise it can kill you when the tube ruptures. Fallopian tubes, shockingly, are not made to carry babies. At just seven short weeks, in early December, I took methotrexate, a chemotherapy drug, to induce the miscarriage. It was 100% certain that we weren't ever going to get to hold our little snowflake in our arms, even for a moment.

I spent the month of December in a daze. Pregnancy hormones were coursing through my body, but nurturing nothing. A situation that I couldn't control somehow managed to go even more out of my control - I didn't even think it was possible. I had another work trip, with my entire team, that started three days after I took the injection. Having already missed our previous retreat in September, I didn't feel like I could not show up or show up late. So, I did the only thing I could think of that would allow me to show up in Chicago, I shared what was going on with my teammates. I didn't know the right way to do it, I had never been on the receiving end of this kind of news except when I was in elementary school and experienced this heartache through the eyes of my own mother. I knew it wasn't something people talked about at work, but I also knew that I couldn't spend a week away from my wife with people who didn't know what was going on - I needed love like never before. It seemed a little crazy to me that people can celebrate the dickens out of people being pregnant and having babies and not be able to support someone and mourn the loss of a never-to-be-born little munchkin.

I was right, my team was incredible. My mom also came and spent the week with me - had it not been for that I quite literally may have not made it through the week. I also found out something pretty surprising in all this. I wasn't alone. Even though I felt more alone than I had ever in my whole life, there were actually people all around me that had gone through the very thing I was experiencing. They don't talk about it. Had I not put it all out there, I would have never known that two or three people that I deeply care about had at some point, some more recently than others, also gone through losing a baby. It's taboo to talk about it. People don't know how to respond - but people expect me, on the other hand, to not be bitter or envious of a seemingly never-ending stream of pregnancy announcements, baby showers, and baby celebrations. I try.

How do I feel about battling infertility after just under a year (fiddlesticks in comparison to how long many more women have struggled)? It's difficult. It tests me daily. It's exhausting. It's time-consuming. Its harder than anything I have ever tried to do in my entire life, and to top it all off, I have zero control over it. Dr. Brown and my nurse chart the course of my life each month. I've never wondered if I'm strong enough to do something up until these last nine months. Some days I don't even know who I am or whose life I'm living in the shadow of, anymore. I cry, constantly, and have become downright ugly when it comes to someone announcing that they are pregnant (although I can say with nothing but the utmost sincerity and heartfelt love that I wish them nothing but the absolute best, as no one, no one, should ever have to experience losing the potential for what their lives could mean and become).

The worst part of it, when the dust settles, is how distant I feel from my own life. While I am luckily surrounded by some absolutely incredible friends, colleagues, and family, it's not easy for them - I'm a total nut job (who cries, a lot). It's also not easy for me to constantly forgive the few choice people who somehow are always saying the wrong thing (which, if you are curious, is definitely - without a doubt, way worse than someone saying nothing at all... unless the trade-off means your pain is ignored or not even acknowledged). I don't want to be around them, because it's too painful. I miss them. I miss "life as usual" - although I'm not even sure I even know what that means anymore.

Moral of the story? Ask questions, be curious, be open, ready and willing to talk about it - no matter here's one good one) about what to say and not say if you want to take the time to better understand. The single worse thing that can happen (in my experience) is feeling like what happened or is happening to you isn't a big deal or isn't important enough to address or even mention.
how uncomfortable or clueless you are about what someone is going through when it comes to miscarriage and infertility. No matter how uncomfortable you are, the person on the other end is dealing with a whole lot more grief and confusion - they'll be forgiving. There are lots of helpful articles online (start at resolve.org). Or, short on time? Just say, "I'm sorry."

I know that one blog entry isn't going to change the world. However, I do hope that if you read this and it doesn't resonate with your own experience, you are at least a little more aware of a silent and often ignored pain that I can guarantee at least one woman in your life has likely felt. I don't want to keep this subject taboo - there's lots of little angels who deserve the same kind of love and acknowledgment as those being lovingly held in their parents arms.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

committing myself

I was never a resolution setter growing up - it wasn't something my parents did and as a result, I didn't really get it. In the Boven household, New Years Eve was about throwing a really awesome party (parties that would put 99% of the parties I have thrown or even attended in my life, to utter shame)... the only resolutions being made the next day by anyone in attendance were likely having to do with making better choices when it comes to alcohol.

As I grew up and headed into my tween and teen years, however, I started reading magazines (while most of the things in this list I only WISH I was cool enough to have done, #17 does ring true) like Seventeen. Between that and television, there was always a lot of buzz around these "New Year's resolutions." As my eating disorders took over my mind - affecting how I looked both in reality and through my own eyes looking in the mirror, I took to New Years as a forever starting over spot for my relationship with my body, my body image, and my choices. Some years my resolution was "work out every single day - only eat what you burn" or "eat less than 100 calories a day." Other years it was a little tamer, when I was trying to "fix" myself, and would be more like "be vegetarian" or "run everyday." Something like "love your body" would have been simply laughable unless it was "work out every single day and eat only as many calories as you burn so that you can finally love your body." Magazines like Seventeen and Glamour (my two favorites) weren't about empowering women to love their bodies back then (and I'm pretty sure they likely still aren't even if their articles try to convince us otherwise, if you take a gander at the pictures between the articles).

Making a New Year's resolution never solved any of my problems. It fueled my disease by making me feel like I was doing something "normal" that the rest of the world does. What actually changed my path? Not being able to go to sleep one summer night between my second and third year of college when I had eaten "too much" (probably debatable) but was unable, for some reason, to puke it all back up (the "norm"). I was laying in bed trying to crawl out of my own skin because I was failing at being able to control the one thing I had created so that I was always able to control something. I couldn't crawl out of my own skin (but remembering back makes me think I might have some semblance of an idea of what a meth addict feels like based on their advertising - well played, ladies and gentlemen), and this, for some reason or another, was the thing that broke me. I looked up some treatment centers (was shocked to find out how many existed for eating disorders), and after some really big, deep breaths headed into my parents room - a sobbing, out of control, defeated, mess. My mom hugged me, loved me, validated me and and told me we would head to one in the morning.

I wasn't suddenly cured after that. No one I have ever met has attended Hogwarts, and therefore no one has ever been able to just wave a magic wand (as much as my mom wishes she could have) and make my troubles, worries, and crazy go away. Thankfully. If it wasn't for all that crazy, ridiculous chaos, I wouldn't be me.

I may have gone off on a bit of tangent, however...the point of the story is that New Year's resolutions are not the answer to serious problems or serious life changes (and that we have got to get a handle on what we hold up as beautiful, valued and and important as a society for the sake of millions of little girls). I tried to stop making resolutions for several years, although I'm sure those from my past were always lingering in the back of my mind.

For the last 3 or 4 years, I started making them again. But they have been very different. I don't buy in to the whole "let's wake up one morning and say something radical" and believe that it's actually going to change a fundamental piece of who I am and how I tick. I do think that using the end of a year and the starting of a new one to reflect on how you lived out your values and what is important to you, and how you didn't, is perfectly healthy. I celebrate things like working out six days a week, vacations and traveling, time spent with family, and time spent doing things I love like painting, crafting, reading, and playing video games. I think about the things I kept saying I wanted to do or wished I did more of, but never made happen. I think about what I could do to be a better version of me, by doing things that made me happy more often. I untangle those messy reflections in order to parse out what it is that I need to commit myself to doing in order to make sure that I'm making time for and valuing things that make me feel happy and whole. It's not about sweeping statements like "take more time for myself," "be healthier," or "stop being so crazy" (although that last one is always an aspiration).

naturally, I have a tracker
This year, I put down eleven commitments for 2014. They seem a little silly, but they represent all the things I know I need to put more value on in order to make sure they happen - and I don't just want them to happen so I can say I did them, but I know that I'll be happier if I do. The list includes things like: do arm workouts 3x a week, practice yoga at least twice a week, learn to kick a soccer ball (and maybe even play), walk at least 25 miles a week, read 20 books for fun, read 12 books off of my work book list (one book/month), bake 12 new recipes (one recipe a month), make a quilt, blog (at least once a month), and few others.
one of the new recipes...  
baked maple cinnamon sugar donuts 

They are pretty mundane, but as always, they do change what I prioritize by allowing me to place value on different things. I work out most days of the week, but struggle to make sure I focus on my arms, and I always find myself wishing I did. I find doing yoga incredibly peaceful, stress reducing, and therapeutic and yet I rarely make time for it - I usually end up prioritizing a more cardio heavy workout, instead. I have envied soccer players, including my wife, since I was little, and yet have never really learned how to even kick a ball even though the wifey was a semi-professional soccer player and coached others for many, many years. I already was walking (or running, until the last few months) 20 to 30 miles a week, but wanted to make sure I didn't lose sight of keeping that with other competing priorities. Blogging is likely better for my soul than going to see a therapist, and yet I rarely take the time to write. And now, so I don't belabor the point here (as if I didn't already), I'll stop. 


With April 1 on the horizon, I know I've ignored my blogging commitment. I am constantly writing blogs in my head on my morning walks, but have not made the time get it out of my head. Remembering that it's one of my commitments gave my the time and space this morning to cut my yoga a little short and sprawl out on the couch and get my fingers typing. Now, time to get a few miles in with a stroll up to the store to buy a soccer ball (I think the fateful summer night the wifey's "soccer career ended" almost two years ago, we lost our soccer ball, too) and get to kicking. 

Friday, January 10, 2014

I fired the painter.

You know when you watch HGTV (if I already lost you there, we need to talk) and it's the second half of Property Brothers and the couple suddenly loses their minds and starts making all sorts of ridiculous demands (like "hey, actually we were thinking we'd pop out the ceiling in here and make it vaulted with a huge skylight and solar panels to power the house")? Or, they are just plain dumbstruck when the 107 year old house they just bought has faulty wiring that they are going to have to completely replace?

I always think to myself, thank God we are not THOSE people.

And, before I get too far off the subject of HGTV (which is inevitable), they (the network, or channel, or however that works) should earn some sort of LGBT award for how much they embrace the gays. I don't think there is another channel on television - unless their are specifically gay/lesbian channels I don't know about (very likely, actually) - that features more gay people. Not to mention, we get to be seen doing everyday "normal" stuff like shopping for houses, not wearing flannel or playing softball (not that I don't wear flannel and play softball, but that's not my point). You're on my good list, HGTV, you're on my good list.

So, like I was saying, I lost my mind. Just like those crazy people.  (I know I hadn't gotten there yet, but we all knew it was coming.)

Since we bought our house in June of 2012 we knew we were going to redo the kitchen - it was the clear eyesore of the house. You can sell the "period countertops" all you want realtor lady, but the truth of the matter is that this kitchen was the same kitchen that the people who built the house in 1958 got to enjoy - stunningly retro, or perhaps antique, at its finest. The "charm" of those period countertops (if there was any), was lost in:
      a) the "wood" cabinets (which may have been plastic?)
      b) drawers that lost their bottoms when you opened them (...!)
      c) hardware from 1902
      d) a layout that made opening the refrigerator door all the way absolutely impossible

do you see those charming countertops?
However, when you buy a house, and you aren't daddy warbucks, heading straight into remodeling is just not-gonna-happen. So, a wedding, honeymoon, and 18 months later we were fortunate enough to be able to embark on the adventure of remodeling. Our good friends has just finished remodeling their kitchen and that was half the battle - finding someone we knew we could trust (and regardless of what you read below, I really do like our contractor, I promise). In early October we had him out to do an estimate and one month later we had appliances and cabinets sitting in our garage, waiting to be installed, and the fun began.

You know, I look back on that time, and I was still of sound mind and body. It was a time filled with lollipops and rainbows (lots of rainbows). Packing up everything in the kitchen and putting all of our dining room furniture on the back porch was, well, fun. Exciting, even. The day they spent demolishing our kitchen cabinets? Best day ever. Constant loud noises, eavesdropping on endless "guy talk" (which by the way, is nothing like two girls talking for eight hours straight), and seeing our entire kitchen, including the floor and even the kitchen sink, out in a dumpster on the lawn, was nothing but downright joyous.

And then? Somewhere between "fun," "exciting," and "joyous," and firing our painter, I lost my mind. I'm not sure how it happened. I think it may have had something to do with the month of November, maybe the planets were in a funny formation, or I angered my spirit animal, or something totally logical like that. All I know is that one day I woke up, walked into our half painted, two-thirds finished kitchen and boarded the crazy train. Choo choo!

In my defense, there were paint splatters everywhere - on the new countertop, on the new hardwood floors, on the new cupboards - literally everywhere. Could all that be cleaned up with soap and water? Of course. Did that matter to me at this point? No. Clearly. Contractors and sub-contractors are not OCD, they are not detailed oriented, and some of them are downright careless. They don't notice if something is a millimeter asymmetrical, if they nick your brand new cabinets or floor, or if they leave your house with millions of teeny tiny white paint splatter covering every surface. I do. I notice all that plus about 57 other things.

So, by the time I woke up and boarded the crazy train, things had been building. We had been delayed two weeks thanks to the engineer, cabinets were nicked, the granite was well over a week late, we had been washing dishes in the bathroom sink for a month, using a fridge in the garage, and eating out almost every night of the week. On top of all that, there were paint splatters everywhere. Everywhere. And don't forget the paint drips - yes, paint drips, THE biggest sin you can commit while painting in my eyes (one of those cardinal rules my mother taught me, along with don't get into bed with dirty feet).

Now, to be fair (and I like to be fair), I knew I should not have allowed someone else to try and paint my house. A meticulous and detail oriented person should never (ever) have someone else do for them that they themselves are good at. But hey, I was pregnant, so my options were rather limited (and the wifey certainly wasn't going to be authorized to do it, either, I wanted to make sure my kid grew up with two mommas).

So, naturally, I texted our patient contractor bright and early on a frigidly cold Saturday morning:
"there's a lot of paint splatters everywhere...[I proceed to list ever location that has a paint splatter on it]... can you ask Jorge to cover better/be more careful?"
"yes we will clean it it comes off easy with water sorry"
"i'm already on it, just wanted to flag it, thanks"
"you don't have to we will"
[time lapse of roughly an hour]
"hey there, can you let Jorge know that I am going to finish the painting? I'm just really not happy with the paint job so far and it will be a lot less stressful if I just do it myself. It doesn't make sense to pay for something I can be much happier with if I take care of it."
"K"
"Sorry to be difficult. [classic crazy person move, right?] Between paint drips that need to be sanded out, splatters (which I know are easy to clean, they are just everywhere), and scratches in the wood floors I'm just losing my mind a little."
So, it goes on from there. We left to go get our Christmas tree in the middle of the forest in the mountains, Jorge came to get his tools and no one was here to let him in, we gave him the key box code, he tracked sheetrock mortar all through the house, I texted the contractor some more, yadda, yadda, yadda. Oh, it was also our contractor's son's birthday (which I found out in those later texts) and I had been texting him during his son's birthday party with all his relatives over. I know. I'm a horrible person.

Don't worry, it doesn't end there. Thanks to not seeing our contractor for about two weeks, I only got crazier. I started making lists, ENDLESS lists of things for him to do, look at, or fix during these long droughts without seeing him. Yep, just like on TV. I would try and not be the crazy lady who texts and emails all the time, so instead I just made list, after list, after list. I bet he twitches when he sees that white little steno pad filled with my ball point scribbles. Oh, and I certainly
my crazy fuel
can't leave out how I put neon green post-it tabs on all of the cabinets anywhere there was a nick, indent, nail hole, etc. I'd say there was roughly twenty of those. One time I came home after a week of being out of town for work, walked in the door, and saw that he had attempted to fix some of the spots by using some touch-up paint on them and had taken off most of the post-its... don't worry, I immediately (and psychotically) went directly to my office, got a new stack of little post-it tabs, and frantically set to work re-post-it-ing the cabinets. Yes, before I even took my luggage in the front door. You can't make this shit up, people.

I even started emailing him my lists. What. The. Hell.

What's the moral of all this? Deep down inside of me - and I would wager a bet that deep down inside of most of us - there is that crazy person you see on HGTV and start yelling curse words at because they are so out of touch with reality. We can deny our inner-crazy all we want, but it will find a way out. It will. That said, I'm not going to stop judging the crazies on HGTV (or anywhere else). I am very comfortable in my own crazy and therefore have no shame in judging other people's crazy. However, I can say with a great amount of experience that if you mix thousands of dollars, less than first world living conditions, and a control freak, it's a recipe for making people off their rocker.

I also can say, there is no question that it is so worth it. While our kitchen is still not done (I'm deadly serious), and it's certainly still not painted (I know, I completely brought that on myself), it is freaking gorgeous. Sometimes I forget that it's our house, it doesn't seem possible that a) it's actually almost done or b) we could possibly own something this awesome.
before                                                                                                  after
before                                                                                                  after