Friday, September 29, 2017

Navigating humans

For as long as I can remember, I've struggled with conflict. The idea of having disagreeable conversations usually makes me want to run for the hills, resulting in a shakiness that can easily be discerned. Over the years, I've gotten better about advocating for myself. Swallowing the fright in order to talk through things that are unavoidable. But I'm still awful at the hard stuff. And am particularly bad at fighting with people who refuse to meet me anywhere in the middle or see the pain they've caused.

Which makes this past week all the more interesting. Since the revelation earlier this week, I've been struggling with how to deal with the Beats' teachers. Though I have been communicating with the directors of the center, trying to put a plan in place for actions after the assessments, I haven't been able to even make eye-contact with the ones who filled out the assessments. A part of this is a preventative measure. I'm literally so angry that I'm worried about saying things that can never be taken back. Hence a cooling off period is required. But the root of all of this comes from trust being broken. Forgiving being lied to and betrayed.

As I've been wrestling with this, I've also been reflecting on relationships that ended or where a break was needed. In each, an obvious theme has emerged: empathetic or invested communication. The willingness to hear the other party as well as be heard. And it's that latter part that has had me thinking a lot; the need all of us have to be heard.

I'm no stranger to dealing with "hear me" arguments. Just last week, I had a very frustrated student meet with me as they didn't see the need to complete the assignments required for the course (nor for the requirement of this course in general), with it being clear they are feeling forced to spend their time on something they don't see as worthwhile. Other examples come with landlord disputes, arguments with friends and loved ones and even daily dealings at work or with family. In every case, there's a need to be heard, to give one a glimpse inside their heads or reasoning process.

There's value in being heard. It's a self-preserving act that can offer a lot of insight and if presented well can offer insights into a road forward. The conflict comes, though, when the "being heard" shifts from a balanced exchanged to being more one-sided. The reasons for the shift can range from wanting to appease/not rocking the boat to one party refusing to entertain opinions, experiences or insights that conflict with their own. It's this shift that leads to "us vs. them"/ black-and-white thinking fueling wide-ranging disputes, conflicts and even wars.

In 2012, the university I was working at invited Daryl Davis to speak on campus. Though I was unable to attend Mr. Davis's talk, I remember the outcry that arose around campus of seeing the lecture advertisement posters. Many were upset by the image of Mr. Davis shaking hands with a man wearing a KKK robe, demanding that the posters immediately be removed. The end result was that the posters were taken down, but it was only months later that the conversation was able to be resolved, with some of the students who originally demanding the removal having an "ah-ha" moment about what the imaginary was actually about and the power of the message behind it. As I overheard later in during conversations with colleagues, the intention of "being heard" had resulted in their failure to be open to actually hear.

So what the hell does any of this have to do with my current situation? Well, the root of it is once again in this dynamic. Specifically, as Grey pointed out, likely in an effort of the teachers to help us out. The reason for not communicating any worries or concerns likely comes down to not wanting to upset either Grey or me. But then there's the hurried response of filling out these assessments in order to make sure this process isn't being held up. The problem is, in this assumption of "hearing" us, a situation has been created that has resulted in a lot of heartache. Speaking with the other director yesterday, he acknowledged that though there are some of the things in the assessments are true, others are not and that things should have been done with a lot more care. But instead of pushing back on us, requesting for more time or asking for help, the push was to help us along.

All this leaves me trying to determine how to navigate this situation going forward. But also a general acknowledgement that navigating humans is insanely hard. Sometimes ending relationships has been required as there's no way to resolve the imbalance. But I don't think that's the case in this situation. There's still hope, even though the conversations to restore the balance are going to be painful.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

The next hurdle

I've lost track of the number of times I've started this post. Maybe its out of fear of what will come from revealing too much, that will somehow translates to those reading as a justification for infertility or that somehow I'm less deserving to parent. But given the closing of the ear tube chapter and my previous experience with falling outside the norm and how seeking help lead to a much happier outcome, silence no longer makes sense.

So here we go. Please bear with me.

In June, Grey and I sat down to a meeting with the director at the daycare the Beats current attend. We were 3 months into being a part of this new center, but already things were rocky both there as well as at home. Sitting across the table from the director, she told us she had concerns for both kids and suggested it would be beneficial to reach out to special education through the school district to request assessments.

Somehow, I managed to hold back the tears that were choking me, forcing myself to focus on the task at hand and getting the ball rolling on seeking help. But there was so much doubt that surfaced that day as I was told both of them were struggling. Thoughts like "maybe this was why you are infertile" and "you've failed them as a parent" whipped through my brain as I made those first phone calls.

And if I'm being honest, those thoughts still creep in.

After a couple of false starts due to the pending move and them being aged-out of one system, the official requests were put in and all the paperwork was scanned, copied, filled out and sent off. A phone call with the special education director left me feeling hopeful of a process that could work and plans were quickly made for school visits. As of last Monday, following their initial round of assessments and feedback that the Beats had done well, I was feeling hopeful. After all, both of them have also been maturing and we were getting use to the center. Maybe we were turning a corner?

Yesterday, that fallacy came crashing down. After being sent home with teacher assessments (which I don't believe they intended me to review), I found myself in full panic mode. As Grey reviewed the forms, remarking in disbelief what he was seeing, I fired off an email to the center director informing her of my concern and demanding an immediate meeting. I was so upset that I couldn't look at my email until the morning for fear of the response.

Needless to say, I didn't sleep much anyway.

Today has been a hard day. I've done more crying than I have in a long time. I want my kids to be okay and I want to give them the help they need in order to thrive in this world. I'm also acutely aware that no parent reacts well when they hear anything negative about their child(ren). Unpleasant news is probably the hardest thing any teacher will ever deliver.

But I also have been feeling betrayed. I feel I was lead to believe something (that everything was getting better and would be okay) only to have that all ripped away. The foundation I thought was being laid is actually filled with cracks. And I struggle because that foundation is meant for the Beats, resulting in me in a mode where I cannot even interact with their teachers as trust has been broken.

So we're at a point where we're rebuilding. An impromptu meeting with the other center's director helped set us down that road and I'm trying to put a plan into place for going forward. But damn it's all so hard and it makes me question myself and my role again and again. And it makes me particularly testy with anyone who decides now would be a good time to offer advice.

Tonight I'm facing this next hurdle, even though I really don't want to.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Washington Dreamin

It's been a warm few days. Almost as if summer hasn't gotten the memo that it's now officially autumn. But the plants know: the leaves are starting to turn on the trees and the grass is no longer growing in an uncontrollable manner. There's also the betrayal in the crispness of the mornings, signaling the pending transition.

As I watch the leaves fall from the tree in our yard, I have flashes back to autumns in Seattle. The colors present in the trees in late October with a backdrop of green. Memories of hikes on autumn mornings or late afternoon escapes into the mountains to get in a few climbing routes before winter set in.

Washington Dreamin for a chapter of my life that once was. Knowing that though we are building a life here, with a lot of good along the way, that I miss my home. And so with each falling leaf, I dream of what once was and silent say a prayer that one day soon we'll get to go back.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017


They woke up together. The nurse alerting us that He-Beat was awake first, but we could see that She-Beat was waking up as soon as we walked into the recovery room. Immediately Grey and I split up, each of us attending to a kid. Cuddling them as they emerged from the anesthesia, making sure they had access to pain meds and fluids.

This time was completely different from 2 years ago in every way. Instead of awaking crying, they were both quiet, seeming to trust the nurses and all that had happened. But given that the whole day had been different from the beginning, starting with us telling them about the surgery, them being very aware of the vitals that were being taken and, most importantly, going under anesthesia in a calm manner, cooperating with the anesthesiologist by playing breathing games instead of being forced by having the mask held to their faces. The calm beginning and the calm ending.

A fitting ending to a 4 year saga involving ears.

The saga began when the Beats were about 6 months old and caught their first colds. While most parents in the infant room where freaking out with stuffy noses, we found ourselves in the ER due to abnormally high fevers. "Ear infections" was the diagnosis and us being sent home with antibiotics. We were told it would clear up. It wasn't long before the ER visits became a regular thing.

As time went on, a new problem began to emerge with She-Beat not meeting milestones. While her brother was rolling over, crawling and walking, she was seemingly uninterested in doing anything other than sitting up. I remember expressing concern to her physicians and caregivers, all with the assurance that she just needed more tummy time. It wouldn't be long before she fell outside the normal range and we found ourselves in physical therapy. All the while on the back burner was the concern of continual ear infections.

Looking back, the connection is clear. The accumulation of fluid was giving She-Beat vertigo that no amount of tummy time would cure. But we didn't know that during that first ENT appointment at Seattle Children's. All we knew was there were too many ear infections, concern about continuous exposure to antibiotics, that hearing for both Beats was negatively impacted and that as an aside She-Beat had a gross-motor delay.

If I could go back to my younger, substantially stressed and frightened self, I would hug her. I would hug her so tight, wiping away those tears and allowing her to express all the fears and worries that she was holding close to her chest for fear of sounding petty or jealous of those that were not experience any milestone delays. And tell her that not only was it all going to be okay, but that something amazing was going to happen following a seemingly simple procedure. That these simple medical devices were about to change our lives for the better and that the journey we would be taking as a family was going to make all of us stronger.

It was just a matter of surviving the scariness that came with surgery. 7 surgeries total by the time we would be all done.

As I sat in the waiting room, waiting to be called back to the recovery area, I found myself scrolling through old photos from the day of their first surgery. My uncle and aunt had been kind enough to accompany me to the surgery center to help keep the Beats distracted before surgery and then be in the recovery room. There were a series of photos that made my heart skip beats, but there's one of He-Beat with Grandpa T that particularly stuck: A "before" photo that has forever been etched in my brain.

30 mins later, with them sitting side-by-side in a wheelchair to be wheeled out of recovery to the awaiting car, I would capture my "after" photo.

Before and after. And a story in between.

Monday, September 25, 2017

#MicroblogMondays: Round 3

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

Tomorrow the Beats have surgery to remove their ear tubes. It's been 2 years since their last set has been placed (and 2 years since She-Beat's cholesteotoma surgery) and as the tubes haven't fallen out (T-tubes rarely do), its time for them to be removed.

Despite this being routine, I'm nervous. Nervous for the anesthesia, nervous about them cutting into both my babies. Nervous about the risks involved and the what ifs. Sure, this isn't major surgery and it could be a lot worse (as someone who clearly has never gone through this kindly reminded me this morning). And this needs to be done. Plus we have a good surgeon doing these surgeries; something I spent close to 3 months navigate insurance in order to secure.

Still, what if something doesn't go as it should? What if this time something happens that's different? 

And why can't I just trade places with both of them, having the doctors cut into me instead? All for the same benefit to them, but any and all risks being on my body instead.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Just add vodka

My career is on a rollercoaster at the moment. There are many, many high moments, where everything is exciting and there seems to be so much potential. But then there are the lows. The emails that start out with "We're really interested, but . . ." Or the seemingly simple tasks that turn into mountains in almost a flash.

Yesterday was filled with those lows. After spending the morning nursing a migraine, what should have been a simple experiment proved far more complex. Hours later, with no clear answer in sight (I think the issue is the filters, but need to test), I got an email that basically killed with grant writing endeavors for a program I want to get off the ground. The cherry on top was running into someone who was an undergraduate while I was a graduate student. Turns out he has not only finished his PhD, but is now the founder of a start-up in the same facility the community lab is housed. Clearly I have been slacking for the past 6 years.
Evidence of complete failure
I know, I know: "when life gives you lemons, make lemonade" (thank you Dale Carnegie). And really, there's a lot of good that is still happening, even though I feel completely out of sorts with it all at the moment.

Still, sometimes (often times), I just want to add vodka. Anything to dull the pain that is in my head, blurring out the anxiety that comes from realizing that the clock ticking.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Through his eyes

He-Beat has discovered the camera on my phone. It always makes me laugh to find these crazy surprises later on, seeing how unfocused they all are.

Still, it's interesting to see the world through his eyes.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Making nice

On Sunday, the Beats met their uncle Lucas for the first time. This past year has been one where family has traveled either specifically to see them or has modified work obligations to squeeze in a visit. So far, it's mainly been my family, which has resulted in Grey covering me to met up with them and then making sure he's checked himself in order to not instigate a fight. This time it was my turn.

I'm still a bit raw from how everything went down during our time in the trenches. Even though there's been some back and forth, there's never been an actual sit-down to talk about it. Which had Grey very worried that the limited few hours he had seeing Lucas would revolve around that.

Instead, I played nice and made the focus about the Beats. It wasn't hard to do, given that just before Grey and Lucas got home from the airport He-Beat was coming out of time-out from throwing a shovel full of dirt into She-Beat's face.

And so the evening was spent with them meeting their uncle, learning about their cousins and then them hugging him good-bye he and Grey could spend the few remaining hours catching up.

All of it leaving me in a weird place yet again because though I managed to avoid so much unneeded drama, I did so in a manner that is foreign to me. I'm not one who makes nice unless I'm resigned that the other party in question won't be able to change. Which is completely new as each of these encounters we've had has been in an attempt to heal the relationships. To grow.

But maybe, like so many things, this is my new normal. Or it needs to be. Making nice, projecting kindness and learning to let things go.

Monday, September 18, 2017

#MicroblogMondays: Picking battles

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

It's an ongoing part of the morning routine. Following breakfast, the Beats race upstairs, strip out of their pajamas and select their outfits for the day. Sometimes if I've had a little bit of time, I'll lay out 3 options for each of them, hoping to reduce the bickering that always results. 

I know it's part of wanting control and being more independent. Frankly, I'm grateful even to have these battles, as it not only shows normal development but that we even are lucky enough to be battling over outfits.

In addition, their choices are resulting in harm. They are clean, their clothing is weather appropriate, it fits and is school appropriate. All the major points have been hit.

Still, how does one convince a 4 year old that her Moana nightgown cannot also double as a dress (seriously, I haven't been able to come up with a single reasonable answer)? Or that tutus every day may not be a great thing? Or that the yellow shirt has already been worn once this week?

Picking battles. Usually with me losing most of them.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Making friends with fertiles

One of the best perks Grey and I lucked into with our new home is the mini-community of families that exist across the street. Dubbed "Backyard United Nations," this group is made up of a handful of families from all over the world that have unfenced backyards that connect to one another. Within days of moving in, the Beats grabbed Grey's hand and insisted on going over to this community in order to check out all their toys introduce themselves and make new friends. And this group welcomed all of us immediately, adding me to an ongoing text chain so we be included in gatherings, impromptu play dates and to offer support.

Yesterday, despite a desperate need to get dinner prepared (and despite protesting howls from Jaxson and Daisy about needing dinner 30 mins ago), the Beats and I went over to the Backyard to check in with this group. As they raced off to play on the trampoline, I wandered up to one of the dads who has a confused/resigned look on his face while looking at his phone.

"How are you?" I asked.
"I don't know." He responded.

Looking up, he proceeded to tell me and two other women who joined us that his daughter was married today. Immediately we all turned to look at his 4 year old daughter who was happily climbing a tree.

"Really?" said one of the mothers.
"Were you invited?" I asked
"No," he responded. "In fact, I just found out about the wedding due to a video one of the teachers sent me."

Cue snickers from the group.

"Course, I should have known this was coming," he said. "I mean, she's had 2 separate boyfriends since the time she was 3 months old. And you know they're firmly committed to one another if they insist on using the bathroom together." 

Snickers turn to laughter.

"Wait?" I ask, "you said there were 2 boyfriends? Who did she marry?"
"That's the thing," he says while scratching his head. "She married the one that she didn't seem as interested in." 

Cue confused looks from the adults

"What was the deciding factor?" one of the other women asks.
"Apparently she married who could got to the church first."

One of the biggest downsides to being an introvert is establishing social connections. I flat out suck at making small talk and introducing myself in new situations. Infertility added a new level of social isolation given the pain that would come from questions like "do you have any kids?" to overhearing discussions about pregnancy and parenting.

But one of the things that comes with resolving is finding a way to integrate yourself back into society. It literally feels like coming out of a coma and all the sudden dealing with a world that has changed while you've been absent from it. Hence the coming up to speed with all things that I couldn't begin to focus on while in the trenches, but also integrating myself back into social settings that I actively avoided.

Initially in this process, I avoided anyone who was fertile. During my pregnancy this was extremely easy to do as it didn't take much for me to scare the crap out of most anyone around me simply by sharing my history. But then the Beats arrived and started daycare. And suddenly the friends they were making and the families we were bonding with came from all walks of life, including people who became easily pregnant (one family accidentally conceived their son the night before my transfer).

I'll be honest, it's been a weird struggle. On the one hand, there's this ginormous, life-altering trauma that Grey and I lived through that so many cannot begin to fully grasp (and my story had what is considered a happy-ending). I find myself editing how much a share at a time as there's been so many failed connections due to them being scared off. 

But on the other hand, there's a lot I do share with these families. From cultural interests to political views to values to insights about family. The friendships have formed and expanded due to elements of the core that are there. And often that can be enough to begin opening the door to those less than pleasant discussions and shared stories. 

About 3 weeks ago, my parents came to visit. My mom has really been trying, respecting boundaries and space better than Grey and I expected and we've been trying to reward that interaction. Still there are moments that are hard (I've come to expect that), usually leaving me in a reflective space that Grey and I have to talk through.

There were a couple of moments during this visit. The first was my mom sharing that my sister had suffered a miscarriage at 12 weeks during her third pregnancy. My mom has never experienced miscarriage and found my sister in a state as my sister had already been happily sharing the news she was pregnant and assumed everything would go well. Facing the reality of loss had hit both of them hard. It was during that story she asked me about my losses. When had they happened? How had I been effected? As I answered her questions, she was quick to remind me that because my losses were so early, they couldn't possibly have impacted me to the same level as my sister (um, no), but then also confessed that she had never experienced miscarriage so her only perspective was as an outsider (bingo).

The other moment was when she told me she had been sharing my infertility journey with others. That with infertility becoming more of an acceptable topic, she was finding so many of her friends had gone through similar experiences and pain and it shocked her how common infertility was. What got me was both this knowledge I was now one of those stories people used to cheer people on when they were in the trenches (I literally felt sick from that one) but also how flippantly my story was being shared. 

Explaining this to another mother who is also an infertility survivor lead to an interesting discussion. The shared knowledge of how difficult it is to share this part of our lives that had altered the way we both view the world with those that struggle to even begin to relate. But then she pointed out something I hadn't really considered.

"It sucks, because there's this comfort that comes with finding people who truly know this aspect and can easily relate to all that's happened. But the thing is, if we limit ourselves only to those people, aren't we doing everyone a disservice as we're not growing beyond? We're not given ourselves a chance to grow, our families a chance to move beyond, but also not giving others permission to fuck it up so that they can learn and grow too. If nothing else, I think it's worth putting myself out there and to have those discussions where we all come away feeling less than comfortable because learning happens in that discomfort. My scars have made me tough enough to do that."

So that's where I'm at. Reaching back as I promised long ago to everyone in the trenches as well as everyone who's on their path of resolution. But also finding I'm starting to reach forward. Allowed myself to be hurt a little bit as I form connections with those I use to shun in order to protect myself. Because even though it's scary, there's a lot of potential good that is there.

Thursday, September 14, 2017


It happened again. Another school shooting. The 31st one for 2017. All keeping up with the average of one per week.

This one was a bit closer to home. Grey's parents live in Eastern Washington and MIL works in the elementary schools. She's okay, though a bit rattled. But we know people in the region and there are childhood memories of the area for Grey.

All of this leaves me both sad and angry. 31 school shootings in 2017 alone. 31.

I don't care which side of the gun rights argument your on, there's something seriously wrong when it's become expected, yes expected, that one day a young kid is going to pull a gun on his/her classmates in a setting that is meant for learning and growth. There's something seriously wrong that these shooters even dreamed this was an option for dealing with all the fuckery that's going through their heads.

And there's something seriously wrong with our society that there's the assumption its just going to magically stop without doing some serious overhaul.

Guns are not going away. Anyone who believes that laws and regulations alone are going to "cure" society only needs to look at abstinence programs for sex education as a comparison about how that one is going to work out. The truth is we need to talk about guns. People need to learn about basic gun safety, types of guns, uses of guns and how guns are acquired. Parents need to start having that oh-so uncomfortable conversations with family/friends/children's friends about whether they keep guns in the house and if there are guns, how are they stored and secured.

We also need to start interjecting ourselves into other people's lives. We need to know the friends of our children and know what's happening with them. Both to be sources of support but also to celebrate with them for the good times. Community needs to be built, to the point of nosiness, because so many of these kids/families are struggling silently.

Finally, we need to have serious conversations about mental health. Posts about depression and anxiety are not a joke and shouldn't be ignored. Even if the person posting is normally happy and easy going.

Today, a mother and a sister are grieving the loss of their son/brother on the heels of grieving the death of their husband/father. A preventable tragedy. It's time we prevent more of these. We're overdue.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Rabbit holes

It's been a busy summer. So busy, that activities like hiking and visiting the beach have been put off. To make up for it, Grey and I have been scheduling time to get into the woods and wander, giving the Beats a chance to burn off a ton of energy stretch their legs and explore their surroundings.

Watching them run down the paths, toss rocks into streams and stop to explore the oddities that only nature can produce, I'm amazed at how much these two have grown. Gone is the baby fat, the need for being careful and protecting them at all costs. Replaced are two individuals who charge through life, asking many "whys" along the way and amaze us with their observations and insights into seemingly simple mysteries.

Next year, the Beats begin Kindergarten. They will be entering school the same time as local friends but also two of their cousins. A realization that not only blows my mind but also brings me back to my time in the trenches when we were fighting to expand our family. This idea/wish of even being in our current reality seemed so far away and so far fetched.

In many ways, life has changed. But at the same time, life hasn't changed. The activities Grey and I pursue, how we lead our lives and even what we value is still the same as it was many years ago. And if there has been change, that change has come from who we are and evolved for our core foundation. It's a weird thing to explain, especially to anyone who hasn't lived with infertility.

A few years ago, I saw a movie based on a played called Rabbit Hole. The play gives insight into one families world following the loss of this son. But what struck me most about was the scene where parallel universes are discussed. This idea that there are alternative lives given the outcome of certain events (traumatic or otherwise) is intriguing, but also very real. The manifestation of "what ifs" and thoughts about lives that could have been.

This realization of the Beats starting Kindergarten as the same time as their cousins has lead to another realization that they will be entering Kindergarten at the same time as their would-be siblings would have. If those previous IVFs hadn't ended the way they had, one of those parallel universes would have been our reality.

All of this has left me in a heady space, thinking about leading me to consider all those rabbit holes, leaving me to spend some time in the interspace between them. Themes have been emerging, seeing what would have been different, but most importantly what wouldn't have been. What would have remained the same regardless of the events that have shaped my life.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

One of those days

It started last night when my phone died. I knew it was nearing the end of its life as the battery would run out during the day and the phone wasn't functioning as it had before, but last night the black screen despite multiple rescue attempts signaled we had hit the end.

Then at 1:30 am, I woke to find Grey frantically searching for his glasses and then screaming threats at someone going through our recycling. Its amazing how bold this individual was, ignoring the threats until I raced downstairs and turned on the exterior lights.

Almost 4 hours later, the same guy returned with an older man who was donning head lamps. The fact that a woman would emerge from a house at the hour, wearing nothing but a night shirt, to yank away the bag of glass bottles that had collected while screaming threats, followed by then announcing to the vehicle license plate number to the entire neighborhood is likely to leave a lasting impression to all involved. On an aside, Grey still hasn't forgiven me and is amazed I wasn't stabbed.

This on top of learning the phone store doesn't open till 10 am, a repair guy wanting access to our unit at some undefined time (because he can just text me), having to unexpected drive to (and park on) campus in order to deal with phone repairs and in order to make the two meetings I have today. And trying not to pee my pants after an older woman in line in front of me managed to lock herself and the bathroom door key in the bathroom at the coffee shop.

Feel free to laugh at me.

The theme of "those days" has been more frequent recently. Petty annoyances that if not dealt with usually snowball into something more crisis like. It's a challenge to not let stuff like this ruin a day, setting me in a grumpy mood that is hard to counter.

About 3 weeks ago, Cyrol resurfaced with an email congratulating Grey and me on the sale of our condo and taking credit for the sale. His rational was him suing the association, specifically naming me in the small claims court claim, was meant to benefit us as it forced us to pull our unit off the market (btw: not the reason) and landed us with a much better offer for our unit. Hence we should be thanking him. And, oh by the way, how are the Beats?  As I sat on the train, reading that email in complete disbelief at how he had sewed together this rational, I found myself realizing that most people haven't been through the amount of shit that Grey and I have been. Hence the jumpiness and hot responses that freaked out the recycling thieves this morning. Why its a struggle to return to the calm.

Here's hoping the day gets better. Because as of 9 am, its already been fun.

Monday, September 11, 2017

#MicroblogMondays: Reaping what is sown

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

On Sunday, Grey decided we were overdue for doing some peach picking. So after confirming that there were still peaches to be had, we loaded everyone in the car and made our way out to a local orchard.

The Beats are at an age where picking fruit off a tree or a bush is both highly entertaining for them but also productive for us as they now are able to follow directions and help with selecting quality fruit. As they filled their bags, I found myself able to have a quiet moment, watching them and seeing how they not only interacted with the trees, but also those around them. There was kindness and care in those interactions, regardless whether it was plant, animal or even mineral. 

Life is an echo. What you send out, comes back. What you sow, you reap. What you give, you get. What you see in others, exists in you."


Friday, September 8, 2017

14 years young

I dawned on me the other day that Jaxson and Daisy are both 14 years old. They've been together as long as Grey and I have been married (Daisy was adopted 2 days after we returned from our honeymoon). Its so hard to believe they are this old. And that there was a period in my life where they weren't there.

This reality of their age is hitting me as they are starting to show signs they of it. Though still highly skilled at doing all things cat, there's also the moments where they loose their balance, or miss sticking a landing. The other day, while deep in sleep, Daisy fell out of her bed (a first for her). They both move a bit more stiffly and slowly. Nothing serious enough to suggest pain or problems, but still a reminder of where they're at.

It makes me sad to think of the day that comes when Jaxson and Daisy are no longer on this earth. They are part of our family, but its deeper than that as both of them were sources of comfort and support when so many were unable/unwilling to be during those dark moments as well as the joyous ones too. Those memories associated with the smell of their bodies, the feeling of their fur, the calming purrs during the tears and even the howls in those early morning hours.

I know there's nothing I can do to stop the inevitable. Frankly, I don't want to as it would reduce the specialness of this period we have. But I'm left today feeling so grateful for the past 14 years and hoping for so many more.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Worth nothing

Back in May, Grey and I made the decision to once again list our condo in Seattle for sale. Given that the first time had ended so poorly due to a borderline unethical move by our then management company with the resale certificate language (written to maximize profits for them and their partners on a pending massive maintenance project for the building while potentially bankrupting the association), we where feeling pretty hopeless about being able to sell. Still, our rental manager encouraged us to try, promoting a strategy of complete transparency to any perspective buyer prior to accepting any offers.

So we gave the go ahead with listing and held our breath. Two days later, right before the planned open house, we had an unexpectedly good offer. And though we spent the next month holding our breath, waiting for all of it to fall apart, closing was actually painless and we finalized the sale two days earlier than expected.

The evening the money from the sale was wired to us, Grey and I sat down with a bottle of whiskey and our laptops. Within 30 minutes, we both sat back and looked at one another in disbelief. After years of sliding deep into debt, first with the condo, then infertility and paying for treatments (and mental/emotion health support due to that trauma) out of pocket and finally shouldering more debt due to parenting twins, we found ourselves in a place we hadn't planned for for at least another 3-5 years.

We had paid off all our debts. We were worth nothing.

The past couple of months have been a bit surreal given this new reality. Though initially it may seem like nothing has changed, daily decisions have. Instead of stressing about moving debt around and making sure all bills are paid on time, we now only have a handful to be mindful of. Canceling credit cards has been a fun experience, with customer care seemingly baffled that I no longer want to keep open accounts that don't serve a purpose (to me at least). The idea that we can actually have a saving account, can focus on building retirement, put together college savings accounts for the Beats and (most shocking) actually be saving to purchase a house is still something I struggle to grasp. But most striking is the lightness I feel. That I know Grey feels. One truly never understands the burden they carry until suddenly the weight and pain are gone.

It's odd to be in this place of privilege. It's something I'm increasingly mindful of, not only given all we've been through but also knowing full well that the majority of this people in this country (and the world) are in a similar boat. We live in a world where resources are far from evenly distributed, with so many having to chose between essential needs like food, housing, medical care and even clothing, while far fewer flaunt their excess. And yet, we aren't allowed to really have conversations about this. Just beginning them usually results in people adamantly how actually they are the exceptions, actively fighting this notion that somehow they may actually be part of an elite and privileged-class. Or that the 2016 election was actually fueled by this as so many who are struggling just to make ends meet have felt unheard and forgotten by this country's leadership. How though many claim they are integrating, the truth is there's still this separation due to branding and gentrification.

The question that Grey and I now face is how to balance this. The reality is, though we were privileged to be able to find a way to pay for fertility treatments and childcare, we shouldn't have had to. I'm acutely aware that there are so many that would not have been able to do what we did, even though doing so was a great sacrifice. Additional, there are many who are finding their ways of life eroding. One could argue that they are solely responsible due to lack of education or unwillingness to undergo job retraining, but when teachers, first responders and many workers who power our cities and daily lives can no longer live in the communities they support, we've got a big problem. So how to do we counter the "separate" mentality that has been growing? How can we promote what we want to see without sacrificing ourselves in the process?

Honestly, it's something I'm really struggling with. I don't want to become that person who stands in front of someone, telling them I understand when what I'm actually doing is silencing them and their reality. My goal is to build with people, create a community where we are supporting one another and fostering a future where we all can see ourselves in. But I also know I no longer can do so with sacrificing myself and my family entirely in the process. This week has been a reminder of that, with meetings involving some amazing community leaders and builders. To see them model this way of life and what they are growing. But there's also been the reminders with the interactions with our new neighbors. The community spirit and support they have been fostering and how they've welcomed Grey, the Beats and I into it as if the most natural thing in the world. But doing so with the clear understanding that a lot of this building together requires finding like minded people. This screening that happens out of necessity to find those who will support the efforts to build and grow with while severing the ties with those who clearly aren't.

Because the reality is, there's a lot to be said about being in this place where we're worth nothing. To finally be able to refocus and rebuild. Its something that I hope so many more are able to find themselves in soon. A privilege that shouldn't be limited only to select few.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Learning through play

I don't even know how to start this post. I've been told that for moments like this, the end is best and to work backwards from there. So here's my feeble attempt at telling you about an ending and how I'm suddenly mapping out a new beginning.

It all started at the end of June. I was a couple of weeks into teaching an intense summer school course, finding myself exhausted with learning new material, writing lectures and problem sets all while dealing with a coworker who had decided long ago that I was subpar (and was hence making life very difficult). In a moment where I felt I had gotten my nose above the water, I decided to check the status on the course I was slotted to teach in the fall. And I found I couldn't access the website.

Thinking this was odd, I reached out to a friend for coffee with the hopes of gleaning some information. One coffee date turned into a scramble for more information, snowballing into a situation where I didn't know what was happening or what to believe. By the end of the week, I learned my contract wasn't being renewed. Without any warning or feedback that there was a problem, this news rocked me. For the first time ever, I was told I was being let go and I'd be lying if I didn't confess there's been quite a bit of anger.

The truth is, though, I haven't been happy in this position. Though things seemed like they would go well, there's been a number of things that have left me questioning my decision to leave my postdoc early. But the assumption I was operating under was that it was just a matter of getting through the first run of the course and then working with the team to address and revamp the course for a better second round. A week after the news though, I came to my own conclusion that I was done. On the heels of this news, I had a hellish weekend that ended with me on campus till also 11 pm on a Saturday night (and some interesting car ride home due to the number of drunk drivers on the road) as my co-instructor had decided the first exam averages were too low, so we should regrade all the exams immediately so they could be returned at the promised time. This on the heels of having 5 months of conflicts with her over anything one could think of. And in that moment, where it became apparent that I was working way too hard at something I wasn't enjoying (and with people I really didn't like) and that it was time for a change.

And so began a month long reflection on what the hell I wanted to do with my life. I've gone the extreme, looking at leaving science altogether and abandoning all I've done for the past 6 years. It's tempting just to call it all a wash. But in my quieter moments I've found that maybe the answer doesn't involve an extreme change, but instead just a small shift. What if instead of abandoning everything, I just abandoned what was making me extremely unhappy? And what would that look like?

Years ago, while working at the Beat's daycare, I was helping one of the lead teachers set up an activity. I can't remember what exactly the goal was, but her emphasis was simple: children learn through play. Over the short period I worked with those teachers, I found examples of this time and again, be the lesson have more formalized goals or not. Success always came through play, be it messy, nonsensical or very simple.

The thing is, learning through play isn't limited to children but is actually a universal truth to all humans. Be it video games, chose your adventure, art projects or lab experiences: we all learn best through the process of touching, exploring, breaking and doing something ultimately we deem as fun. There's also a selfish element here as I'm at my best when I'm enjoying what I'm doing and feel like my work is valued. In short, I teach best when I'm engaged in the play too.

So for the rest of the summer course, I tried incorporating play back into my teaching. During those 3 hour lectures twice a week, I played trivia with my students as they learned about the circulatory system (did you know that Count Dracula is believed to have had a condition called Porphyria?), respiration (did you know some reptiles can have such low metabolic rates that they literally go for extended periods without breathing) and sexual reproduction (apparently I'm highly skilled with teaching about sex without causing most people in the room to revert back to their 12 year old self-conscious selves) and made a point of being present during lab section (which was seriously cool). And though I was limited with what I could for assessments (as an aside, 2-3 hour exams should be banned), I tried to make myself as available to my students as they struggled with mastering the material.

But I also decided to try something different. The day I received the news about my termination, I reached out to some contacts who were leading novels ventures, hoping for new opportunities. And one emerged. Though at an inopportune time, I suddenly found myself in a new world that I had long been searching for. I met people who were driven to bring science to the community, to give K-12 teachers training in content in order to enhance their classrooms and to do teaching were the focus wasn't on the final grade, but what the students were learning from the experience.

Damn, it's been fun.

So combined with me declaring that I never, EVER, wanted to assign another grade in my life, the simple shift in incorporating play into my teaching has laid the framework for making one of the scariest and most experimental leaps I've made in a long time. At the beginning of the month, with Grey's and E's blessing and support (and from BnB, who's been insanely awesome), I signed a contract to begin a journey as a teaching fellow with a brand new community lab.

Could this all explode in my face? Absolutely! Grey and I both know that here's a very real chance that all of this could end with me back in the unemployment line and rapidly job searching all over again. Is there any job security in the path. Currently, a big fat NO. And what exactly this does position looks like? Well, that's currently defined with each day I'm at the learning lab with the executive director. Hence a lot of uncertainty.

But here's the thing: my goal with transitioning away from being a bench scientist was to go on to be a science educator. And if I'm being really honest, I haven't been doing that for the past 7 months. Over the past 3 weeks, though, I've begun doing what I've always wanted to do. Daily, I meet new and fascinating people who have also made this leap and are blazing the trail for making science accessible to the general public in a manner that actually works. The other element is I'm tried of playing it "safe" as usually what others consider good career moves have actually been fairly shitty for both Grey and me. The advice is outdated at best and we're both tried of following it as its only lead to misery.

I honestly wish I had a roadmap for all that laid ahead and how it would turn out. It would make things easier just to know what to expect. But Grey reminded me the other day that infertility survivors are well equipped for navigating the uncertainty and pitfalls. We know how to pick ourselves up in situations that would crush the average human being. And maybe that's the biggest part of this whole situation: that instead of scrambling for the answer out of this situation I'm finally able to see those roads that aren't as traveled that could end in ways that are better than ever expected.

Wish me luck.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

A new set of firsts

Today, Grey and I packed up the Beats and drove as a family to their school. Off-loading everyone from the car, we all collected of separate backpacks and made our way into their school. After unpacking their backpacks, unloading nap rolls and newly-labeled fall clothing and exchanging kisses, Grey and I made our way to the bus stop and rode together into the city.

First day of pre-kindergarten. A transitional year out of daycare and prep for Kindergarten. Where has the time gone?

First day of a new commute for me. Though there are 2-3 days a week where we separate when I have to go onto campus, I'm now also battling for a space on the train.

First week on a new position. The story about that one has been epic, scary and strange.

All of these are new firsts. New chapters to the ongoing adventure. All of it bringing moments of excitement, dread, calm, confusion, pining for the past and hope for the future.

More to come soon, I promise

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