Monday, January 29, 2018

#MicroblogMondays: A new way to juggle

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

I have been invited for an interview. Last Thursday, I had a phone interview with a new company that is looking for a synthetic/plant biologist. Normally I've looked beyond researcher positions, but the work this group is doing sounds insanely cool and curiosity got the better of me so I applied. Three days later, I heard from the CTO asking to schedule a phone interview. Apparently the 30 min phone conversation went well because instead of contacting me later this week as originally planned, I got an email yesterday (Sunday) asking for me to fly out as soon as possible.

This is where things get tricky. This whole week I'm running a workshop for 25 visiting Chinese scholars for this science education program I've been working for. The mere suggestion that I wouldn't be around for one day threw my director into an utter panic because there is literally NO ONE else that can take over (which is insanely scary because now it's begging destiny to find some way to fuck all of that up). So this week is out.

The added pickle is that Grey flies out to the West Coast to begin his new position a week from Tuesday. Meaning Monday is really the only day I can interview, assuming everything works out perfectly with flights arriving on time and no delays what so ever.

Which everyone knows is the perfect recipe for disaster.

So the game plan right now is the Beats are likely going to be coming with me to the West Coast. Grey and I are trying to determine if that will be Seattle or down to California. I'm lending towards Seattle if the interview is next Monday as that will give the Beats time to settle and doesn't mean crazy rearrangement of travel for Grey, but it all depends on when the interview will be. From there, I will either fly to California or be leaving both Beats in the care of Moon (hopefully with Grey there). 

All this on top of teaching this brand new course your's truly has designed and figuring out how to care for Jaxson and Daisy as literally no one local has stepped forward to help us out.

Wish me luck with figuring out this new form of pretzel juggling. 

Thursday, January 25, 2018

The art of divorcing

This morning, Grey sent termination letters for our lease to our landlord. Both of us have spent hours reviewing the language on our lease in combination with Massachusetts laws about uninhabitable living conditions and talking with a lawyer in order to make sure that when we do this, we know what our recourse is when our landlord freaks out.

In addition, Grey has spent this week giving notice at his current employer. Not surprising, everyone except for the problematic supervisor has wished him well and been open to working with him as he prepares to leave. All of it a delicate process though, particularly as the problematic manager is angry that he would dare to leave.

All of this has had me thinking more and more about relationships and how we end them. Whether personal or professional, bonds are formed when people decide to become part of a group and it's literally impossible to exclude emotions in the process. Which means that no matter what the relationship, the severing of ties will result in feelings of loss. In the best of circumstances and situations this usually means there's some sadness, but where the drama comes is when one party either feels wronged or there's some level of toxicity.

This is an area I fail at. For years Cyrol stalked me, intensifying his attacks even when you ignored him. I've had others who have attacked over and over again despite my unwillingness to engage, wanting to pin all the wrongs in a failed relationship solely on me. What I've learned in some fairly painful ways is that despite what I was taught and told, firm boundaries often need to be put into place backed with consequences for testing them. With Cyrol, it took standing our ground and countersuing him. Even then he wouldn't stop, insisting on emailing. Further protections have since been put into place, but it's only when he's been harmed  by his actions (financially and socially) that he's redirected. We haven't had to be this extreme with others situations, but having a lawyer on standby and already contacting the Board of Health are components we have currently have in our back pockets. And with the problematic supervisor it's been keeping documentation and alerting HR.

The end goal of all of this is simple: we want all involved to simply let us terminate the contracts and allow us to move on. Neither Grey or I want to fight. And yet, there's an art to divorcing and making sure that the temptations to retaliate are quickly eliminated.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Wooing cats

It's an innocent enough scene: Daisy walks through the doorway, giving a distinct meow that sounds mixed with a purr indicating that she's looking for attention. Laying on a pad on the floor of the Beats' bedroom, I give her a quick scratching knowing that she now has 2 other sets of eyes glued on her movements.

"Daisy! Please come here!" exclaims one child while another has shoved hand from out under a blanket in an attempt to attract her attention.

True to cat form, Daisy begins a typical dance of maneuvering just out of reach while exploring their beds and deciding whether allowing them to pet her is a justifiable reward.

Since the Beats came home, Grey and I have been juggling the relationship between the felines and the small humans. From tail pulling with instructions about gentle touches to the ongoing fight over claimed sleeping space, the relationship has been continuously evolving. Within the last year, though, both Beats have taken a particular interest in both cats. Whereas before momentary interactions where fine, my mornings are now spent making sure both felines have clear escape routes and reminding both children that the kitties need to be respected at all times. The contrast in their natures makes it difficult for them to understand one another, finding common ground for forging a relationship.

Or at least that was what I had been telling myself up to this morning.

At 6 am, following both Beats waking up and leading a very sleepy Cristy downstairs, I found a scene in the kitchen that immediately made me freeze: an open refrigerator and 4 organisms that were not human adults exploring. It didn't take HeBeat long to find the aliquot of cat food, with him getting it onto the counter ready to distribute, but the look on both cats faces clearly revealed that this recent development was one to their liking. Head butts and paw taps quickly conveyed the message to these two preschoolers, particularly when both Beats proceeded to demonstrate that they could overcome the child-safety locks on the cabinet doors too.

In short, Grey and Cristy are officially screwed as a new alliance is officially brewing. And though I realize they all certainly have a long way to go with the wooing process, the fact something has finally started to click both elates and terrifies me.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Undoing it wrong

I hate job hunting. The sifting through ads, locating positions, tailoring of cover letters and resumes. The hours upon hours spent putting together an application knowing that it will be submitted to the black-hole that is HR where likely it will end up in the "no" pile. All of it is depressing.

And yet, it's necessary. The option of not working is not there for me given that 1) we need the money and 2) a gap in employment is frowned on in my field.

The thing is, I know I'm doing this all wrong. That I'm not utilizing my network as much as I should be. That all of that comes down to a sense of not wanting to bug others or make them feel like I'm using them to get ahead. There's also the pride of wanting to stand on my own two feet.

Despite this, I know very well that jobs come from having connections and an in. Someone who knows someone else that can make something happen.

It's funny how often this works in life. After being raised to value standing on one's own feet and pulling your own weight, I've seen countless examples how false this thinking is. Those that ask for help tend to be more successful with finding both opportunities and solutions. It's certainly been the case with infertility and yet there's a voice in the back of my head that is beating me up for engaging. A judgement about how I'm bothering others into doing something I should be able to do on my own.

Today, I'm owning this and attempting to undo all I've been doing wrong. I'm attempting to ignore those voices that scream at me as I send some of those first emails. In addition, Grey and I will be sitting down where I'll be getting a crash course on connecting with recruiters. Praying the whole way I'm not offending anyone and that they'll answer me.

It's time and I know it. I just wish there was a way to undo all the negative chatter that's going on in my head.

Monday, January 22, 2018

#MicroblogMondays: scary excitement

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

On Sunday, following a failed attempt at nap-time, I found Grey on the couch in tears. While resting and connecting with friends back West, he allowed himself to reflect on all that has happened and what is coming resulting in a release of emotions. Through tears, he hugged me and whispered "I don't have to die here." 

One of many statements that sums up all the emotions from the past few years.

There is so much good on the horizon. The Beats are very excited about moving, wanting to see this new land with mountains and ocean. In addition there are many on the other end who are already stepping up in major ways to help us, offering advice on where to find rentals and making plans to help us land.

But with the excitement comes the sadness and anger. I do not have work lined up nor do we have any idea of how to transition the Beats (continue Preschool vs. me homeschooling them? How to jive this with finding work and making sure that we don't end up in another bad situation). I'm already so sad and worried as we're giving notice to their schools today (I'm really going to miss these teachers) and we've also have the unpleasant business of informing our landlord we're terminating the lease (lawyer and Board of Health are already lined up to make it clear she has much to lose if she decides to fight that). 

So we're trying to ride the scary excitement; our own happy/sad. 

Thursday, January 18, 2018

The best laid plans . . . .

Last night, following Grey's news, I began emailing colleagues to set up meetings. Though some had been alerting about me potentially leaving, plans had been made with the idea of proceeding like nothing was changing. Though Grey hasn't signed a contract yet, we're proceeding with good faith on this offer.

Which means I have to figure out how to structure a transition without leaving anyone but myself hanging.

For one program, this has already been worked out for me. My replacement was hired last week and it's just a matter of scheduling meetings to begin handing off materials.

But the course I'm teaching is far more complex. Given the weird way the institution does enrollment (only after the first week of class) I currently have zero clue how many students I'll actually be overseeing. In addition, as it's a research course, the structure is much less defined. The final wrinkle is a got pretty ambitious and have designed a project that will incorporate engineering with genetics where the students how to do Next-Generation sequencing. Right now I'm floating collaborations between the Physics department, BioInformatics and the Genome Center. Far from plug and play.

E and I met this morning to strategize how best to move forward. On one hand, I have identified someone who would be an ideal replacement, with us potentially splitting the responsibilities and me guiding her through this craziness I've designed. The problem with this is that I would lose health insurance and other benefits in addition to pay. The other option is to have her waiting in the wings, taking over my appointment, but I have zero clue if anyone will go for that.

The added wrinkle is after a year of development, I'm fairly invested in this project. My goal was to put together grant applications over the summer using the data the students generated. Handing this completely off to someone else is something I'd like to avoid doing.

Still, the priority is moving and focusing on transitioning. My current set up is far from sustainable and was always meant to be temporary. So today I'm modifying plans, figuring out a way to allow things to continue without me steering those ships. Despite how much I was wishing I had more control.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Drumroll, please

They made Grey a good offer. He still needs to work out the details with the recruiter, but it's clear this company wants to make this happen.

West Coast here we come.

Hiding out

It's snowing today. A wet fluffy snow that muffles sound and forces everyone to slow down. The Beats awoke shrieking with utter excitement about the white blankets on the lawn, happily opening the front doors to show two less than enthused cats.

But snow is also a symbol of transition for Grey and me. Snow usually brings with it big changes and events.

Which is fitting as today we're expected an answer about the job Grey interviewed for on the West Coast.

The past few days have been ones filled with anxiety. Grey's interview on Friday apparently went very well with a lot of good feedback. He had an opportunity to check out the town he would be working in, that was very bikeable, had access to transit and, most importantly, lots of rental options that didn't exclude pets (which has been a massive problem in Boston unless one is willing to get into the $3000 per month rental category). Grey returned on Saturday carrying with him West Coast glow. Though we know there will be challenges and other less desirable factors to deal with, it's been the most optimistic I've seen him in almost 3 years.

On Monday, the glow disappeared due to an email from one of the project supervisors he's working with. And with that email all the conflicts and frustrations came back, leaving us both feeling fairly insecure. The day ended with a shot of hope, though, with an email from one of the people he had interviewed with telling him the visit went very well and he should be hearing news soon.

The problem with emotional roller coasters like this is I find myself wanting to hide out. Sharing with people seems so premature and foolhardy. Yes, there's reason to hope about the news today and I'm fairly certain this company is going to make him an offer, but I'm also seasoned enough to know that the offer could be low or have some undesirable strings attached. Nothing is certain.

So instead of obsessing about the "what ifs," I've locked myself in the library for the day, working on ordering supplies, drafting a presentation for my class and working on next steps.

All the while knowing that in less than 7 hours we will have an answer and more information.

Thursday, January 11, 2018


At 4:30 am EST, Grey and I loaded two very sleepy children into the car and made our way to the airport. The plan to use Uber fell through when we learned of an hour wait and after some crazy airport shuttle experiences we decided not to gamble with contact other services.

It's been over 2 1/2 years since the Beats and I have been to Logan Airport, but so many memories from that first night came back as we made our way to the terminal to drop Grey off. Both kids alert to all the lights, sounds and movement.

It's hard straddling the worlds between hope and frustration. Yesterday's fight to restore heat to our rental was draining on all of us, so the prospect of returning to that airport with one-way tickets is very appealing. Yet the future is still uncertain and there's potential that none of this will pan out.

Curling up with the Beats on the couch this morning following dropping off Grey, I could feel the unpacking of all the emotions begin. The strain of limbo starting to release as we all are finding our way to move beyond the uncertainty. Whether it be in a damned slower morning consisting of pancakes and a promise of trip to the library for some additional playtime or me forcing myself to complete the assembly of Kindergarten registration packets or putting together a reward system for forcing myself to apply for jobs, both here as well as on the West Coast. Movement forward is the key.

And that can only come with allowing for the unpacking of the emotional side of this process. Allowing for the hope while also acknowledging the fear.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Heat drama, round 4

This morning I awoke to a cold house and realization that we, once again, didn't have any heat. The furnace seems to be trying to work, but (true to fashion) our landlord didn't bother to inspect the rest of the system.

The resulting text from her was one where she hinted that this was our fault, at which point I curtly responded telling her it was going to be fixed today.

I'm so angry at the moment. We get blamed for her being a crappy landlord and knowing that the threat of a lawsuit and having the building condemned by the Health Department is the only thing motivating her to do the right thing. All this while she cries about having inherited 3 separate properties following the sudden death of her mother.

I'm learning the art of putting on a sad face, saying "oh that's awful" and then interrupting with legal issues and reminding them they have an out ("have you considered selling?" is my new phrase). Of not allowing people to snowball me over their bullshit. Because life is full of trauma and unfair events, but I'm tired of shouldering other people's crap.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

When family fails

The day of my grandfather's funeral is one I've been replaying in my mind the past few days. A cold, snowy Minnesota day in the middle of March 2011 that brought all my mom's family together in a church to remember the old man. I had expected to be the center of the gossip given my recent confession to my parents that I had been diagnosed with infertility combined with my sister's pregnancy announcement. Instead, it was the arrival of my estranged aunt, the eldest of my mom's siblings who had been out of the picture for over 20 years, that stole the show.

The moment I've been replaying is after the funeral at my grandparent's house, where all the siblings were sitting at the table. My estranged aunt center-stage, clearly pissed off with everyone around her, my mom's younger sister fawning over the estranged aunt trying to win her approval. My mom and her youngest brother glaring hatefully at my estranged aunt, firing off bitter jabs and retorts. My mom's other brother sitting quietly at the table, visibly spooked by all that was happening. And my grandmother acting clueless to all the hostility. 

It would be later that night, after my estranged aunt had been driven to the airport, that my mom and her brother would replay it all for my grandmother, wondering aloud why my estranged aunt was behaving the way she was and getting increasingly angry over how she had negative interactions with everyone in the house. Everyone except for me.

And it would be moments later that I would silence them all when I answered simply, "She's hurting. Didn't you see the pain?"

The comments from my post last week has had me thinking more about this event and the history I've had with family. This has been mixed in personal conversations, Katherine's post about family drama and on a post by MamaJo23 I've been ruminating over about bitterness. The final icing on the cake was reading about family dynamics in Perfect Little World by Kevin Wilson. All of it resulting in a jumbled as each part has brought strong emotions to the surface that make processing things extremely difficult (and advanced apologies for how all of this is coming together), but a theme has been slowly emerging as I've been unpacking all of this which is the power of family dynamics, particularly when those dynamics are less than healthy. Of not only what is considered okay and not okay behavior, but who it is okay to support.

Family is a tricky institution. We define it as a social unit where the connection is based on shared genetics and/or fulfillment of prescribed roles involving parent/child. In the best of circumstances the people involved like one another most of the time and have found a shared bond. But what is often silenced is when the there really isn't a connection or when dynamics have been put into play that leaves some ostracized from the group. 

For as long as I can remember, I've been considered the black sheep of my family. From a young age, my mom was quick to point out how much I reminded her of my estranged aunt from everything from my mannerisms to attractions and even career aspirations. Warnings of becoming like her set the stage for a deep-seated fear of never truly being able to do anything right and being terrified of failing in their eyes and the degree this has impacted me is something I'm still discovering daily. But the most shocking discovery was finding that these warnings of being disowned were not universally held for others in my family; that the shame and admonishment I was warned I would face never fell on my sister or my cousins, instead me being pushed to offer unquestioning support and love during situations I knew would have resulted in me being banished from the family.

It was during a session with David that I learned about that dysfunctional family dynamics are generational, radiating out past the members that were still alive and involving deep hurts that were deeply rooted. That my existence as a black sheep was actually not due to who I was but is instead a symptom of something much bigger than me.

The situation with Moon and me is somewhat similar to this, with there being trauma and loss on her end that has required certain actions and outlooks in order for her to survive. That though all of it has seemed unnecessarily cruel and painful for me, in her eyes doing the opposite would have brought her pain.

To date, my mom's family still is estranged from my aunt with all of them becoming borderline violent when questioned about why they won't engage her and forgive. Granted my estranged aunt has her demons, but getting to the root of the issue that both my grandparents had a role in this pain is something none of them have been willing to address.

And it's this root of family failure that has me the most sad. That it doesn't have to be this way, but habits, insecurities and deep fear dictate for it to be.


Today is interview #1 for Grey at a local company. Tomorrow is about him packing and reorganizing his presentation, preparing for interview #2 on Friday.

In the middle of all of this has been me preparing for the beginning of the semester, figuring out appointments and planning and trying to will myself to apply for jobs when I have zero clue what lies ahead (or where we will be located). All while avoiding questions about what my future plans on.

Because of this, I've been finding myself pulling away from others. On Saturday we missed a neighborhood party, our second one, opting instead to have a family movie night. All with me finding it hard to express why we are doing this; revealing to others all the turmoil that is in my head seems too risky.

The problem is, I know Grey and I need support right now. With so much uncertainty, having some form of support and encouragement would ease some of the stress. But I'm also use to people becoming very uncomfortable when we share all that is happening. The well-meaning warnings of our plans brings it's own anxiety and I'm unwilling to fight with others over the decisions we feel need to be made.

Still, I need to figure out a way to thaw; to let others in if for no other reason than to let them know we do care, but life is filled with uncertainty at the moment. That they don't need to fix anything or somehow offer a light at the end of the tunnel. Because right now the loneliness of navigating this road is an added weight. Something I wish i could relieve.

Monday, January 8, 2018

#MicroblogMondays: Post Bombogenesis

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

We survived the "Bomb Cyclone" that hit Boston, with the only signs of injury being sore muscles from shoveling. 

Four disorienting days later, this city is starting to get back to normal. Grey's interview was postponed to this week, making for him having back-to-back in person interviews. Add in a seeming sleepiness from everyone around me, and it's clearly going to be interesting.

More thoughts soon. But for now, I have sledding hills in my yard. 

Tuesday, January 2, 2018


The conversation started innocently enough. Grey was preparing dinner and I was sneaking a moment away from the Beats as they were playing. As he was cutting vegetables, he was imagining a positive outcome to his interview on Friday. Of getting an offer and being able to move back to the West Coast. As Grey vocalized his daydream, he had a moment where he started talking about the benefit of being close to family. That we would be only an hour away from his brother Lucas and his family and wouldn't it be so nice to be able to have the Beats meet their cousins?

Then, pausing briefly, he ventured into territory I know has been on his mind.

"You know, I think you and Moon would get along. You both have a lot in common. . . ."

Daring to look up at me, Grey immediately got his answer to his probing with the look on my face. Which then devolved in a 5 minute fight before we both decided it wasn't worth fighting about and me leaving the room.

The comment has stayed with me, though. Mainly because over the past 5 years, I know this one thought has been on Grey's and his family's brain.

Brief backstory for everyone who doesn't know the history: Grey's younger brother Lucas (who's my age) and his wife Moon (who's a year older than Grey) started dating around the same time Grey and I did. Grey and Lucas have always been close, so there's always been a weird vibe with hitting milestones. Grey and I were married almost a year after we first met (yes, I know. We're one of those) while Lucas and Moon went through an extended courtship involving a break-up and relocation. In 2008, they decided to marry, which was met with joy. And then we learned that Moon was pregnant, having gone off birth control without telling Lucas. Cue shock. Cue more shock when it was announced they were having twins. And cue me realizing my biological clock was ticking.

It was during our visit to them in 2009 to help out with their newborn twins that Grey and I came to the agreement it was time to try to expand our family. Honestly, that trip was a bonding one for all four of us as Grey and I spent 10 days pulling them out of a complete shitstorm that was not being ready for twin parenting. I remember leaving for the airport that last day and wondering if there was a way we could somehow all live together, supporting one another as I assumed pregnancy would be just around the corner.

Over the next 2 years, that would be destroyed. As we closed out 2010 without a single BFP, I found myself being resentful when Grey's family announced travel plans that excluded us so they could see the grandkids. As we began treatments, the focus was on Lucas, Moon and how much they were struggling to parent twins. As much as I reasoned it wasn't their fault, it was hard to feel so alone during our journey.

Then Lucas and Moon dropped a bomb and announced they were expecting a month after my second miscarriage. The baby having a due date similar to the one for babies I lost. And that is when the wall went up. Despite attempts to break that wall, it's remained firmly in place.

I know what you're thinking: why not forgive? Why not move on? This is where things get weird because I've spent countless hours on that end. There's been that rationalizing, involving recognizing that Lucas and Moon's actions were not meant to harm Grey and me. There's been me looking inward, trying to determine why I feel anger over the situation, addressing jealousy, fear, abandonment and loss. I've gone back and forth and back again.

The only thing I can tell you is that the root of this dislike involves feeling completely abandoned and unacknowledged during what has been one of the most trying periods of my life. And that I expected better.

At the same time Moon and Lucas announced their pregnancy, close friends also announced they were expecting. The difference for the outcome from their announcement was that when these friends learned about our loss, they sent flowers; a small bouquet with a sympathy card. That gesture and acknowledgement made it possible to move beyond the initial hurt and be supportive of them as they entered parenthood. The flip example is with my mom, who told me that I needed to get over myself when I told her I was infertile because "she was going to be a grandmother." I'm resigned with my mom, with her words and actions being final nail in the coffin for any close relationship.

The situation with Moon and Lucas lies in between. With the added wrinkle being that Moon and I are very different individuals. Moon is someone who has embraced the identity of "Mom," posting about life fulfillment due to pregnancy and being able to give birth. Whereas I am an infertile who is parenting. Though I adore the Beats, I don't identify with being a mom. There were no bump photos or maternity shoots. I don't see my body as somehow graced due to coming out the other side of pregnancy with two living children.

Most importantly, having children hasn't been this healing force. The healing that has come has been due to a lot of self-reflection, analysis and change that I've fought to bring about. Putting that responsibility on the Beats is unfair in my eyes as their role in this world is their own. As illustrated in Kahlil Gibran's poem "On Children," it's not their role to complete me and heal old wounds. All of this is made more complicated over the bafflement that exists from Grey's family that pregnancy didn't cure all the pain and grief from infertility.

The thing is, I don't want to continue the cold war. Especially if all Grey and I are hoping for with this job interview comes through. I've watched my mom's family devolve due to grudges and not addressing deep hurts to the point of utter ridiculousness. I also have memories of those previous periods where I wasn't seen as the bat-shit crazy in-law. In addition, having it out could be good and could be very healing. But I also don't see the road towards that door nor that there's a point to such an option in anyone's eyes. Me getting over myself and apologizing for all my craziness is what has been pressed for, which fits nicely with the ongoing theme of feeling unacknowledged and abandoned.

So for now, I'm in limbo having agreed to not actively fight and to be civil. Wishing that old wounds were washed clean instead of allowed to fester.
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