Monday, August 27, 2018

#MicroblogMondays: Chemistry in the kitchen

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

Lessons learned from today's experiment:

1) Ball size matters

 2) Ratio of frosting to cake is key to success

3) The presence of chocolate in cocoa butter makes a HUGE difference in consistency
4) Vegetable oil does wondrous things to chocolate.

Experiment 2 next week.

Sunday, August 26, 2018


On Friday, Maddy and Teddy finished preschool. It's a bittersweet end to an era, given they've been in some form of daycare since they were 5 months old and our family has generally benefited from the relationships with the teachers and the schools. Still, we're officially in a weird limbo of no school for the next two days, meaning I have two gift days of being home with them full time, helping them prepare for their first day of Kindergarten.

There's so many things I have on my list of final experiences: baking together, making thank you cards for all their previous teachers who have gotten us to where we are today, getting in some final midday bike rides and maybe trying to hit the pool one final time. Everyone around me telling me how precious and special this time is, making it seem like there's a need for it to be picture perfect.

But the reality is, none of it will be. There will likely be fights and struggles; moments where we'll want to be done with each other. I also have to work during these two days, so there will be some creative juggling happening. Meaning these last 2 days will likely be far from perfect.

Our world is currently focused on the "perfect moments," fueled by social media and unrealistic expectations. It's interesting how sneaky this pressure is applied, either with well-meaning questions or check-lists of things we need to do. 

And yet, what makes something a perfect memory is usually something that seems benign or is unexpected. A touch, a moment, a shared exchange, but even joy or humor during something that is otherwise a disaster or the calm that comes from making up. Things that generally aren't planned.

Today we went on a hike with Lucas and Moon. And it was during a moment when Maddy declared that she was tired and couldn't possibly walk another step (1 mile away from the car) that I lifted her into my arms and walked while she wrapped her body around me. All while one cousin was in tears over being terrified about the wasps and Teddy was tearing off ahead of the group, causing all the adults to panic. In that moment (with Teddy fetched and accounted for), I could feel the weight of this young girl and knew the day was rapidly approaching that carrying her would be next to impossible. 

All of it reminding me that "perfect" is not something we can actually define and hold to a standard. And that sometimes "perfect" comes in the most imperfect moments 

Monday, August 20, 2018

#MicroblogMondays: A much needed reminder

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

Monday, August 13, 2018

#MicroblogMondays: Sploot

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

Just over 14 years ago, Grey and I adopted Daisy. Upon returning home from our honeymoon, we found a very lonely Jaxson who had taken up the habit of laying completely prone on the floor, chinning touching the ground and looking around in a very sad manner. Deciding enough was enough, off to the animal shelter we went to find him a companion, resulting in us finding a small mackerel tabby with a star on her forehead and an attitude that still keeps everyone in line.

But the one habit that Daisy possess that I had never seen before is this sitting position.

Initially we thought it was a way for her to protect her belly following her spay operation, but 14 years later she still does it, usually when comfortable and relaxed. 

Apparently splooting is thing, often associated with dogs but cats and rabbits will do it too.

Who knew?

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

The myth of "happily ever-after"

It's later in the evening and the kids are down. Settling into the night, hoping for just a few minutes of relaxation, I say something that triggers a fight. After several minutes of back-and-forth, I end up leaving the room to cool down and reflect. More minutes will pass before I emerge to apologize, trying to repair the hurt built upon more hurt and figure out a road forward.

Maddy has become interested in fairy tales, picking out stories that involve some sort of adventure that wraps up with a happy ending. Watching her recount these tales, I'm reminded of how for the first 30 years of my life I too believed in happy endings: that right triumphed, there was always a reason for the bad and this idea that if you worked hard enough one could overcome anything. Happiness was a destination and despite many failings I held fast to this idea that once I reached it I would be complete.

So it was a bit of a one-eighty that my 30s have been spent tearing apart this myth about happiness in a spectacular fashion, with infertility being the final straw resulting in the collapse of the "happily ever-after" myth and the reality that life is actually insanely unfair journey.

Despite this realization, I still struggle when Grey and I fight. I hate it to my very core, even though I know that the arguing we do isn't a sign that our relationship in trouble (I worry about couples who claim to never fight). Still, my whole being hurts when we're in the thick of disagreement. Even though I know I should know better, it can often be hard to see a path forward.

I’ve been reflecting on this today, picking apart why my world feels like it’s falling apart when Grey and I are fighting. Part of it still comes from the power of the myth of “happily ever-after” and the idyllic pictures of seemingly conflict-free couples. One of the most damaging aspects about the ever-after myth is the unspoken assumption you’re either on the road or you aren’t. A former friend once informed me I was doomed to a life of unhappiness, a threat meant to pull on this fear of a melancholy destiny. Looking at our society, where instant gratification is a multi-billion dollar industry with people throwing almost all caution to the wind in the hopes of experiencing happiness, it's not surprising that this fear exists, highlighting why it can feel so damning if you aren't feeling happy when everyone around you seems to be

One reason that infertility was so painful was this assumption that I was somehow undeserving for parenthood because I wasn't the image of happiness and in the thick of that darkness that was fertility treatments and miscarriages a lie I told myself was that having a baby would resolve all our pain and worry. Never mind that this is the furthest from reality, the idea that I was undeserving stemmed for a belief that it was because I wasn't happy

Another realization is that there's still this myth that happy couples are conflict-free couples. The truth that fighting fair and conflict resolution aren’t skills most people have, with me being one of many that didn’t learn to fight well. With my mother, apologizing for anything meant taking full responsibility for any hurt, leading to an end where one person “lost” and the goal of each argument to “win” no matter the damage caused in the process. Not surprisingly, it was rare to come out of any disagreement happy with the outcome, leading to a lot of negative self-imaginary along the way.

With Grey, and later with the help of David, I have been learning how to fight in a more problem solving mind-set, which has been one of the few gifts from infertility, as the foundation we built while facing the traumas caused by infertility gave us both an invaluable toolkit we still use to this day. The other end has been actively reminding myself that though fighting hurts, with less than happy feelings being experienced in the moment, the goal needs to be towards building together in order to foster that happiness

All that said, I suck at all of this and given my nature it’s hard for emotions not to run high and often to feel overwhelmed. Whereas some revel in conflict and heated engagement, I find myself wanting to disengage and hide. Because though "happily ever-after" is a myth, it's a very appealing one compared the the reality of the work that is waiting.

Monday, August 6, 2018

Shoe on the other foot

Moon is sick. About 2 weeks ago she found herself in the ER due to chronic headaches and vertigo. Due to some pushing, the doctors caught what could have resulted in her having a stroke and prescribed blood-thinners for treatment, but the vertigo has returned.

And she and Lucas aren't communicating much.

Across the way, I learned on Saturday our neighbor's doctor is recommending she have her remaining ovary removed. She's only 22 years old.

A big part of me wants to dive right in, crossing all the boundaries and pushing that we are here to help. In some ways I have already by sending texts to Moon and putting this young woman into contact with friends who can connect her with a second opinion.

Yet, I'm also well aware that with any traumatic event the decision on how to proceed need to be made by those facing them directly. That even though everyone surrounding them, including me, has an opinion, it is not for any of us to decide the best course of action and finding someone who actually can help will take a lot more digging and advocating. Jumping in and trying to fix things is actually the farthest thing either of them needs as they navigate this.

It's odd to be on the other side watching all of this unfold. So many who aren't familiar with the situation have their own thoughts and opinions about courses of action and listening to them makes me wonder what those outside looking in were saying about Grey and me while we were in the thick of infertility. But more importantly is this feeling of fear about overstepping or alienating. This isn't my journey and their decisions need to be their own.

So I'm doing something that makes me uncomfortable and stepping back. The information and knowledge of support is out there and I'm allowing them to do with it what they want. Because though there were moments I hurt terribly and felt like I wanted to be saved from the pain, what ultimately brought me healing was feeling like I wasn't alone. Even though things were scary and the path forward was often unclear.

Having the shoe on the other foot is fucking hard.

#MicroblogMondays: A red sun

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

There are fires just south of where we are. Too far away to be of any concern, but the past couple of days the sunrises and sunsets have been veiled in a red hue.

Red is the color of passion, fire, seduction, violence and adventure. With red comes a sense of urgency. We've all been feeling it here, even though it's not clear what or why.

Friday, August 3, 2018

The hazards of bridge building

It was lunchtime. Sitting together at a fold-out table, waiting for turns at the microwave, my new co-workers and I shifted our conversation from work to more personal topics. To the outside world, all of it was pleasant and benign, yet I was inwardly cringing as we touched on each topic knowing that though the three of us were clearly at ease, the topics we covered from housing to career tracks to finally our families, focusing on our children, would be landmines for so many.

Since Sunday, I've been thinking more and more about all of this. One of my biggest fears with moving to the Bay Area was facing Lucas and Moon. Until 4 months ago, I had never seen a photo of the daughter they conceived who's due date matches the babies I lost during my second miscarriage. Though Grey talks with Lucas regularly, I made a point to stay distant given all the negative emotions from those years in the trenches. The idea of having them both so close frightened me in ways I struggled to share.

Within a week of arriving in the Bay Area, Grey, Teddy, Maddy and I were invited over to celebrate Easter, a visit I steeled myself for but even then found myself struggling. Then there was another invitation to watch Teddy and Maddy while Grey and I were car shopping, which I agreed to at the last minute when it became clear both kids we're craving time with cousins. This followed with a conversation with Lucas about Moon's friends who were suffering following the loss of their child and then us learning that Teddy was going to require surgery too, leading to a call for help.

But what shocked Grey (and I believe Lucas too) was when Moon and I started texting one another. What started as a simple request to add her as a emergency contact lead to a conversation about birthdays (both sets of twins share a birthday month) followed by an invitation to join us at the aquarium. All figured out without either of the brothers involvement, leading to Grey wondering what the hell had transpired. On the visit, Moon and I would have a few moments to chat, asking each other about work and how life was generally going. It would be later as we were sitting together that she would open up more about her own worries in life. And it was because of that conversation that I would immediately think of her for help with my neighbor's daughter.

Interacting with my co-workers, I realized I'm at an odd crossroads with past hurts and damaged trust. In some cases I'm still fighting, like with my parents about my mother's continued inability to see how her actions and words don't lead to healing (she still doesn't understand why asking me to adopt my cousin's son after he had been removed from her custody as a way to cure my inability to get pregnant would be damaging). But with Moon and Lucas, the situation is different. Olive branches are being extended on both sides and it's becoming clear that the pain that was caused didn't come from a place of malice, but of lack of context to begin understanding.

The thing I struggle with the most is how to move beyond and foster the bridge that is slowly forming. Unlike disagreements or arguments that are considered socially normal, this situation created in the midst of trauma is largely uncharted. For me, trust was broken compounded by the additions of triggers and pain during moments where I felt like I was drowning. Though I know well there were moments I behaved badly, it's not as simple as asking for forgiveness because I believe it's important that they understand there was underlying hurt in how some things transpired. The isolation Grey and I experienced, both together and as individual, was far from okay.

The realization I've been puzzling over more is that understanding infertility and loss is extremely difficult for anyone who hasn't experienced it. Just like any trauma, most people are unable to relate and even for those who have walked this path, there's a tendency that is highly encouraged by society and loved ones to block out that pain. These things frighten so many and there's a natural desire to block all of it out in hopes of continuing with what is normal. Hence it's difficult to understand how things that can be triggers would be painful. There's a societal enforcement of keeping one's head in the sand, preventing others who might want to understand from getting a footing for how. An unexpected gift from infertility is becoming aware, tasting pain on this level and being aware that though there are different paths towards healing; that it's not about making things instantly right or better, even though that's the first instinctual reaction.

But another realization that has been emerging is that triggers for trauma often come through efforts to connect. That when people ask what they consider benign questions about family make up or milestones, the purpose is through their own intention of finding common ground. Granted, so many are extremely sloppy at this, likely encountering many moments where the answers result in awkward silences and them failing to follow through with establishing a connection through another route. The summary statement being that many lack the refinement in social skills to navigate triggering others.

I don't have any sage advice from all these reflections, given that I'm currently navigate the minefield of my own crossroads. Hell, I'd love some advice! But one thing I am beginning to appreciate more is that as humans, though we are social creatures, we struggle a lot even under the best of circumstances. Infertility just manages to fuck it all up even more.

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Embracing "wrong"

For the past few weeks in the early mornings, while waiting for the fog to clear, my coworkers and I have been busy destroying 20 years worth of work. Laying out the bins for our portable laboratories that go out to the local schools, we removed and disposed of reagents and teaching tools that others created or cultivated, all while restructuring and thinking about what made the most sense to use as scientists for approaching a topic. The results from these sessions of purging have been shocking for most that knew how things were before, with not only lighter mobile labs and a complete restructuring of the space that houses them as well as them, but also the stripping of mindset and misconceptions that were deeply rooted in fear of failure and the "correct" way to teach these topics. Never mind that doing so has inhibited the very mission we've been trying to promote.

Given what is happening in my professional life, it's hard not to make comparisons to my personal one. To date, Grey and I have been told we made a terrible decision with quitting on Boston. And yet Grey has been happier than I've seen him in a long time, pursuing work and collaborations that were not possible before. Teddy and Maddy have been embracing their bikes, enjoying our weekly routine of hitting the bike path on Saturday mornings; all made possible by putting training wheels back on their bikes and promoting them getting out there over learning the "right" way. With Teddy, we've hit a break-through with behavior when we realized giving him breaks with Legos and praising him for good behavior resulted in a kid who was eager to please.

And then there's my situation where I've started turning away recruiters, telling them point-blank that I'm not what they are looking for with some of these positions. Me telling them "no" has suddenly made me desirable, which has gotten a bit annoying.

From a young age, there's programming we are subjected to about the "right" way to do things. Starting with our parents bragging about milestones and achievements to later us being rewarded for taking certain paths or reaching certain milestones within a prescribed time, we're trained early on about the "right" way to lead our lives, with falling outside this perceived correct way as deserving any and all pain that results. The problem with this mindset is two-fold: the first being that terrible things happen to good people, while amazing things happen to scumbags. The second is that being so afraid to doing anything that isn't "right" stifles creativity, exploration and discovery of things that would never be known otherwise.

The days of purging have brought a lot of this to a head, with us ripping of excessive amounts of labeling and tossing materials that should have been discarding years ago but hadn't under the guise that it was somehow impossible to understand the lesson without it. The problem is by adhering so rigidly to a "right" way of doing things, this program has effectively become irrelevant and out of sync with modern biotechnology. Fear of failing or breaking things has made it necessary to not only burn down the house but also to throw the naysayers into total panic attacks about all the wrong in order to turn things around.

The thing is, what is resulting from all these wrongs, both professional and private, is fairly exciting. In less than a month of riding, Teddy is close to having his training wheels removed. While Maddy will likely take longer given that she bikes like an old lady and has no interest in speeding up at this point, she's none-the-less excited about Saturdays coming and doing things her way. Never mind the professional gains that are being made by both Grey and me at the moment.

All possible due to embracing "wrong" and being willing to fail.
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