1 Comment

Shadows and Sunlight

The first stretch of my run is the hardest. It is full sun, hot and harsh on my pale skin. I sweat more in the heat, run harder in the light, pushing towards the shade where I feel more protected, more comfortable. I do it week after week despite the discomfort, because exercising makes me a better person and equips me to be a better wife and mother.

It’s hard to step out that first time, exposing my heart and my words and starting a journey I know won’t just benefit me, but those around me. Push the envelope I created for myself and live in comfortably. I can’t stay in push mode forever, I don’t have enough to say, enough change to cultivate. But it’s a start.

***
I’ve never been a good runner. I wish I was. I love the endorphins and the result, both short term and long term, but I’ve always enjoyed other forms of exercise more. But circumstances (oh hey there Covid-19) forced me to change my habits, my thought process, my willingness to step out of my comfort zone to reap the benefits of running. I wasn’t reluctant, just unprepared. So I prepared myself the best I could: I bought new shoes, AirPods, new running pants to hold my phone. Things to not only motivate me, but make the process easier.

I was woefully unprepared to have a voice. Not only unqualified, but uneducated and flat out ignorant to so many aspects of inequality, injustice and historical significance. So I didn’t move or speak for days. I took time to gather my thoughts and organize my heart before putting my words out there. How bold was I ready to be? Was I prepared to land words that would make people I love uncomfortable?

***
The first time I ran four miles without stopping I felt a burst of pride and basked in a sense of accomplishment. My muscles were screaming, my lungs desperate for air – but those feelings were fleeting. Long term my body was happy, satiated  and honestly, ready to push even further the next time.

I finally put words out there. Words that expressed my heart, my deepest feelings of inadequacy and reluctance to enter into a conversation I was unprepared for. But just saying those words, expressing my desire to change, to support, to learn and to lift up the cause, I felt that same burst of pride.  My heart was screaming at me: “Why has it taken you so long? You need to do more, say more, learn more!”

***

After the first mile and a quarter, I finally reach the point in my run route that is mostly shaded. The cooler air and break from the sun washes over me and rejuvenates me for the next stretch of my run. It is the refuel I need to run back through the next stretch of sunlight, knowing this time I am more tired, already hot and sweating, muscles starting to fatigue. But I am also more motivated. It is about the two mile mark I start to discuss with myself how far I am going today. There are two paths I can take – one will shorten my run and take me back home – to air conditioning, water and a shower. The other takes me the opposite direction, more sunlight, small bouts of shade – but in order to make it home I’ll have to cover more ground. I know I should always take the second path. Sometimes I do, sometimes I don’t. It is easy to find 100 reasons to talk myself out of what I know I’ll eventually reap the most benefit from.

A few days later, after re-arraigning more feelings and thoughts in my heart, I pushed my envelope a little bit further. I sat and looked at my screen, much like my two running path options and weighed the pros and cons of each direction. That day, I chose the longer, harder path. I said words that not only challenged myself, but threw down a bit of a gauntlet to every white woman. That was really, really uncomfortable for me. Yet somehow, after it was done, I knew I was better for it.

***

No matter how long or short my run is, it ends at my house. A safe place with everything I need to recuperate, recharge and erase the strain of my movements. In a few hours, while my muscles still remember, I have virtually forgotten how hard I worked, what a mental struggle it was to push through. I can decide when to run again, how long of a break I want to take until I push myself again. I look at my back – clearly marked with the hours of sunlight that outline my shirt. Day after day my skin takes a beating by that sunlight. Maybe tomorrow I should rest – both my muscles and my skin.

It is a privilege to have a choice when to speak and when to stay silent. Not everyone has that choice when they are fighting for their livelihood – or their life itself. The fatigue of the marathon must be overwhelming. As someone that struggles just to put words on a page – a safe and useless act of change – I am secretly in awe of those that tirelessly put their words into action; in marches and petitions and challenges to lawmakers and people in a position of power. They don’t have the luxury of taking a day off if they ever want a better life. They must be so tired. And frustrated.

***

Before I run I make sure everything is just how I want it so that I can go the distance: my hair has to be tightly pulled away from my face, headband on, earbuds in place, shoes double knotted, phone securely in my pocket with my music playing, sunglasses on. I cue up my watch and run tracker so that I know my progress, my pace and can log my exercise effort. I need those reminders every half mile of my distance and pace. I need to see at the end of my run how far I went, how many calories I burned. I need to see at the end of the month the progress I’ve made. I need the accountability and motivation.

I don’t yet have the tools I need to forage out with everything in place, my comfort a top priority and all my accountability tools working hard for me. But I can’t wait until the time is right for me. People are dying. People are being persecuted. People are tired of fighting this fight on their own, for centuries with little to no progress. Where are the tracking tools to hold us accountable – what motivation do we need to push to make our world a better place?

***

Slowly I have seen the benefit of running in the sunlight in short bursts. My skin is tanning, starting to create a base of protection and comfort. It has taken a long time, but every day I am more equipped for longer bouts in the sun. Emboldened.

It is just in time, because the marathon of a lifetime is in full sunlight and waiting for us to lace up.

1 Comment

As a white woman

I was running in my neighborhood this morning, heading home, after dropping my kids off at daycare.

I could see in the distance, in the greenery between the sidewalk and the street, that there was a black gentleman working on his sprinklers. He was on his knees with his head down, so I knew he didn’t see me coming.

I immediately thought about Amy Cooper and Christian Cooper (no relation) in New York’s Central Park. The five second version of the story is that Christian, a bird watcher, happened upon Amy in Central Park as she was walking with her dog – off leash. Christian, a black man, asked Amy, a white woman, to please leash her dog. Instead of complying with the park rules and his request – she called police and told them a black man was threatening her life. Just typing it makes it sound even more ridiculous than it even already was.

Christian recorded the exchange – which in itself tells a horrifying story of what he knew was possible and likely, what he had experienced in the past. And he was right. Fortunately no physical harm came to Christian as a result of Amy’s actions – but it has me thinking.

***

I’ve read account after account in the news, on social media etc of how black men behave when walking towards, near or behind a white woman. The things they consider and actions they take to ensure they don’t come across as a threat.  It breaks my heart at the anxiety they must feel in literally every situation. (See link to a really good video below on this very situation)

So my new mission is to figure out how I, as a white woman, can communicate both verbally and with my body language that I am not a person you need to have those thoughts around. I am not going to weaponize my female whiteness and use it against you. I am not going to assume you are a threat, I am not going to walk on the other side of the street and I am not going to ignore you. I will, and always have, demanded respect from every human – but particularly every man. But demanding respect does not equate to expecting preferential treatment because I am white.

No, it isn’t my job to make you feel comfortable – it also isn’t YOUR job to make ME feel comfortable. Can’t we just BE comfortable around other humans until they give us a reason – a REAL reason, not to be?

***

I am a cautious person. I know I am a woman and that automatically makes me vulnerable to certain things, particularly men – I am not stupid. I am alert and aware of my surroundings at all times. I don’t like riding in elevators alone with men I don’t know. ANY men. I don’t walk/run alone in the dark if I can ever help it – because the world is broken and people can be evil. I don’t like feeling vulnerable or out of control. But being smart about my own personal safety does not give me the right to threaten the safety of someone else.

So I will be actively looking for ways, in my daily life, to de-weaponize my presence in an effort to spread peace, lift others up instead of break them down, make them feel anxious or nervous.

***

As I ran closer to him, he heard me coming and raised his head. I didn’t have time to see if I made him uncomfortable. But I made sure to flash him a wide smile and yell out “Good morning!” and he did the same. Just two humans having a normal, pleasant exchange.

Some things I’ve been consuming – making me think, process and understand:

3 Comments

Jumbled thoughts in a jumbled world

Unprecedented. That is literally the only word I can use to describe life right now. How many times have I said “What is this world we are living in right now?”

We’re in a global pandemic – a public health crisis. People are dying by the thousands, people are contracting the virus by the hundreds of thousands. We are all “safe” at home and told to stay there. We are wearing masks to the grocery store and we can’t (legally) see family and friends.

But suddenly that doesn’t seem so important (it is still very important, I assure you).

There is a powerful movement to right the wrongs of the last several centuries. There is civil unrest. Protests. Marches. Die-ins (I had never heard this term until last week). Last week we had a curfew imposed on top of the public health stay-at-home order due to looting and vandalism. Businesses that have been closed in the pandemic and just starting to reopen have boards on the windows – shuttered due to fear or shattered due to rage. Glass everywhere. Millions of dollars in damage.

The National Guard was called in, stationed around town in an effort to protect citizens and business alike. Armed.

But then something beautiful happened. There was an uprising across race, socioeconomic status, religious belief, political belief, ideological stance. And it was peaceful and it was loud. The people are raising their voices and they’re loud.

Except for me. I’ve been silent. Because I don’t know what to say.

***
I’m a white, privileged woman that’s never faced true adversity, judgement, persecution or harassment in my life. I don’t know how anyone feels, I don’t know how things can change, I don’t know how to show support or disgust or even articulate my real feelings. I don’t trust what people say or post – on all sides. There is so much misinformation, blatant lies or disregard for the truth. The half stories being told are worse than the lies. Because they are easier to believe.

***

Black squares or memes on Instagram don’t feel like the right expression for me. Some sincere, some fashionable. I’m not about that.  I’m not about reposts or fads or what everyone else is doing so it must be right for me too. Posting on Instagram without a method for change doesn’t suit me. I am also not a marcher or protester. So I don’t march or protest to somehow prove my support. I don’t want to be shallow, fake or in style.

There is a lot of social shame associated with silence. But that isn’t a good enough reason to say something I don’t understand or can’t defend.  I want to be authentic. I want to create change. But I have no idea what I can do right here, right now, where I am.

It’s not uncomfortable or embarrassing to stand up for what’s right, but I’m uncomfortable entering into a conversation without the tools I need to speak confidently and truthfully. Posting anything invites conversation or argument. I am not capable of intelligently entering in to either – yet.

I grew up a conservative Christian. That means I’m inherently connected to faction of the world that has an outdated mindset that what’s currently being expressed is out of place and tired and blown out of proportion.  I know that isn’t true, that isn’t right and it isn’t an uplifting mindset. So thankful for the Christians that are able to properly show God’s love in modern times.

I’m scared that anything I say or do will come across inadequate, phoney and lip service. It has taken me two weeks to compile a few thoughts at a time into something I wanted to share. I’m in no better place than I was two weeks ago, 10 days ago, yesterday.

***

It scares me to see how many different ways people in my community can die right now. COVID-19, police brutality, homelessness. I spend all day every day immersed in these three particular topics for work. Statistics. That is all people have become. How many names, how many cases, how many arrests, how many deaths? For COVID-19 we ask “How many people have to be die before we take this seriously?” The answer in the county I work for was three. Three people died before stay at home orders were issued in March.

How many black people have to die before we take this seriously and figure out exactly how things need to change? I don’t know – but I pray not one more.

Black lives matter. Black people matter.  They more than matter – they are loved. And not because I said so – because they were made by God, created in His image and His face shines upon them just like every other person.  It always has, it always will and it is not our place as humans to treat them otherwise. But it IS our place, as a society, to institute social change and equality.

I don’t actually know what that looks like. I’m so impressed with the people that were ready when called upon – that knew what to do, what to say and how to say it. I’m ashamed that I had nothing. I still don’t have anything.

 

2 Comments

Marco Polo Isn’t Just a Pool Game

Most mornings I record my first “polo” on my walk home from dropping the kids off at daycare. Simply a check-in, a rundown of what I have going on that day. We joke about my work “topic of the day”. I normally need to catch-up on everything that happened after I went to bed (anyone else the ‘early bird’ friend in the group?). I always giggle when someone walks by me – pushing an empty stroller (after dropping the kids off), talking to my phone screen. Aren’t we all going a little #COVIDCrazy?

***

I imagine if it were 1954 and we were in the exact same “stay at home” scenario we are in now – I’d have already gone crazy. Heck, not even 1954; 2004! The point is, this unprecedented time has only been made bearable by the luxury that technology affords me. Grocery store apps, Amazon Prime, Netflix, Zoom, Skype, Doordash, Runkeeper. These apps and websites are literally keeping me alive, sane, connected and employed.

***

We’re a group text kind of tribe. We’ve been group texting for years – some days we exchange hundreds of texts before Noon, other days not a peep until 7:00 pm. It doesn’t matter, we are in each other’s lives. Daily. We share funny stories, serious situations, life changing news, requests to ‘please send wine’ if we’re having a really bad day. We give advice, we ask for prayer, we vent – oh LORD do we vent. We make plans – do you remember back when we could make plans? Seems like just yesterday… or just two months ago…

So then came the COVID-19. For those that typically went to work, we started working from home. School-aged kids stayed home. Working moms with school-aged kids became working mom/teacher from home (GOD BLESS THEM). Husbands stayed home. (Anyone successfully co-working with their spouse?) Plans: cancelled. Fun: cancelled. A much needed girls weekend away: cancelled. Just a simple girls night in: cancelled.

Anyway, we tried a few options to connect and have fun. Facebook messenger has a FaceTime-esq option, but its contingent on everyone being available at the same time. We tried House Party – which in theory is a really fun option for virtual game night, but again – you have to be ready at the same time. And if you think it is hard to plan a night away with seven girls, try planning a night away at home, when your kids are there, for seven girls.

A week or so into stay-at-home orders, one of us mentioned she downloaded “Marco Polo” to video chat with some other friends and it was really fun. SO we all downloaded it. “Quarentainment” we called it. We’re also making up words now. While the discomfort of staring at  my own (unkempt) face was startling (don’t worry, there are filters) – I was SO HAPPY to see their faces, gaze into their eyes, read their expressions, hear their voices. You record your video on your time, watch other videos on your time – it is perfect. We can see when others are “in the app” and there are times when all of us are sending videos and responding immediately. It changed everything about our group communication. We’re closer now than we were three months ago, even during this time of COVID-19 quarantine, we’re closer.  I feel it and I know they do too.

***

Text threads lack emotion. I don’t care how many smiley, laughing, middle finger emojis you put in a text, it still lacks emotion. Video chatting is the closet medium we have to face to face contact and it feels like a warm blanket with a glass of wine. These voices, these faces, these emotions, these people are my people and I love seeing them when I can’t be with them. 

Every other night, when it is my turn to put the baby to sleep, I pop on the “Polo” and tell them all goodnight from my daughter. She is kicking back on my stomach, drinking her bottle. Occasionally, seeing herself prompts her to stop drinking and whisper “hi hi hi hi”. This is the only time she whispers. 

All our kids regularly make an appearance in our videos. Often, our kids will watch the polos with us and want to say “hi” to the other kids. Some of them are growing so rapidly – both physically and emotionally – this three months will bring about significant changes that cannot be missed! We have 15 kids between us, ranging from 10 months to 15 years old. The milestones are real. The frustration is real. The need to bang our heads against the wall is so real.

***

Everyone asks “What is the thing you miss most? What is the first thing you’re going to do when life returns to ‘normal'”?

Girl’s Night

Girl’s Wine Tasting

Girl’s Weekend Away

How soon is too soon to plan all three?

Right now it is too soon. So for now, when anyone calls “Marco!”, we all yell “POLO!” because friends don’t let friends get lonely during quarantine. 

____________________________________________________________________________________________

via @phoenixfeatherscalligraphy for @exhale.creativity

This post was written as part of a blog hop with Exhale—an online community of women pursuing creativity alongside motherhood, led by the writing team behind Coffee + Crumbs. Click here to read the next post in this series “Together, Apart”.

Leave a comment

We Cried Together

This essay was originally posted on Coffee + Crumbs as a guest submission. (I am SO geeked to be featured on my favorite blog!!!)

My husband and I weren’t ready yet, so it was just her at first, trying month after month to get pregnant. Each month she would text me the large red circle emoji, shorthand for “I started my period.” We would talk about how it wasn’t fair, they would be such great parents. Months became years as I watched them struggle to have a baby. The reality of our friendship is that when she cries, I cry.

When we started “trying,” I was so scared that I would get pregnant before she did. After nearly a year of failure, fear of getting pregnant first turned into fear I wouldn’t get pregnant. What were the odds we’d both experience infertility? Apparently higher than we thought. I didn’t get pregnant, and neither did she.

Our friends were having babies one after another—sometimes it felt like us against the world, those that could get pregnant against those of us that couldn’t. Holding every little life born into our circle of friends was such a gift, yet a constant reminder that this baby wasn’t mine, or hers.

If we couldn’t have babies, by God we were going to do all the things new moms wished they could do, and we were going to be happy doing them. We spent our time going on vacations, attending concerts, hitting the gym and wine tastings—so many wine tastings—pretending that we were fine.

* * *

I’ll never forget the night we were sitting in my backyard, drinking wine with friends, when we got the news that one of our best friends was pregnant. We both casually picked up our phones when we heard the ding, not knowing what we were about to read. I saw the words “I’m pregnant!” and my chest tightened. I looked up at her, and she was looking at me, and I knew she felt it, too. Happiness and hurt crashing together inside, vying for center stage. I was happy to welcome another baby into the group, and happy for my beautiful friend. But I wasn’t actually happy, not for me—not for us.

It was the very first time, after all these years, that we were together when we got this news.

We excused ourselves from the table to go inside. She went to the bathroom, and I went to pour more wine. I stood at the countertop, heaving heavy sobs, trying to compose myself, but I couldn’t stop the tears. They came rushing to my eyes, pouring down my cheeks and constricting my chest to the point I couldn’t breathe. I didn’t even know why I was crying, but I knew these weren’t happy tears.

She came out of the bathroom. I frantically wiped my tears, pulled in a huge breath and stopped crying because I didn’t want to upset her. But she was crying, too. The moment was so powerful, so raw. So we stood there and cried together.

* * *

I had been trying to get pregnant for two years, she had been trying for nearly five years, but we both went through tests, invasive procedures, medications, and so many damn appointments. Fertility clinics are quiet, sullen and frankly, depressing places. The majority of patients there are dealing with hard things, so when we high-fived in the waiting room if we had appointments at the same time, it was totally out of place. But it was better than sitting there crying.

Fertility injections have to be done daily, at the same time each day, for the entire course of treatment. If her husband wasn’t home on time, or we were out and about together, I gave them to her (she is not a needle person). How many nasty, dirty public bathrooms did we go into, stepping into the same handicap stall, so I could stick her with a needle? I gave her a dozen shots before I ever had to give myself one.

Sometimes I imagine what other people thought of us and laugh: “You will never believe what I saw in the bathroom at the Tim McGraw concert!” We were used to being a spectacle. Any time you bring needles into a public restroom, you’re asking to make a scene.

* * *

Had I gotten pregnant, she would’ve been thrilled—just as I would have been for her. But I couldn’t forget the night we cried together in my kitchen. I couldn’t bear the idea of being the one to bring more tears to her eyes. But I didn’t get pregnant. And neither did she.

When we both decided to bite the bullet and go through full IVF, I was so relieved. This step felt real and tangible and productive. It was yet another thing that she and I would face head-on, and we’d face it together. We talked about what we would do, how we would feel if only one of us was successful. How horrible that would be, but how grateful we’d be for that baby—our baby. We had begun to feel like any victory at this point would be a team win.

I went through my IVF cycle one month before she did. When I told her that I was pregnant, we both cried.

For the first time, they were tears of joy. And still, fear. Fear that the next month when it was her turn, we wouldn’t get to share this moment again. I spent four agonizing weeks waiting for her results. My chest tightened every time I considered that it may not work for her. I knew I would cry, one way or another.

We both tried to pretend it was just a casual lunch date when I picked her up to go to Magpie Cafe, but it was anything but casual. She handed me a photo: it was a little shadow box she’d made for her husband to tell him the good news. A onesie, a rubber ducky, a sonogram picture. It was really hard to speak when my throat felt so full. “This is good,” I whispered. “This is good.” It was finally happening for us—both of us. We both cried.

* * *

My son was born on a Saturday in February. When she walked into the room to finally meet him, her belly still full with a nearly term baby, she hugged me so tight it took my breath away, and we cried.

Five weeks later, when I visited her and her son in the hospital, just one day after he was born, I held him and I cried. When I looked at him and I thought of my five-week-old son that I’d left at home, I felt like I was finally coming up for air after years of sinking underwater.

When her son was a week old, we got together so the boys could “meet.” As we tried to lay them side-by-side so we could get a perfect picture for Instagram, I was choking back tears. I typed up some caption about how these two boys will never really understand the significance of this photo or the hard work that went into making it happen—and I cried.

* * *

When our boys were barely over a year old, we both decided we were ready to move forward with a second round of IVF. This time our procedures were just one day apart, and we got a second miracle 10 days later. We were both pregnant, again! As a Jesus believer, I understand the concept of His perfect timing, but when you are neck-deep in infertility, nothing feels perfect. But this is it—this is what His perfect timing looked like for our lives. Two sets of kids, both conceived and born on virtually the same timeline.

Our joy lasted less than two weeks. I was waiting for her at the gym when she texted me that she wasn’t coming. Her follow-up bloodwork showed a diminishing rate of pregnancy hormones—she was miscarrying. I started to actually hyperventilate as that news registered. This could not be happening, not now, not after everything she’d been through. I cried for hours.

Over the next few weeks, as the physical reality of her miscarriage reared its ugly head, I found myself sapped of all joy. How could I be happy about the little life growing in me while she lay broken and bleeding as the absence of life flowed out of her?

Until I went through the long, drawn out physical, emotional and mental hardship of infertility, I didn’t understand how unsolicited, untested, well-meaning but ignorant advice was so annoying. All I wanted was to confide in someone who understood and for everyone else to shut their mouth. So instead of spouting off some meaningless proverb of how it wasn’t meant to be, I shut my mouth and stood like a rock, just in case she needed somewhere to lean or somewhere to cry.

I had a daughter as a result of my second round of IVF. The first five months of my pregnancy were tainted by the sting of my friend’s miscarriage. I hated every second of not understanding her pain. I hated that I had a baby in my belly and she didn’t. Frankly, I was mad at God—how could this possibly be His plan? I feared her very first thought when she held my daughter would be about the one she lost.

Fortunately, that wasn’t the end of her story—of our story. Turns out there was a rainbow—we just couldn’t see it in the rain. Our girls are six months apart —my daughter turned one in February and hers will be one in July. The boys are three, and they are the best of friends. I will never forget the little soul, conceived just a day after my daughter, that we won’t meet this side of heaven. That child is still part of our story, part of our tears.

Our families get together often—the house rumbling with the sound of our boys galloping down the hallway and the girls squealing like only babies can. The street alive with their laughter and the sound of the bat hitting the ball and squeals as they run to first base.

Every time I watch them playing together, it is a living, breathing reminder of the struggle it was to create them. I think about how many times, how many places and how many tears we cried.

As we navigate the vicious waters of parenthood together, we’ve cried a dozen more times. I don’t know if raising kids will be easier or harder than conceiving them, but it doesn’t matter, because I know that I will always have someone to cry with.

 

Author’s note: Huge thank you to my friend JoDee for not only being an incredible infertility partner in crime, but allowing me to share some very personal details about her life. Our story is incomplete without her story – even just from my side. 

Leave a comment

The walk to school

It took us 28 Minutes and 32 seconds to walk the 3/4 mile to “school” this morning. Now that we’re walking daily, Landon likes to run to school instead of riding in the stroller. I used to push the double stroller in case he got tired, but he has run the full stretch every day for a couple weeks, so now I just push Cassadee in the single.

The last few days he has been very interested in the surroundings on our walk. Stopping frequently to point out what he sees, often screeching to a halt with no warning, in front of the stroller. Today I actually clipped his foot before I could fully stop… down he went. Full frontal layout on the concrete. He didn’t cry.

It took me 11 minutes and 23 seconds to walk back by myself after drop off. I walk fast. Everywhere, all the time. Even if I don’t have a tight timeframe, I hustle. I never saunter if I can help it. I’m sure that concept could be deeply unpacked by a therapist, but I won’t go there right now.
Needless to say, I wasn’t particularly amused or charmed by our slow walk, full of wonder.


On our route to school there lives an older couple. Early 60’s. They run every day with their two Vizsula dogs (high energy). On my walk TO daycare, we see the man, running his dogs with a harness around his waist tied to the pups. He clearly gets a kick out of Landon. Every morning he waives… says “hey buddy!” To this kid he doesn’t know. Yet, he does. He sees the carefree abandon at which he runs daily. Maybe he might catch that moment Landon stops to point out a cat, or a flower or a spiderweb. Maybe only hears the phrase “look momma, those dogs are running!” Maybe that’s all that matters.


***


Every morning when I walk home, I see the same dogs, but with their momma harnessed at the waist. The dogs get two runs every morning. First dad, then mom. What a life. She sees a very different picture.


She sees me; walking, at a fast clip, home with an empty stroller. Half the time I’m sending a Marco Polo video to my friends. “Hey friends, yet another shoutout from my walk home. Landon was extra today. I actually hit him with the stroller. Oh look, there is that lady that probably thinks I’m crazy.”


Like legit, crazy. But she doesn’t know that sometimes that walk home is my favorite moment of the day. I’ve not yet dove into the complication of my job, but I’ve shed the children that encompass my constricted soul. I’m free, walking at a fast pace, listening to my own music, dissecting my own thoughts without interruption.
I find myself wondering if they compare notes.

He, the story of the cutest kid – running breakneck speed to the next adventure. His wild, curly white hair untamed; his laughter and wonder unashamed. Her – the mystery of the girl alone, with an empty stroller, clearly enthralled with her phone. So much that she talks to herself. Why is she like this?


Who do they think I am?

Leave a comment

Stream of consciousness – pandemic version

Anyone else feel like no matter how soon life gets back to “normal” you’ll never be the same?

If I never have another conference call in my life, it’ll be too soon. Calls with 3-5 people are manageable, though still annoying. But these calls I’m on with 60 people?! WHAT PART OF MUTE YOUR PHONE DO YOU NOT UNDERSTAND?! Look, I get it. We’re all multitasking; for some that means typing, for others it means walking the dog, doing the dishes or god forbid, going to the bathroom. The bottom line is, I really don’t care as long as you mute your phone.

And how many Zoom screen shares do I have to sit through before I stop trying to scroll down a screen that isn’t mine? I miss having two computer screens. Hell, even just one normal sized screen. Laptop work is so tedious and my eyes hurt.

***
I used to rush my kids to daycare on my way to work. Now every morning I walk my kids to daycare, every afternoon I walk them home – unless it is too hot.  I work, as I always have – very diligently, between those two walks, but it’s different than it used to be. The whole day, the set-up… it’s different. I get up at least a half hour later than I used to, I have virtually no “getting ready” to do. I have 20-30 minutes alone to drink my coffee in peace before the kids get up. I don’t hate it, I actually love it. Working from home suites me.

My toddler has gotten so used to walking to school he actually threw a fit yesterday when we were pressed for time (because he took 15 minutes to go to the bathroom) and had to drive. He normally runs in front of the stroller his sister sits in, instead of riding. Daycare is 3/4 mile from our house – it is a nice little workout for a three year old. Of course he randomly comes screeching to a halt to point out a flower or cat or a large truck. I normally miss whatever it is he is saying as I try not to run him over with the stroller.
I take my coffee on the walk, AirPods in my ears, new running shoes on my feet – even when I’m just walking. Those AirPods and shoes are the most expensive investments I’ve made into my pandemic mental health. Namely, into this new thing I call “running”. I’ve been running 12-15 miles a week. I used to hate running. I actually do still hate running, but I’ve also found a certain comfort in the process. Even if I’m pushing a stroller, I still feel alone. Just me and my music and my thoughts. I also have a nice sports bra tan emerging. Most of all, it is what gets me out of the house. Also, those AirPods are a conference call game changer, just sayin.

***
I am not the person who is still out and about. These days, on an average week I leave the house, in a car, once for curbside grocery pickup. Last weekend I discovered I’ve forgotten how to correctly leave the house in a car (specifically, when no one is home). Saturday I went out for my weekly grocery pickup. No one else was home when I left. I hadn’t driven my car in six days. I didn’t set the alarm, lock the door OR remember to close my garage door. You can imagine my husband’s surprise when he got home about 15 minutes after I left. He actually called me to make sure I hadn’t been abducted or the car stolen. Face palm.

The toddler also threw a fit two weeks ago when I let him tag along on my drive up grocery pickup and he realized we weren’t going into the store. “But I wanna go inside for grow-shreeees” I can’t say I share his sentiment. This “no human contact” grocery shopping now fits me like a glove.

I can count on less than one hand the number of times I’ve been inside a store in the last six weeks. I used to visit Target and/or Nugget 4-5 times a week. Not because I love to shop, but because I’m terrible at meal planning and prepping. I’m not sure shopping in store will ever be the same. Will everyone make me nervous? Every time someone coughs will I have the urge to sanitize? Will grocery shopping become a dressed down version of Murder Mystery Theater – everyone is a suspect?

***

I’ve worn actual pants less times than I’ve been in a store in six weeks. I’ve put on jeans exactly twice. I have no idea if they still fit. I don’t know and currently, I don’t care. The only times I’ve worn make-up were for media events and on Easter (because, family photo). I didn’t even put on mascara for my 10 year anniversary celebration. I’ve never been so thankful that I don’t get my hair cut regularly, I have no dye near my roots, I don’t have fake nails or even a burning desire for a mani/pedi, I don’t get my eyebrows waxed… I mean, I’ve be preparing for this slothful lifestyle for years!

***

I eat so much chocolate every day. I’d like to blame it on stress, and that was true, the first five weeks or so. Work was so stressful and busy I couldn’t even take a bathroom break, let alone make myself something for lunch. but the last week to 10 days I have no excuse. Now I just have no self-control. I don’t even feel bad about it and have no plans to change. I’m not sure I’ve ever been so apathetic about my food/drink intake.

You’d think being home 24/7 would afford me time to cook a real dinner. You’d be wrong. Not about the time, just about me taking advantage of it. We like to pretend it is because we want to support local restaurants or that we change our mind at the last minute and want pizza, but we both know I am just a bad cook and my food isn’t worth the effort!

***

I have a standing conference call at 3:00 pm. I dread it every day. Half the time I get a call that forces me to jump off it. Even if the call only lasts a minute, I use that as my out to not jump back on.

We walk to get the kids by 4:30, too many days I am still fielding emails on my phone(s) while trying to push the (empty) stroller on the way there, Derek, on a last minute earbud call walking just ahead of me. I try to have all my work wrapped up by the time I knock on daycare’s door, but I’m only 50 percent successful. The nature of my job means I’m getting calls/emails/texts until 7:00 pm or later most nights. After all, the news not only doesn’t sleep, but it is like a raging toddler after ice cream until 11:00 pm on the weeknights.

Last week a reporter no less than begged me to do an on camera at 7:30 pm. I refused, but compromised with a selfie video statement, in my closet, wearing a sweat jacket. I’ve been doing my interviews in the nursery during the daytime. In the afternoons it has the most natural light, it has a beautiful soft teal accent wall and I can prop my laptop camera up on the side table that I balance on top of the ottoman – perfect height. There was a time I used to call myself a professional, now I think I am just a magician.

***

I don’t hate what the pandemic has done to my life. I fear for others that have weathered radical changes, and mostly – the economy. I wonder how’d I’d be handling this if I lost my job, my kids were school aged, my daycare closed or someone in my family was sick. But not one of those things have happened and I find myself living in this alternate pandemic reality. One that makes me kind of like this life – if I could pick and choose a few things to reinstate – like the contractors to finish our pool, the reopening of wineries for tasting, live music and the permission to invite my friends and family over.

Otherwise? I’m good.

Leave a comment

I should be in Mexico

I should be in Mexico right now. Or perhaps still on the plane or in the airport, but you get the point.

Friday is our 10th anniversary and we’ve been planning a getaway for over a year. A week away at an all-inclusive resort – an homage to our honeymoon. We had a complex web of childcare and puppy coverage. We had the time off of work; freshly renewed passports and child-like anticipation of a footloose and fancy free week away from reality.

Today was getaway day. When Cassadee woke me up at 6:00 am like she often does on the weekend, chattering so loudly through the monitor it jerks me out of sleep, my first thought was, “I should be boarding a plane right now.”

The last weekend in March was supposed to be a girls weekend away in Reno. We bought tickets to a “momedy show” eight months ago. We booked our rooms, we booked massages/facials. I was going to see my wonderful friend Lori because she lives there and was going to meet up with us.

January and February were hard months – both work and home seemed to be going at breakneck speed and all I could do was hold on. I was counting down the seconds to my girls weekend away and then to my tropical vacation to celebrate a decade of marriage.

I have concert tickets to one concert every month through November. I have overnight lodging and childcare for three of them. I don’t think we’ll be going to any of them – not even in October.

Trying to find a balance between work, home and self is such a difficult task. I have a word document on my desktop that lists out family events, important dates, holidays etc for the entire year. It is even color coded for who is watching the kids if we’ll be away, what I still need childcare for. I build it for Derek, so he can make plans ahead of time – know what we’re committed to. Most of all so he knows when I am going to be busy without him and he is on full time kid duty.

I remember looking at that calendar in early February and feeling the excitement build for what a great year we had planned. Monthly fun scheduled, quarterly overnights away without the kids, a weekend away with the girls (and for Derek, the boys). A week away together. I am supposed to fly to Seattle in July for a family wedding.

We are building a pool. We broke ground in early February and work continued steadily, even after the Stay-at-home orders because construction is considered essential. We were one step away from pool completion. They literally just had to put the plaster and acid wash on and start filling it with water. And then the city I live in decided to impose additional restrictions on construction companies and now we have a nearly finished pool that has to wait for completion until this is over.

It has only been about six weeks since life was canceled, but it feels like a year. And looking forward – it IS going to be a year and I’m mad. I’m angry and resentful of what has been stolen from me, from all of us. All my vacations and concerts will be rescheduled, I know. I weep for those that have lost things that can never be rescheduled – like senior year and trips to the DMV on a 16th birthday to get a driver license and grandparents visiting their first grandson in the hospital after he is born.

I don’t mind working from home. The super grungy, hates make-up and curling iron girl inside of me is actually rejoicing. I can do my job at home without missing a step, I don’t get distracted by the dishes or the laundry unless I specifically take a break. I am so fortunate to have a laptop and a cell phone and no need for anything else to do my job. My kids are still going to daycare every day so I don’t have to juggle feeding and nap time with conference calls and deadlines. I have nothing to complain about professionally. But I know people that are now unemployed, people that have kids out of school, closed daycares and essential worker spouses that are still out there – on the front line.

Last week I had a work event that required me to leave the house and be around people. I hadn’t left the house for work in 27 days. The mixed feelings were so real. Being out of the house, in jeans (ew), makeup (double ew) and walking around people that could be ticking time bombs was unsettling. But I loved every second of it. I miss the practical part of my job managing media on location.

Every week, sometimes several times a week, we get groceries through curbside pickup. This last weekend I took the kids with me and Landon burst into tears when he realized we weren’t going into the store. Even my three year old who, arguably, hasn’t had a single thing in his life change, has started to feel the impact we have all been feeling for weeks. He can’t walk over and visit his friends, he can’t go inside the store, he wonders why we cross the street when we are out on a walk and other people are coming towards us.

I have been living and breathing COVID-19 since the last week of February. My job is 100 percent centered around media inquiries on 47 different topics that are all the same – all COVID-19 related in some way shape or form. Local media, media from other parts of the state, media from other parts of the country. What is Sacramento doing? When did Sacramento become so important? The media has to be bored by now. I have worked in this profession for 15 years and I have never had to provide this kind of intensive crisis communication for so long.

I hate running, I always have because I am slow and awkward and it makes my knees hurt. In March I ran almost 40 miles, in April I am on pace to closer to 50. Yet I haven’t lost a single pound because I am eating like crap and drinking wine nearly every night.

I am exhausted – mentally, emotionally, physically. I was supposed to be in Mexico today.

1 Comment

When Hope came home

A year ago we brought home our daughter, Cassadee Hope. Our first daughter, our last baby and the culmination of years of trials, failures, successes and holding onto hope. As soon as we found out she was a girl I knew I wanted her middle name to be Hope.

Hope is my favorite word. Born from my favorite bible verse – the very cliche Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

We waited many, many years for the Lord to give us Hope. Not that we were waiting for a daughter, or even a child (we already had one of those), but this child, THIS daughter was the finale in a long chapter of our story. And she became our Hope.

Had I known then what I know now, perhaps I would’ve chosen Joy as her middle name instead, because she is JOY. Every day she chooses joy and she has given all of us joy. I never knew a baby could be so happy all the freaking time. She wakes up happy, she eats happy, and goes to bed happy. She smiles her toothy grin at men and strangers and the dog and her stuffed animals. Perhaps her face lights up the most when she sees one of her grandmas.

But the day we brought her home also started a new chapter in our lives – the hardest one yet. The life of two working parents with two kids under three. Some things we knew would be hard – like raising a toddler while we were sleep deprived by a newborn, making sure the family had food to eat every night after a long day at work, and trying to get out of the house with two little kids and the entire house in tow.

Other things we could never have foreseen – our precious dog of nine years getting so sick we had to tell her goodbye, realizing we couldn’t live life without a pet and bringing a puppy into the already chaotic environment, promotions and changes at work that demanded even more time and attention in our jobs.

Through it all we’ve carried Hope and joy with us. This little girl that shook up our lives so drastically, shed light on every flaw in my personality and made me question if I knew myself at all. And she has saved me. Her joy has saved me from myself.  It is impossible to live angry in the presence of her joy. When I feel my anger overtake me, I seek her out. When I wake up stressed or anxious – walking into her room and seeing her smile immediately lifts my spirits.

When the weight of the day feels too overwhelming, putting her to bed at night fills me with peace. The tranquility of her bedroom, her steady breathing and soft hands rubbing my arm as she drinks her bottle settle a calm over my spirit – erasing the anger, stress and harsh words of the day.

I don’t know what the years ahead of us will bring, if her joy will remain. But I know that I wouldn’t have been able to survive this year – the hardest year, if she was not the Hope and joy that she has been. Some day she will be a moody and unpredictable teen and I’ll look back and remember this year of joy. We will savor her joy as long as it remains – using it as balm to our tired and weary souls.

The Lord did have plans for our future all those years – to bring us Hope for our future, and here she is.

 

Leave a comment

I don’t do well with free time

He told me to get out of the house. “I’ve got the kids, get out this afternoon – do whatever you want.”

Turns out, I don’t do well with free time. Normally my “playtime” is careful scheduled, ahead of time, babysitters or husband securely in place, friends and destination lined up. Or I need a pedicure and my destination and timeframe are set by default.

But I find myself with an offer for free time, no friends, plans or destination lined up and would you believe I panicked? It’s like getting the chance to meet your favorite celebrity and stuttering when they say hello.

I can hear you now, “WHO CARES WHAT YOU DO, just GO.” But I care. I care what I do and where I go when life allows. I want to maximize my joy, relaxation. No offense to you Target lovers, but the aisles of Target or (insert anywhere you shop here) do not bring me joy. I actually save my Target runs for the kids because it brings THEM joy and that is a win for us all.

I thought about my options, where I could go, what I could do that WOULD bring me joy. If we’re being honest, I wanted to go see ‘Little Women’ but the showtime didn’t work. Instead, I swung by Nugget (the best grocery store of all time) and picked up a selection of frivolous and moderately unhealthy foods, and I headed for a local winery that has phenomenal outdoor space.

I’ve never been to a winery alone. It was weird. Also, my attire may have contributed to the weirdness because getting ready does not bring me joy, so I threw on leggings, a sweatshirt and uggs. My hair was wet, makeup nearly non-existent. Needless to say, when I walked in, looking like a basic, tired, and haggard woman, the heads turned. No one wine tastes alone.

But here is my chance – to step out of my zone, to embrace myself and only think about myself and treat myself and that was a lot of “selfs”. I’m not very good at selfs.

It’s a new year. A new decade. A new page. I don’t care about the new year, but I do care about myself and right now I’m sitting alone, sipping wine in a peaceful, quiet, gorgeous atmosphere – thinking about the year ahead. A year that won’t be as eventful as the year prior, but will no doubt bring change, pain and growth.

I sit here reflecting on how things have changed in my life, drastically, in the last year. I reflect on how I’ve weathered those changes and I don’t like what I see. To quote a friend “When did I become this angry?!”

But every day, every year, every decade is a chance to change that. Every second is a chance to change.

Chances are I’ll change this year out of sheer coincidence – my kids are getting older, my puppy is getting older. The things that are so hard now won’t be so hard in six months, in a year. New things will be hard, old things will be easy – but it will never be easier, it will only be different. So it’s up to me to change, to adapt, to decide that I will be better, have more patience, more compassion.

New year new me? Hardly.

New year, same me – with more awareness, more grace, more understanding. My eyes are open.