Monday, November 23, 2015

#MicroblogMondays: Small moments

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

In the fluster and buster of the week, I hit a point where I craved a moment of familiar. So over the weekend, I found myself flipping through treasured cookbooks and recipes. And my imagination ran wild with the possibilities of losing myself in creating things from dough.

It was immediately settled for Sunday afternoon that I would teach the Beats to make chocolate chip cookies. As they watched the Kitchen Aid spin while flour was added to the egg, sugar and butter mixture, their attention was glued for what was happening in front of them. They lost interest when it came time to use the oven (partly due to me locking them out so to prevent anyone being burned), but quickly regained interest upon getting their first taste of what was created.

It's funny how with all the craziness in the world, caused by large events that seem completely out of our control, it's the small moments that can ground you. That simply taking a moment to so something so simple as mixing cookie dough and sharing the end product can instill a sense of calm and a promise for a better tomorrow.

Monday, November 16, 2015

#MicroblogMondays: Frazzled

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

I was on the train when I first learned about Paris. Sitting in a tube of steel that was preparing to go underground, I scanned the news feeds that described the horror occurring in the city. Sitting quietly, I felt my body grow numb as my brain shut down. So much tragedy. All of it nonsensical. 

Sunday night, I felt the same anxiety rise during a conversation with my mom. The second she asked "what can I do for you?" I knew she was baiting me for a fight. Grey watched me in horror as I attempted to subdue any confrontation, listening instead as my mom went on about my paternal grandmother and how she was navigating that situation. All the while baiting me with comments about how all of this was new to her and that she wanted to know why I was now attempting to reestablish contact. What it comes down to is she's upset I did reach out to her as soon as I learned I was pregnant. But attempting any explanation will only lead to a fight, which she's unconsciously pushing for. And so I unsuccessfully try to calm her down before declaring I can't do any more for the night. Feeling numb and beaten afterwards.

One thing that continues to baffle is how insistent those who foster hate and anger are of their position. There's a certain pride they take in causing destruction and pain, as if it somehow justifies their own feelings. What they fail to ask is why there is this need to fight. What motivation is there to be won by taking? 

My nerves are raw from all of this. The danger seems so needless and the hate so stupidly unproductive. And I wish there were clear answers towards peace with all of this.  

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Finding a path

It's Tuesday afternoon and I'm in a lecture hall sitting on the floor as it's standing room only. The office for postdoc affairs has organized a panel regarding how to successfully navigate interviews for academic jobs and, though new to this position, I am obliged to attend. Looking around the room, which is packed to the gills, I watch many senior postdocs fidget and furrow their brows as the professors give their insight into how to successfully navigate academic interviews. The explosion at the Q&A session clearly catches the faculty off guard as they are hit with question after question about "exactly how" to successfully secure a job. One professor's advice to "have fun" and "be excited" is brushed off. It's clear the stakes have risen.

Since the beginning this postdoc, I've wrestled with what exactly my long-term career path will be. E and I haven't discussed the particulars yet as I'm focusing on writing a review, getting experiments off the ground and thinking about funding. But it's a conversation we're likely going to have within the next year or so as I will need to prepare for the job market. The thing is, I struggle with how to tell her that I'm no longer convinced academia is a good fit.

The path for anyone pursuing careers outside of academia is an elusive one. Even with the obvious step towards industry, the reality that this transition is a lot more complex with many, many different facets is something most training graduate students are unaware of. Hence where my problem comes in as even though I'm aware of these roads, I'm lost as which one to pursue at the moment. What little I know of industry doesn't appeal as my training is not medically focused. There's the flip of pursuing something more business driven, but the limited exposure I've had to that culture where money is the main driver has left me with a sour taste in my mouth.

A few nights ago, I ventured way outside my comfort zone and attended a seminar on strategy consulting. The theory behind was appealing and given my training I thought it could be worthwhile pursuing. Instead I left the session feeling sick and deflated after the presenter spent most of the presentation talking about her work with a large energy company and the strategy behind soda pop distribution. Whining later that evening to Grey (and him chuckling following a couple "I told you so"), I realized that this was going to be a lot harder than I thought.

Similar to infertility, the road forward usually isn't clear. There are suggestions on how to proceed and often people indicating which directions are often the best to take. But at the end of the day, a lot of this process is filled with failure. Coming up against walls and deciding whether to turn around or scale them. Most often, the ultimate ending is never what was expected and becomes a question of whether the path chosen is one that allows the decision maker to grow.

I'm struggling at the moment. I know I need to continue pushing and exploring options. After all, it's the reason I pursued this postdoc as I knew it had the potential to open doors. And yet there is the temptation to put my head down and not face the unknown. Not yet anyway.

Monday, November 9, 2015

#MicroblogMondays: the other side of the story

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

"I don't care if you're going to tell everyone about what I have done to you. But please, just don't forget to tell them about what you did to me."
~Author unknown.

This past weekend, Grey and I received news that his eldest nephew is leaving his mother. For years since my BIL divorced his first wife, she has used games and lies to drive a wedge between this boy and the rest of Grey's family. Granted, Grey's eldest brother has had his role. He's made decisions that haven't been in the best interest of his family. But the story has been very one sided.

Over the past few years, though, the truth has been coming out. The picture-perfect lifestyle she worked so hard to maintain has unraveled. The final straw came when a new boyfriend harmed our nephew's dog, making it clear he wouldn't hesitate to do so again. And with that plans are in motion for him to finally break away from her.

I've been reflecting on all of this with my own reconnection with my parents and past failed relationships. And how quick those observing are to judge given limited information. Most often, those that are loudest and share only their viewpoints are the victors in winning the populous, with others quickly condemning the other party. In divorce, children are often encouraged to chose sides, backing one parent over the other. In break-ups, groups of friends usually favor one half of the former couple over the other. There are winners and losers, often determined on limited information.

But often, there's another side of the story. A side that can reveal complexities that humanize both parties and blur the line of winner vs. loser. And given enough time and a little bit of digging, the truth tends to reveal itself. 

My own mother has a long history of painting things in black-and-white. Making it seem like someone is completely in the wrong in order to justify righteous behavior. The problem is, though my mother truly believes that certain actions and interactions have been justified, she often struggles with seeing how someone else was hurt in the process. The narrative in her head wouldn't allow for if because doing so meant she might actually not be completely in the right. And it was this pushing and righteousness that drove me away. That built the brick wall that exists between us still today.

On the heels of this news, my heart is heavy. There's a lot of good that can come if the wheels of change are enacted. But there will be grief in this process too. For I know my nephew loves his mother with all his heart, her flaws and all. Just as I love my own mother. But sometimes, screaming and fighting to have one's side of the story be heard isn't worth spending yourself. Sometimes the best thing to do is walk quietly away.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015


Since moving to our new home, Grey and I have developed a weekend ritual of running the Beats. Sometime on Saturday and Sunday, we pile into the car and go to one of the many local parks with trails. During these hikes, the rule is one parent per child with He-Beat racing ahead as fast as his legs can carry him while She-Beat explores at her own pace; sometimes running, but often doing a meandering walk while looking around.

This last weekend, while out on one of our family runs, I realized that She-Beat was humming. Slowly picking her way down the trail, looking all around except for what lay ahead, she was blissfully in her own world. Listening carefully, I was able to recognize some familiar tunes, such as her singing the alphabet or "itsy-bitsy spider," but generally her humming consists of her own compositions.

Music has always been important to me, allowing me to convey emotion in ways that words often fail. As I child, I participated in local choirs as I could easily carry a tune. As I grew older, though, I became more reluctant to sing as I was terribly self-conscious. And with infertility, music became almost nonexistent. I remember Grey looking at me solemnly one evening while in the middle of treatments and confusing that he missed hearing me sing. During that period of deep mourning, my voice had been lost.

The arrival of the Beats forced me to find my voice again. Holding them in NICU, I followed Grey's lead of singing to them while we did Kangaroo care, sharing songs that brought us hope. Following bringing them home, the singing continued to soothe them back to sleep or during bath-time. But it wasn't until I started working at their daycare that I really learned the power music has over children, being a quick way to deescalate any situation and quickly get their attention. There were countless days that I sang myself hoarse, always learning quickly to disregard any feelings of self-consciousness.

Hearing She-Beat humming completely caught me off guard. Watching her dance her way along the trail as she hummed happily I realized I was witnessing something that my heart had longed for. It doesn't matter whether she has perfect pitch or is composing original scores. What matters is She-Beat is finding music within herself.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Embracing Halloween

Like many small children, Halloween use to be one of my favorite holidays. From carving Jack-o-Lanterns to carefully planning a costume. All culminating to a night where packs of kids would roam the neighborhood, excitedly showing off costumes and collecting a stash of candy to make it to the winter holidays. During college, Halloween took on a new form, still with creative costumes that were meant to be shown off, but this time to parade along the main street between campus and the capitol building, all with the end goal of a party or two. The spirit of Halloween was always to let loose and explore a side of yourself that was otherwise hidden or suppressed.

It's been several years since I've tapped this side of myself. Part of this has to do with laziness of aging (house parties really don't have much of an appeal), but the other factor is that Seattle isn't much of a Halloween town. New Years, most certainly, but Halloween tends to fall to the wayside. 

Upon arriving to Boston, Grey and I were thoroughly warned about New England Halloweens. A trip to the hair salon was spent answering directly questions about plans for celebrating and advice on where to purchase costumes. Invites to Halloween-prep parties started filling our inboxes. And lab conversations revolved around costumes and activities. In addition, our morning ritual now included watching the Beats stop to say good morning to all the pumpkins and ceramic pumpkin people that were accumulating on our landlords front porch. 

Despite this, I was still not prepared for what awaited me the Friday morning before Halloween. As I sat on the bus and observed all the costumes surrounding me, I began to remember why Halloween was so important to me as a child. As I marveled at the courtyard of pumpkins, I allowed some of that long suppressed innocence to resurface. The creative energy that has been repressed for so long.

Embracing this spirit, Grey and I took the Beats out for their first round of trick-or-treating. It didn't matter that none of our costumes were perfect or witty. Nor did it matter that we only visited a few homes or that the jack-o-lanterns we carved were simple in design. What mattered was that we gave ourselves permission to participate. To celebrate in our own way.

Hoping you all had a wonderful holiday.

Monday, November 2, 2015

#Microblog Mondays: The difficult child

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

It's 5:30 am. He-Beat has been awake for the past 30 mins and, unlike his sister, refuses to be convinced that another hour of sleep is worthwhile. After 30 mins of being kicked, head-butted and having my hair pulled, I announce that it's time for him to go back to his own bed. This announcement is greeted with tears and a tantrum. Crying inconsolably, I gather this small child into my arms and place him on his bed, feeling utterly defeated.

The past couple week has been a hard one. Both Beats are fighting colds and cutting molars, making them both incredibly sensitive and testing. Grey and I have been weathering many a meltdown, finding there are moments where the best thing to do is simply giving space to a child who is clearly overcome with emotion. He-Beat in particular has been trying. One moment all is well and he is happily playing, but with transitions or moments he is told "no" comes the meltdowns.

We've been warned about this stage; the "terrible twos" that don't end until they are around 4 yrs old. We've been told it is a trying period and given so much advice on how best to address this. Their teachers have also been wonderful with offering insight and reminding us that there are no red-flags because of this behavior. Still, it's been scaring me on a lot of levels. During some of these meltdowns, I have flashes back to the incidents I weathered with a child I worked with at their daycare who is 3 yrs older. A child who had similar meltdowns and tantrums, flying into rages at his peers in a manner that left so many worried about the physical safety of his classmates. How despite his intelligence, how emotionally stunted this boy is and how greatly negative his life is becoming because of it. I know it's completely unreasonable to make this comparison, especially since this behavior is to be expected during toddlerhood. Still, it's hard not to see the pattern.

The other level is a personal one as I also endeared being labeled a "difficult child" and still have emotional scars from it. And I worry about He-Beat being labeled the same way, suffering from all that comes with this stereotype.

A few weeks ago, I happened upon a post from a woman who confused similar fears. A note of warning, as this person is both a non-IF blogger and one who is very vocal about attachment parenting (lots of fuel here for anyone looking to start another version of the mommy wars), so proceed with caution with reading. But what this post did touch on nicely (and bravely) is the fear that surrounds raising a child who requires more.  And though He-Beat doesn't have the same energy levels as her son, I found myself nodding along with a lot of her confession.

I goes without saying that I love both the Beats with my whole being. That all I want for both of them in this world is to grow and thrive, reaching their full potentials and following their dreams. Part of that, though, means facing all of this head on. Monitoring the tantrums and helping them both to learn how to manage these strong emotions and interacting with others. Still, I wasn't prepared for the emotions I would experience with all of this. The continual feelings of failure and guilt. The anger that would arise from my own memories of childhood and how unworthy I felt. And how desperately I want to prevent history from repeating itself.
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