Thursday, May 25, 2017

The Sandwich Approach

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

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


Or stumbling on a mini-petting zoo.


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

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

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

So let's start there:

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

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Privilege




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

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

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

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

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

It's frightening to witness.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, May 22, 2017

#MicroblogMondays: Purpose

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


Monday, April 3, 2017

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Infertility - maybe a cooler disease than we thought?

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

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

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

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Finding a happy place

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

And yeah.

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


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

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

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

Monday, March 20, 2017

#MicroblogMondays: Door

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


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

~Lewis Carol; Alice in Wonderland.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

For a small black dog

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

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

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

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

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

Sofi kept me honest.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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

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

Be honest. Be who you are.

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

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

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



Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Muscle memory

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, February 6, 2017

#MicroblogMondays: Extremophile

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

Extremophile: an organism that lives under extreme environmental conditions.

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, January 30, 2017

#MicroblogMondays: Another new dawn

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


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

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




Saturday, January 21, 2017

Marching in Boston

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

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

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

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

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




























Tuesday, January 17, 2017

#MicroblogMondays: Wash, rinse, repeat

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

You always remember where you were when you receive bad news. With my first miscarriage, I was climbing the stairs in our condo. Our second miscarriage the news came while sitting in the car. Last year, Grey telling me he had been fired occurred while I was in the tea room. 

Yesterday it was while I was climbing the hill towards home.

The truth is we don't know exactly what will happen now that the company Grey works for has been sold. There's always the possibility that his job is secure, but given the talk occurring it seems like preparing to jump ship is the best course of action.

I'm just so tired of doing this all over again. We just got through my rollercoaster of job hunting, knowing full well that I'm truly not settled into anything long-term. There's also the fact that Grey actually enjoys his coworkers and has been loving working with this team. The final element is hearing about the Beats telling Grey that they love their school and their teachers. All of it just makes me want to cry.

So we're back on the familiar roller coaster of job hunting and finding childcare arrangements. Back to trying to make all of this work for our family.

Wash, rinse, repeat.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

The other side

Two days ago, I found myself navigating the tunnels of the university with my new coworkers in search of coffee. Walking through what seemed like a secret underworld, one of them asked me about the Beats. Smiling, I mumbled a distracted answer about living with 3 year olds, all the while trying to figure out landmarks so as not to get lost on the way back. In that absent-minded state, I asked my coworker if he had children.

"One," he answered. "After 6 failed rounds of IVF, she's our 22 year old miracle."

I almost walked into the wall.

Stumbling over myself, I shared that I had also gone through 4 rounds of IVF, 1 fresh cycle and 3 FETs. After doing a double-take, we began sharing tidbits of our journeys.

Just before we surfaced in the cafeteria, he turned and smiled at me in a way that spoke of memories of pain, uncertainty and deep loss. "It's funny how things like that shape you. How they never really leave you. And how even being on the other side, getting what you broke yourself for, you still find yourself forever changed by the journey."

*********************
There's a hope everyone facing infertility/RPL has of one day being on the other side. While in the thick of battling the pain, the grief and the uncertainty of the path towards resolution, promises are made about lessons that will never be unlearned, assumptions that will never be made again and new levels of empathy that will be practiced. Like so many, we vow to never take certain things for granted if, and only if, we can somehow come out the other side.

The truth is, I wondered what the other side would look like. Initially after our diagnosis, I held fast to the hope of quickly resolving so that we could put the whole experience behind us. But as time went on, I found it harder and harder to envious a life where we could so easily forget. As the version we originally planned for family expansion morphed again and again, I found myself wondering not only about whether a happy ending was even possible, but also how I could possibly navigate through life with the scars I now had.

Today marks 4 years since our final round of IVF that lead to me finding our road to resolution. As I type this, the end result of that pregnancy is in the room next to me, using every attempt known to preschoolers to remain awake for the night. Yet, despite the madness echoing throughout the apartment, the knowledge of how close we came to this not being our reality is very clear. I touched that version of life; walked some of that path.

But there's another aspect I hadn't considered all those years ago: the bond that comes with sharing those scars with others. Like a secret handshake, it only takes a sentence to reveal this shared understanding about a community so few would ever want to be a part of. But there's also a calmness that's come from being on the other side of a trauma. Of knowing that even though it did break me in ways I never would have thought someone could survive from, survive I did. Even when it wasn't pretty. Sharing that has allowed me to connect with others in ways I wasn't able to before.

Despite all that, I still am navigating my way through this world of being an infertility survivor and someone who is resolved. The strangeness that comes when people who are clueless about infertility talk about family expansion as if it was a given and all that goes with it. Every year, the pain of the past becomes less sharp and the triggers more defined. But the other truth is that it's also clear my whole being will never forget. That being on the other side doesn't mean you're somehow less broken; you're just better at finding the beauty in the scars.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

#MicroblogMondays: Robobear vs. the Clique

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

Years ago, I there was an art show in my neighborhood featuring the work of Justin Hillgrove. Sometimes, if we're lucky, we find (or if we're really lucky, create) art, a poem, a quote that just says it all. 
by Justin Hillgrove
As my friend, the dear, departed Princess Leia, said to me, "Take your broken heart, make it into art."
~Meryl Streep

Friday, January 6, 2017

Honor Code

"So when are you planning on talking to Gramma?" A question that was asked with some urgency and continually pressed with more urgency by both my mother and my godfather. My answers range from "I know I need to do this" to "Soon." But the truth is always a lot more complicated than that. Just as most truths are.

Five years ago, when I made the decision to cease contact with my family as we were barreling towards our first round of IVF, I found myself having to make peace with a lot of different situations. I mourned the loss of my beloved godfather (my mother's youngest brother), of my father and my brother. My dad's younger brother too. But the women in my family, I was done with. My mom and sister, my aunts. But also with my grandmothers. My dad's parents were easy as my parents were still estranged. But my mom's mother was harder. Though it was clear she didn't understand, her continual refusal to act as matriarch and rein-in all the misbehavior of her children was the root cause for the ongoing issues. Even when confronted, it was clear she wasn't capable of making needed changes. And I was tired of it.

The problem comes in that my Gramma is now 80 yrs old and her health is rapidly declining. Add in the continual explanation that she doesn't understand why I would cut off contact and one gets a lovely stew: guilt and a sense of obligation stirred in with frustration and a feeling that empathy isn't part of the game.

Over the past couple of days, I've been thinking about all of this while also tackling the mountain of work around my new position. Classes start in under 2 weeks, so finalizing quizzes, section manuals and problem sets have been at the top of the list. Today, though, we talked about exams. And that's when I sat down to review the university's honor code. As I've been reviewing academic standards and a call uphold those by avoiding dishonest practices, I've found myself struggling emotionally. The familiar feelings of abandonment and pain surfacing when reflecting on why I haven't been able to call Gramma.

The problem comes in on two fronts. The first being that I don't feel I can be honest with my Gramma about why I made the decision to cut contact years ago. I big issue as that wall means that actual healing of our relationship really won't happen. The second is that I feel the big push for reconciliation really doesn't involve me at all, but instead is about the feelings and viewpoints of others.  In short, I'm being held to an Honor Code that is enforced only for a few. An ancient code that family connection trumps everything, especially during moments of life transition. Even if upholding that Code ultimately is unhealthy for all involved.

Honestly, I don't know exactly how to resolve these feelings. My gut is telling me to bite the bullet, call and lie through my teeth. Being very careful to admit nothing as I know it will ignite my mother and her siblings. The problem doing so also feels like it will further the divide. It gives me more leverage for why I don't want to expose the Beats to any of this. I never want them to feel this used.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Day 1

Firsts are hard for me. While others see new opportunities/things for their shininess, I worry about how the 15 billion ways I can break them or screw them up. This fear probably explains my attraction to buying used, repairing anything broken well past the expense of just buying new and all things vintage. But it also makes transitions hard too.

Today is my first day at my new position. There's a lot of logistics that need to be worked out (new computers, new systems to learn, hiring to be done, training to plan for and a big meeting at the end of the week with the three professors who will be lecturing), but the scary part isn't the logistics but what this transition actually means.

For as long as I can remember, my goal has been to be a scientist. Throughout graduate school, I refused to give myself the formal title as I saw myself solely as a trainee (even though others around me bravely owned it). After graduation, though I now had three additional letters to add to the end of my name, I still didn't own the title given my delusion that somehow I didn't deserve it. Over the past year, that mindset has changed. Part of it was coming back to the bench and authoring a review with E. But the other part has been actually looking at how science is done. That the title isn't exclusively for those who fit into the ever shrinking field of R1 research professor, especially as many of them aren't actively working at the bench anymore. In a weird way, getting back to the bench not only got me back to my roots, but it also made me realize that the science I'm most passionate about revolves around how we learn about it. And that I do hold the title of scientist and have for a long time.

That's where the scary comes in. Because today, as I close a decade-long chapter as a bench scientist/trainee, I begin one embracing being a science educator; using all my training to apply it to the goal in front of me as it's something I truly believe in. The weight of owning it isn't lost on me.

The thing giving me focus at the moment is an encounter I had the day I began negotiations for this position. Moments following publishing this post, I had an opportunity to observe a teaching session with a group at the medical school who is helping change the way we teach cell biology to high-schoolers. This team is conspired of experienced nurses, many of who have worked in ERs, who were taking a flipped classroom model. Starting with a round table session, where the teens were talking about neuron anatomy, it immediately morphed into a case study where the girls took on the role as medical students/residents who were charged with diagnosing and treating their patient, an interactive manikin named "Holly," who was experience severe chest pains and was acting odd. A few things came out of that case study, mainly the girls being extremely upset that Holly repeatedly lied to them about having used any drugs (cocaine was found in her system after a drug test), but the added element was why Holly was also suffering a heart attack. And that's where the nurses turned everything on it's head again and helped guide the girls back through previous lessons about neural biology and how cocaine impacts that. Before any of us realized it, the girls were 1 1/2 hours into the lesson, all alert and all of them wanting to know more about the biology of addiction and how it impacts our society.

That observation experience has been on my brain ever since. Because that impact, those ah-ha moments, are what I want to see more of. And though this field is new, the potential to have meaningful impact is extremely high.

Today is day 1 of embracing this path. Of taking ownership and being prepared to stand on my own two feet. There are many pitfalls already visible and I worry that I've made a selfish decision to drag Grey and the Beats down this road (I'm extremely lucky to have the support I have from them and so many). The fear that I'll find some new an exotic way to break it all.

Here goes nothing. And everything.

Monday, January 2, 2017

#MicroblogMondays: Ring in the new

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

I know this transformation is painful, but you're not falling apart; you're just falling into something different, with a new capacity to be beautiful.

~William C Hannan
 
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