Monday, July 18, 2016

when buying furniture renews your faith in the world...

I have been having all the feelings lately. All the feelings, all the time.

Terrorism works on me. Let's start there. My eyes get wide and well up with tears shortly before I start rocking and attempting to soothe myself every time CNN anchors fill up that screen and let me know that in the latest "breaking news," some number of innocent people died.

Forty-nine people in Orlando.
Forty-five in Istanbul.
One unarmed black man.
Another nonthreatening black man.
Five armed police officers.
Seventy-four unsuspecting adults and ten too-young-to-die children in Nice.
Two hundred and sixty-five people in Turkey.
Three more police officers.

The news is relentless.
(And that's just what they take the time to report on national news, waking up and listening to local news in Chicago quickly reminds you of that.)

The terror I feel, is relentless.
(Not entirely unlike CNN's "breaking news" text graphic on the screen that NEVER goes away, no matter if we are three minutes or three weeks into a news story...)

Several weeks ago, a day before the wifey and I were supposed to take the little bambinas on a plane, the Istanbul airport was bombed. I stood in the kitchen and cried. How can we take our children to an airport? On a plane? What are we doing?

The wifey asked me if I was willing to live my life in fear. She asked, what was I going to do, just stay home the rest of my life? Keep the girls contained to our .16 acre square lot?

I answered yes. Obviously that was EXACTLY what I intended to do.

(She had to have seen that answer coming, yes?)

We went. While we were there, two black men unjustly died at the hands of police. I cried some more. I sat in the pain that is cause by the systemic and structural racism in our country. I questioned my fear of foreign terrorism when I was reminded of the fact that my friends, colleagues, students, and neighbors of color don't have to go to the airport or be in large crowds to have to feel unsafe and vulnerable. American citizens are killing each other because we have been raised to be fearful. To hate.

We went. We came home. We are safe.

But I'm scared. I have been privileged to live 30 years of my life without a general sense of fear. Yes, I've had night terrors since I was four, but that somehow now pales in comparison to these fears. At seventeen I took my first plane ride less than one month after 9/11, and even then I was not scared. It all felt so far away. It doesn't anymore.

I worry for my daughters, I worry for my wife, my family, my friends, my neighbors, and myself. I worry for everyone. I worry for the little babies waking up on the other side of the world whose mom fears for their life every second, even when they are in her own home. I worry about the little babies here, in America. I worry about adult men and women, here, in America.

It feels silly to say, to admit it.

The worst part? This is the fear little ol' insignificant and privileged me feels. My heart breaks. My head hurts. It's painful to think what that means for others. But I have to. It is truly and literally the very least I can do. The absolute, bottom of the barrel, very least I can do. Hear it, try understand it, try know it, and sit in it.

This all connects to why at 12:24pm yesterday, with two babies excessively hungry, overdue for lunch, and about to lose their shit in a furniture store, I had a happy, full-of-love (but ridiculously insignificant) moment that gave me back a little bit of faith in the world, but it's for another day, I'm realizing as I write this. Sign me up for a part two.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

peace and butterflies

I've struggled to finish my blog posts lately. I have several sitting unfinished. Anxiety and an inability to focus are what is causing the unfinished-ness, and the unfinished-ness is causing anxiety and an inability to focus. The joys, right?

Three weeks ago I started this one:
"Unsettled and anxious. These are my two go-to words for the last several months. They fit me too well right now - and almost 100% of the time. I was on a three mile jog this morning and even as I was running - something that usually puts me at ease - I was anxious. All day. Everyday.  
I used to be like this all the time. Days, months, years of my life spent anxiously navigating the world. I'm not anymore. Well, that's obviously a lie. I am right now. But this is not normal anymore. I put in some really good years with a head doctor and came out on the other side as someone who could handle her anxiety... practicing mindfulness, exercise, and music (sometimes all three at once) have allowed me to live a life free of endless anxiety.  
Work. Career. Job. Passions. Finances. Children. Ungrateful. Joy. Family. Friends. Loss. Unknowns. Time. Death. Goals. Job. Career. Pride. Self-worth. Appreciation. Affirmation. Goals. Children. Role model. Karma. Children. Finances. Children. Job. Goals. Time. Family. Loss. Grateful. Children. Hope. Passions. Job. Self-worth. Finances. Career. Children. Role model. Passions.  
That's a snippet of my current loop. When I am anxious I operate on loops. Dizzying, destructive, and claustrophobia-inducing loops. It makes me want to crawl out of my skin.  Usually I can get a handle on it - stop the feeling of life swirling out of my control all around me. It's been a challenge lately. I feel a little too much like teenage me. Or even twenty-five year old me. But I'm grown now. (right?!) 
I shouldn't be anxious. I think that is precisely the problem, however. I feel like I have everything I could ever want, yet I am so, so unsettled.  Enter anxiety, stage left. WHAT ARE YOU DOING WITH YOUR LIFE? 
This weekend the wifey said, "maybe you need to write, writing always make all that [she motioned at my head and twirled her hand around like my brain was stew] feel better." I know she's right, but the loop - that awful loop - has gotten so LOUD and INCESSANT it's hard to concentrate on anything. I've started several posts over the last few months and I cannot finish them. TOO LOUD. 
Today I got home from my little jog (I've decided I run too slow to use the word "runner" and have settled on "jogger" - I'm comfortable with that) and saw a little reminder that this week is national infertility awareness week. Right. (Cue loop... Ungrateful. Children. Grateful. Loss. Pain. Dreams. Children. Grateful. Grateful. Grateful. Loss. Bitter. Children. Grateful.) 
Almost exactly two years ago, I thought I would never have children. Thanks to the miracles of science, today, I have two amazing little humans that are almost a year old."
(Given the subject matter, not surprising I wasn't able to finish. That INCESSANT loop.)

Ten days ago I celebrated my 31st birthday. I am firmly "in my thirties." When I blew out the candles on my cake, I wished for one thing, and it brought me to tears. I have spent the last several years wishing for BIG things - life events and miracles that needed every bit of wishing and magic birthday fairy dust they could get to come true - and they did. My wish this year was big, but for the first time in years it was completely within my locus of control. Since I already told the wifey and ruined whatever superstition that holds, I may as well share publicly.

Peace. Peace for myself, peace for my heart, peace for my crazy, restless, soul. Peace with my life.

So, that's what I'm working on right now. I've spent my life refusing to learn any lesson the "easy way" and thankfully that has instilled in me a firm understanding that things don't magically happen in life (although depending on levels of privilege in one's life, certain things do come more magically for some than others, but that is clearly a conversation for at least another paragraph, if not another post altogether). So, it's an active pursuit for peace. Well, as active as it can be in the midst of a ridiculously chaotic ten days since I made the wish (which is really more like a commitment than a wish, because as I just stated, I'm a realist, people).  However, even in the midst of an unforeseeably chaotic time, I'm focused on being mindful of what's in my control and trying to squeeze every moment until it bursts into millions of butterflies. Yes. Butterflies. Millions of them.

I have immense amounts of gratitude and appreciation for so many people in my life and aspects of my life. I'm trying to slow down and really feel that every day. I have so much to be grateful for, but it gets lost. It gets lost in the massive giant and tangled web of yarn, string, and tiny chain necklaces that no one can get unknotted (maybe a little barb wire thrown in for good measure, too), inside of me. The knots and tangles always ruin it for everyone. I need to fish them out so that I can give the good stuff some space to party like TRL and boy bands are back on the scene (I mean, please? I didn't even have cable and I miss those days).

What's unsettling me? Why? What can I do about it? 

Problematically, when I get to that last question, I want to take action IMMEDIATELY and when I can't, cue the spinning out of control. But, that too, is something I'm working on (if you are one of those people who can say "I need to work on/do that" and are content knowing you will "get to it" TELL ME YOUR SECRETS). My to do list must be empty. If it's not empty, I shouldn't be idle. With that as my constant state of operation, it's tough to find peace.  My to do list has big dreams and goals on it, some of which have seemed more out of reach than is tolerable lately, and it's maddening. It's also humbling. It's also the reason why I am deeply in need of peace.

Some good news? I know I need to focus on rainbows and puppies whenever I can. And thankfully, my health and body, something that bulldozed my peace for a huge portion of the first thirty years of my life, is one thing not topping the anxiety hit-list for the first time ever. I'm actually proud as pigeons about my body - and that, more than anything, given our (my body and I's) sordid past, is inspiration that I can find peace elsewhere in life. I mean, seriously. Who would have thought?

While I knew the critical importance of portraying myself as confident in my skin and loving of my body, no matter its shape and size, I was actually terrified that I would fail miserably at that with my daughters. I have spent my life doing the opposite, how could I possibly be a good role-model for my daughters on this? Maybe it was respect for the fact that it managed to grow and give birth to two children at once, maybe it was utter exhaustion, I'm not sure. All I know is I have some serious respect for my body, something that is very new to me (I'm sure the fact that I gained almost fifty pounds while pregnant and now weigh less than when I started has helped an exorbitant amount, to be clear, but nevertheless).
peace


So, there's one giant, untangled necklace I can be proud of and hold up as inspiration as I seek to find peace on other fronts. Victory.

Another victory? The fact that I finally finished writing a blog post. Check. Check.

Two down.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

all the feels.


"It's a Friday in November. Not a notable day, generally.

It does happen to be Friday the 13th. Maybe that makes it slightly more notable... but I've never been overly superstitious. Although I do knock on my head three times every time I have to confess that the girls have slept 11+ hours every single night [knock knock knock] since they were just shy of three months old (August 8th was a GLORIOUS day).

I don't have a super focused reason to be writing tonight. I was scrolling through my Facebook feed and just got really overwhelmed, and thought, "hey, let's process this bitch together." So here I am.

Again, today was an ordinary day. Before today, I had had an exhausting week - I facilitated calls for more hours than I have fingers, which was ruthless on my little introverted soul. I kept two babies alive and thriving for another week. But today was average. I had a few calls, sent too many emails (as per usual), and pumped milk out like a cow at the Wisconsin state fair. Same thing as every other average day. Better news yet, I went well over my daily 10,000 step goal - first time all week - thanks to those many hours of calls - and got my burn on doing one of my favorite LesMills Combat workouts (or "Lesbian Combat," which is what the wifey thought I said the first time I mentioned it to her several years back). So let's call it a slightly better than average day.

I have really (REALLY) been struggling with the world lately. And by struggling with the world, I mean that the wifey (still on that awesomely long maternity leave) watches CNN from dawn 'til dusk and the crazy shit that happens on the daily on this planet is terrifying me.

But today is not ordinary, for so many."

That's as far as I got. I was watching TV as I wrote it and the devastation of what was happening in Paris took over. Today, I just opened up my blog to write a new post and I saw this draft, just sitting here, waiting to be finished.

Friday, November 13th was definitely not an ordinary day. It was a terrifying, awful, and heartbreaking day. It was the kind of day that makes you hug your people a little tighter, and pull those that are distant from you just a little closer.

So many days that pass feel like they are just utterly unremarkable to most, but as I have had constant reminders of lately, every single day is far from ordinary for someone. Some people are waking up to the memory of a loved one who passed away a year ago, today. Or a month ago, or a week ago - or even a day ago. People are celebrating, mourning, suffering, and thriving every single day. Not to get too sentimental here, but it is pretty incredible when you really let it sink in and ponder it.

As someone with a not quite eidetic memory, I remember anniversaries of the good and the bad for years, and years. I can't help but remember what June 8, September 25, December 5, December 27, December 9, December 30, April 29, and so many other days mean or once meant - whether it's a silly dating anniversary from high school, a miscarriage, or the day someone died - they all stick. It's a blessing and a curse, my friends. Blessing and a curse. (also, #tryalittleharderdecember)

Every morning, since the wifey went back to work, I get to spend with the girls. They are definitely morning people (especially Maggie), and it is most certainly the highlight of my day. When they wake up they are nothing but smiles - when I walk through their door and they see me in the dim morning light? You'd think I was the single best thing they have ever, ever seen.

We snuggle, we giggle, we have "sister time" (i.e. the two of them lay side by side and just have the time of their lives without any intervention from outside parties), we sing, we talk about the day ahead - it is nothing short of heaven on earth (no, seriously). I also change their diapers, get them dressed, etc. - you know, the really magical stuff.

When it comes to dressing them, we have pretty much relied on 100% hand-me-downs for their wardrobe. Which has been amazing - we are so fortunate. We don't mind that they aren't always the newest and latest, and actually, many of the clothes we got were super adorable, and hardly worn. Their wardrobe is, however, mostly blues, reds, grays, and greens. Nearly all of the previous owners were boys. Now, we are not about dressing our girls in head to toe pink - we are actually so glad that we have an easy (i.e. not overly political) and valid excuse not to, in fact. However, they have no hair, and all dressed in gray sweatpants and a blue striped shirt... they look like boys. Really cute boys, but boys. I don't think a single stranger has ever guessed that they are girls (even when they are wearing pink).
ellen
one of the little sluggers
"Two boys? How cute." 
"No, two girls." 
"Oh."
One lady had the audacity to say, "well you should really put bows on them or something!" (No. Joke.)

One thing that we do have that strays from the color palettes of their hand-me-downs is their sock collection. Lots of stripes in pinks, purples, teals, etc. So, naturally, I plop a pair of pink striped socks on their feet and feel like I'm doing all that I can. Mom guilt is real.

This morning, as I rummaged through their sock drawer, I dug out a particularly special pair of socks. A pair of socks that similar to April 29 and December 5, hold an incredible weight in my heart. In the early summer of 2013, just before our wedding, I moved to a new team at work, and we had a retreat in Phoenix. I was in one of the healthiest places I had ever been in my life (emotionally, physically), but also the most unsettled. We had decided we wanted to have a baby, but the realization of just how hard that might be  - even if I was perfectly healthy and fertile - married to a woman, was setting in hard. Several people close to me were pregnant and I was drowning in the reality of how much time and money this might take us (and I didn't know the half of it) to be in that same position.

With several other soon-to-be-married ladies and soon-to-be-mommas on my team, we had a week full of team celebrations, including a baby shower for the pregnant ones and a pretty fantastic rendition of the newlywed game for the engaged (which I knocked out of the park, if I must say - though it did result in a tie for first, thanks to one wrong answer...).

For the baby shower, when you walked in, you grabbed a single sock from a bowl and then had to go find your match and come up with answers to several questions (which we then shared out as advice for the mommas). My match was with a guy I had really never met, and I, unfortunately, was bursting at the seams with emotion, given the setting - lucky him (a good reminder that you just never know what the person across from you is going through, no matter how innocent the setting). At the end of the activity, he offered the sock to me, noting that he was unlikely to have any use for this anytime soon. I took his sock, and paired it with mine, and stowed it away in my suitcase - feeling ridiculously silly that I kept it (and didn't hand it over to the belly-rocking mommas we were celebrating). I desperately wanted to have a use for that pair of socks.

socks
When I got home, I showed the socks to the wifey (well, at the time, she was still just "my lady"). I don't recall her exact response, but I'm sure it was a cross between her acknowledging my crazy and being a little sappy about it, herself. The usual.

I don't know exactly when I lost track of those socks, but I did. We got married a few weeks later, went on an amazing honeymoon, and came back and continued the baby process. The longer the trying to get pregnant process went on, the less I remembered those socks. December 5th happened. April 29th happened. Just a year later, I couldn't allow myself to even dream of those socks.

Two years later, on my 30th birthday, a day I had always thought I would dread, but ended up welcoming with open arms, those socks re-appeared.

The wifey surprised me by taking the day off, and my Nestor came over and made me delicious, delicious pancakes. Later in the morning, I opened just a handful of gifts from the wifey (I was eight months pregnant with twins, I didn't need anything but an hour without having to pee). Of course, channeling my Boven family sixth sense of knowing what is in any wrapped package before I open it, I was cheerfully enjoying myself as I ripped the paper off of each gift.

One gift completely stumped me. But the moment I saw the rainbow striped pattern on those tiny, tiny, socks, I lost it (as I am right now, thinking about it). My wifey had saved the socks. Through all of this heartbreaking yet joyful mess of a journey, she had held onto them. The socks I didn't dare dream about, she had taken, stowed away, held onto, and saved for this moment that she had never stopped believing would happen.

sockless
the little sock-less wonders
Somehow, the girls have already outgrown those tiny, tiny socks (that wouldn't even stay on their feet until they were two months old!). As I held that pair of socks in my hand this morning, I was reminded of the importance of hope. Those socks symbolize everything good and bad that happened to us over the several year span we anxiously awaited the arrival of a baby (ahem, as it would happen, babies). Just looking at them brings a smile to my face, but tears down my cheeks. But, more than anything, they remind me to hope. To wish. To believe.

Ordinary objects and ordinary days are bursting with anything-but ordinary meaning for someone. Thanks to that not quite eidetic memory, I can look at a pencil I used twelve years ago, or a shirt I wore in high school, and remember what I was feeling, who was in my life, what my hopes and dreams were... These little socks? They will always symbolize the importance of having hope and faith (and a really, really amazing wife), to me, as silly as that might be ten, twenty years from now. Everyone needs a little pair of socks in their life. And, more importantly, we all need an incredible someone who will hold steadfast onto those socks, even when you can't manage it yourself.

maggieellen_8