Monday, February 1, 2016

#Microblog Mondays: painted toes

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

We've been battling sickness for the past month. Between fevers, running noses and hacking coughs, there's been many a sick-day and sleepless night. This past Saturday both Beats were cranky from mild fevers, so plans to visit the library and spending time outside were promptly canceled.

Instead, through a process I still quite don't understand, I found both Beats raiding my collection of nail polish. And then promptly insisting on having their toes painted.

It's been awhile since I've given myself a pedicure. Though I use to be meticulous about caring for my feet, these past couple of years doing anything besides trimming my toenails has become a challenge. So it was a bit of a circus going through my kit and finding all the supplies for this process.

In the end, both Beats happily admired their toes. Even He-Beat, who usually fights me even with trimming his nails.


Thursday, January 28, 2016

Passing this along

I'm in the habit of passing articles along to others in this community. Be it slights from opinion columnists to more extended pieces. Most covering aspects of fertility treatments, infertility and public perception on resolution.

Part of this habit comes from this assumption that my voice isn't strong enough to make a case. That there are those in positions of better authority to speak out on these topics.

The other part is fear. Plain and simple.

Grey and I have been having an ongoing discussion adoption and openness. Grey's eldest nephew, who was adopted from the foster care system, recently turned 21 yrs old and there are ongoing questions about whether how to help him address his adoption while also supporting my BIL. It's a jumbled web, filled with emotional pits. Hence there's no clear path for how to help our nephew navigate.

This morning, Grey sent me this NYT article, as a follow up to a recent Modern Love Podcast covering open adoption. I'm still reading this, as there's a lot to unpack, but I wanted to share it because of how honest it is. It shows beautifully the emotional messiness that comes from a process most people barely understand.

So, instead of writing Lori or Rain or Leah (though I'm still sending them tho article because their voices truly are important ones), I'm taking a step and putting this out there. Because I am by no means an expert in any of this and, yet, adoption does impact my life. It's more than an option of resolution; it's something my family lives with and it's something our society assumes in a continual "cure" for infertility when in reality it's not a cure. It's so much more complex.

Monday, January 25, 2016

#Microblog Mondays: post-storm commute

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

"Excuse me, but I'm wondering if there is a way you can squeeze in a bit more?" asked a slender girl to the man standing in front of her. 

His eyes widen as he looks behind him at the tightly packed mass on the bus and then back at her.

"I only need to go a couple of blocks," she continues to plead. Hoping that a space will magically appear that will allow her (and only her) onto this overpacked vehicle.

Smiling kindly, his response brought choked-back giggles that rippled through the whole vehicle. "Sure. I'll just have to remove some ribs. Oh, and that old lady there can get tossed. Cause, you know, it's all about making sure you don't have to walk those 2 blocks."

Over the past 3 months, I've learned how to wrestle with the transit system in Boston. A different beast from Seattle due to the trains, lack of water to navigate and the fact that it's far older, it's been an interesting education dealing with people on this level of intimacy. 

Following any event that deviates from the norm, though, the system is easy throw into complete chaos. I've learned with snow to avoid the trains at all costs. With sporting events, I leave early (or much, much later) to make it home. 

But one other secret is learning to work with people. Specifically in quietly demanding access, but also knowing not to overstep boundaries that cause pain to everyone else. 

This morning was the perfect storm for all of this. Parents carting small children where quickly given access to transit, but one mother was informed that there was no way the bus could also accommodate her B.O.B stroller. The slender girl who was trying to whine her way on the bus, was quickly distracted by an older woman who suggested they grab a cup of coffee to warm them as the walked to the next T stop. And people did pack in, exchanging information about what part of the system was down and sharing strategies for how to access the downtown core. 

All of that combined with jokes and much needed rounds of laughter following comments about getting to know your neighbor on a whole new level.


Thursday, January 21, 2016

Trim

I have a hair issue. Specifically an issue with getting my hair cut. The whole thing started when I was 4 yrs old and decided it would be fun to cut my own hair. My mother completely freaked out when she realized what I had done, forever impressing on me that me possessing a pair of scissors for this activity was a terrible thing. Combine this negative experience, which stifled any exploration into different hairstyles and cuts, with the fact that it's so damn hard to find a hairstylist I can actually communicate (sidenote: why is this so damn hard?) and the end result is one where I dread dealing with my hair. I'm too terrified of welding a pair of scissors and cutting my hair in a manner I like, but I ALWAYS fail to communicate what I want from a stylist (and always end up lying about being okay with what they've done). It's a vicious cycle.

I've hit a new level of this with the Beats. As both kids grow, their hair grows too requiring frequent trims to keep it manageable. These trims can quickly become expensive, with some kid-friendly shops wanting $40-50 per haircut. Our options are the following: let it grow (which can be a bit difficult after awhile), suck up the cost or learn to cut their hair ourselves.

So last weekend, armed with a new pair of shears, Grey decided to turn cutting He-Beat's hair.

And the results were a uneven mullet.

As I was flooded with memories from that day I cut my own hair, I pushed down my anxiety and panic, push back tears at the sight of this little boy who looked like he had had a fight with a weed wacker, calmly thanked Grey for being so brave for trying to do this. And then I did some research and found a local chain that cuts kid's hair for $13 and scheduled an appointment to correct the damage.

The truth is, I want the Beats to have a positive relationship with taking care of their appearance. To not see the act of grooming as vain or futile and to be able to advocate for what they want. And, in truth, I'd like to learn how to cut their hair. Grey agrees with me that there's a lot of healing that could come from this act and it may help me with learning to communicate what I need when I walk into a salon.

The thing holding me back is the fear and panic from long ago. I still see both my mother's tears and hear her anger from that day. Feel the shame from her disappointment in me. I get it how she was feeling as I see so much beauty in the Beats and it's hard to see them looked disheveled. But the damage that was caused by that reaction has lasted for over 30 yrs. And it's going to take some time to undo it.

So, for anyone who cuts hair, please weigh in and educate me on how to do this. I've already been warned that small children squirm and fight this process, so I'm not looking for perfection. But I'd like to learn. I'd like to conquer this fear.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

#MicroblogMondays: MLK

I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality ... I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word.

~Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. 

Yesterday afternoon, while Grey and the Beats took a much needed nap, I dressed myself warmly and ventured outside to shovel snow. The weather has finally turned colder and, with the chills, has come white, fluffy powder that blankets the world. It's a peaceful sight until one realizes that it needs to be cleared so that life can continue to function. And I knew that as the day passed, we were running out of time to clear the sidewalks and steps before that powder turned to ice.

As I was clearing a section of the sidewalks surrounding the house, I had an opportunity to observe those who were doing the same. In many cases, the others were neighboring homeowners. But in a few cases, there were work crews who were clearing. These crews consisted of men who drove beaten-up trucks, usually with a label on the side. Most worked quietly, but some that spoke did so with broken English. One man was surprised when I offered him something to drink during a 5 minute break. It was clear this wasn't a common gesture.

Watching the crews work had me remembering the migrant workers that would line up at chain home-improvement stores in Seattle. Of the roofing crews I would see on the highways when I was a college student. Of the hate that was spewed towards these men by those who were threatened by their presence. And the conversations I would have with a few where it became so clear that they were lonely, missing family and acutely aware they were unwelcome.

Clearing the stone steps leading to the house, I found myself playing Dr. King's "I have a dream" speech through my head. Particularly this segment.
We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of Now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God's children.
As I reflected and watched the crews, I became more aware that this injustice has extended all the more. Racial injustice combined with socio-economic injustice and religious divide. Change is long overdue as the wants of a few are greatly hindering so many.

And so, once again, I'm reminded that I need to be the change I long to see in the world. Even if my gestures seem small and unimportant.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Backstop

On Friday, I journeyed into the financial district to meet with a contact at one of the Big 3. Back in July I had a phone conversation with this contact, learning about the company she worked for and how her job was structured, but it was time to meet in person in order to put a face with a name.

The conversation we had was a good one. She was incredibly truthful about her daily dealings (cliental, types of projects, etc) and expectations from the firm she worked with. It was then we transitioned to discussing the realities of this career path on one's daily life. The fact that 90 hr work weeks were very common and there was always an expectation that one would drop everything with a second's notice for the client. That the attrition rate was at least 50%, with many moving on to smaller firms, different aspects of business or leaving business altogether after the experience. That those who succeed tend to be the ones who sacrifice everything else for their career.

As we continued to talk about work/life balance, the term "backstop" came up. Specifically in that a successful consultant would need multiple layers of support in place for raising any children they have, with a dedicated backstop to manage. The backstop usually came in three forms: a spouse, extended family or a superb live-in nanny. As we talked, my contact had a controlled expression on her face. She is currently 39 weeks pregnant with her second and though she talked about this necessity, it was becoming clear she was also struggling with conflicting emotions about this arrangement. Hence her truthfulness in a manner that I wasn't likely to get from anyone else.

On the bus ride home, I reflected on our conversation. And the term "backstop" suck with me. A term attached to someone who drops everything for the children in the family. Telling Grey about this part of the conversation resulted in a look of disgust from him. Cursing under this breath, he responded by saying that it's this term that is driving this lack of respect given to those who are raising the next generation, be the daycare providers, teachers, stay at home moms and especially stay at home dads. "We assume these people are expendable. When in truth they are essential."

 The reality is I don't want a career that's going to separate me from my family on this level. I have zero issue working long hours; I've already done so throughout my 20s. But I struggle with doing anything that will ultimately cause my family to break apart. Sure, there are necessary evils. But I don't think this is one of them for me. But the flip is that I want to be what others call the backstop. If the Beats are sick, I want to be able to drop work and be there for them. Granted, it is we need another level of support for those days they can't go to daycare (and if anyone has suggestions on finding temporary nannies or babysitters, I'd love to hear from you), but missing everything because my employer tells me I need to stay in the rat race isn't something I'm interested in.

I learned a lot on Friday. The gut feeling I've been having about consulting as a career fit has pretty much been solidified into a firm "no way" by this meeting. Though y contact is one that I'll continue to keep in touch with. But the other thing is I learned I need to start looking for options that allow me some flexibility. Part of it is coming from my current work, as my research is truly in a niche field. But the other thing is learning that once again I'm going to have to create the next step. And part of that means embracing the term "backstop."

And never apologize for doing so.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

It takes a village

It started with some pumpkins. Specifically two ceramic pumpkin statues that were dressed in their finery. He-Beat was immediately drawn and excitedly pointing them out to us. It was then our landlady Martha came out and introduced them to both Beats and mentioned that they were specifically meant as something the Beats could enjoy.And enjoy they did. Greeting them every morning and evening.

It didn't stop there, though.

Following a warm fall day where they wanted to use the street chalk, Martha cleared the driveway, inviting them to draw. We brought her a pie as a thank you and she reciprocated with a thank you note and some cookies from a local bakery. Soon there was a Christmas tree on the front porch, which He-Beat adored, and a Santa Claus to follow. The morning greetings became more routine and with the first snow fall, she happily accepted He-Beat's help with clearing the snow from the driveway.

Every small act of kindness and acceptance Martha has given to the Beats has resulted in them not only trusting her, but including her in their circle of family. And what is most striking to anyone outside of this circle is that such love, warmth and acceptance is coming from a woman who is both single and not parenting.

We've all heard the saying "it takes a village to raise a child." Yet for as long as I can remember, there's been a lot of push-back about this philosophy. From my first interactions with small kids, where we were told to endure misbehaving children unless their actions were immediately life-threatening as the parents were the ones who would handle them to later hearing advice given to new parents about setting clear boundaries about advice and help. Following my time at university, I had friends who were teachers share stories about putting up emotional walls with their students for fear of being accused of overstepping these boundaries by a parent who was threatened by any interactions or being seen as undermining a parent's philosophy of raising their child. The idea of "my child(ren)" was pushed above all else, even when their was evidence this wasn't working out.

Early on following the arrival of the Beats, Grey and I knew we weren't going to survive without help. The toll of sleep deprivation and demands of two infants meant a lot of those philosophies we both learned had to be thrown out the door as we were willingly inviting other parties into our lives on the most intimate of levels. We were lucky to have caregivers and family who were fairly like-minded in their beliefs and goals, but we also learned that there was truly no one correct way to address an issue or situation. That it was okay to have differing opinions and experiences for addressing different problems. And, most importantly, that giving birth automatically didn't make one an authority on a subject or outlook. There was so much to be gleaned from those society continues to deem as uninformed solely because they haven't followed the prescribed equation for a full life.

Finding Martha and her rental has been nothing short of a god-sent. When we relocated to Boston, we lost that circle of support we had built up over two years, literally leaving ourselves naked and alone. We've been lucky to find good caregivers for the Beats, but another reason they are not just surviving but thriving is because of their interactions with our landlady. She's actively been creating an environment for them that is filled with stimulation and warmth.

Granted, there have been some bumps along the way. Setting up a bird feeder took some trial and error because of the accumulation in bird poop. There's been some teaching moments about what not to touch in the garden. And though I know she would love having an opportunity to spend time alone with them, we're not at a point where we're completely comfortable leaving two toddlers solely in her care.

But we're building. We're learning from one another. And the Beats are also learning that love and family come in so many forms. That there's no one right way to live your life in order to have it be full.

And that lesson is an invaluable one.
 
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