#MicroblogMonday: Giving Thanks.

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

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I caught a cold during our trip to visit my family in North Carolina. I rarely get sick, so at first I thought it was allergies from the wildfire smoke in the area; I just couldn’t understand why I seemed to be bothered by it when Jeff seemed to have no issue.

Then my throat got REALLY raw and my teeth hurt and I was achy and hot and I couldn’t sleep. I am not kidding when I say that discovery of nyquil in Jeff’s toiletries kit saved me a couple nights ago.

But it’s funny how it works: when something doesn’t hurt, we take it for granted. Breathing without sinus pain, for example. Or swallowing without feeling like I ate glass. Or sleep.

It got me thinking about all the things that I am so grateful for but take for granted most of the time.

I am grateful that I grew up in intellectual and economic privilege, where it was assumed I would get my college (and by and large, my master degree, too).

I am grateful I have a career where I will likely always be able to find a job.

I am grateful that I am largely healthy and can do things I love – like triathlon – with relative ease.

I am grateful that I have a loving and supportive husband who works hard to support our family in all ways.

I am grateful beyond measure that we had access to the medical technology who gave us our son.

I am grateful that we live a life where I can actually contemplate all the things I’m grateful for on a daily basis.

I hope you all had a wonderful thanksgiving as well.

Posted in #FindingMyHappy, #MicroblogMonday | 1 Comment

#MicroblogMondays: Turbulence.

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I’m a nervous flier.

I know, intellectually, that planes fly because, well, PHYSICS, but I cannot get over how unnatural it feels to be sitting in a massive and heavy metal bus, hurtling across the sky, held up only by air.

Still, though, I love to visit new places and very much dislike taking days to get there. So we fly a fair amount.

And nearly every time we fly, there’s a moment where we hit some turbulence.

Owen finds it all really fun; he smiles and laughs at how the pilot is making his “belly feel funny!”

I, however, feel absolute and deep panic. I break out in a cold sweat, I NEED to hold onto something hard and real, and I close my eyes and literally force myself to breathe. In and out. In and out.

I hate those moments. I feel caged and terrified and completely powerless.

But I keep a tight lid on that panic, because my kid is sitting next to me, and he’s smiling.

All I tell him is that the motion makes me feel a little sick. And since I get motion sick really, really easily…

He believes me.

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The election last week turned my world completely upside down. I assumed that people felt the way I did. I just KNEW that they wouldn’t vote for a man like Trump, because people are good and want to do the right thing.

I didn’t realize I was living in such intellectual and economic privilege. I CAN use my vote to satisfy my ideals, because I’m white and educated and I have opportunities because of that. I had no idea, and I’m sitting with reality.

I’m also sitting uncomfortably in the position of hater right now. I really THOUGHT I was different than that, that I believed in the inherent good of people, and tolerance and kindness and equality for all. But I loathe Donald Trump, more than I’ve ever hated anyone before. I understand why people voted for him – I think, anyway. But I hate him, and I have no idea how I’m going to manage to listen to his words or see his face for the next four years.

And I feel like I’m stuck on a plane in the middle of heavy turbulence, and Owen’s sitting next to me, and it’s all I can do to keep breathing. In and out. In and out.

Yeah.

I feel a little sick.

Posted in #BrainDump, #MicroblogMonday, #ThingsIHaveLearned | 3 Comments

Today.

I found out at 4am when I woke from a nightmare. Jeff was already awake.

When he told me that he came to bed when it wasn’t looking good, I reached for my phone and confirmed that yes, in fact, it wasn’t good news.

I both don’t have the words and also have too many words right now.

I’m feeling like I’m on a flight with terrible turbulence and I am trying to tell myself I’m okay, because, really, it’s just politics, and we live in a democracy with built in checks and balances in the internet age, so, really, what can happen in the next four years?

Except that it’s personal and so I’m panicking at the idea that nearly half of the country thinks what he’s said and done in the past year is okay. And that people hate me and there’s nothing I can do to change their hate, and what kind of world did I being my son into where all this hate exists?

I’m actually panicking. Over politics.

So, for today, I’m going to take deep breaths and try and find my center.

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#MicroblogMondays: Make America Kind Again.

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I’m really scared about this election – in a way I haven’t been ever before.  I’ve been struggling to find the words for why it’s been so hard since the first Trump sign went up in my town. A lot of it has to do with his treatment of women and the reminder that I’m vulnerable because I’m female, yes.

But this photo, and Michael Rowe’s words with it, gets to the heart of the matter.

n-trump-rally-628x314I have no doubt that the people in the photograph — like the man with his arm around his son — attend churches, love their families, love their country, and think of themselves as good, patriotic, decent Americans, but the facts are what they are, and that is occasionally one of the differences between photojournalism and posed portraiture.

The genius of Donald Trump’s campaign is that he has successfully channeled the worst aspects of the American psyche — greed, resentment, rage, intolerance, bigotry, misogyny, racism, xenophobia, and rancid nationalism — and repackaged them as patriotic virtues. He has done so in a way that opens infected wounds that have been festering for more than two centuries, calling it “making America great again.”

I have spent much of the past year alternately shaking my head at how people can believe in a man who actually seems delusional to me… and fighting an inutterable sadness that we keep buying into the story that keeps us on opposite sides of each other. It’s us or them, we think. They are trying to keep us down, and we need to put THEM down so we can win.

There is just so much hate right now.

Let me say something then.

(Actually, I’m screaming this, so loudly my throat hurts.)

IT NEVER EVER HAS BEEN US OR THEM. NEVER.

There is no “other.”

We are all human.

We love our children and want the best for them.

We’re all scared of the crazy fucking world out there.

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In less than 48 hours, we will have a new President-elect.

Like Mel, I am scared and worried; I also don’t know if we’ve done enough to ensure that greed, resentment, rage, intolerance, bigotry, misogyny, racism, xenophobia, and rancid nationalism doesn’t win. I’m terrified of Trump’s America. With him at the helm, there’s no chance for us to bridge our distance and come together.

And I’m also scared and worried because even if Hillary Clinton does win the presidency, that greed, resentment, rage, intolerance, bigotry, misogyny, racism, xenophobia, and rancid nationalism will still exist.

No matter what happens tomorrow, please, please, PLEASE – let’s be kind to one another.

We have so much work to do, so many problems to tackle as a nation, and the only way we can do it is if we are together.

make-america-kind

Posted in #BrainDump, #MicroblogMonday, Ancient History, Challenges, Out of My Head, Writing. | 3 Comments

This Is How I Vote.

I found myself with a spare hour yesterday before Owen got off the bus. I had plenty of things to do – laundry, a bike workout, some writing, prepping dinner – but instead I decided to walk over to town hall and vote.

And then, I cast my vote for the first female President of the United States of America.

Posted in #ThingsIHaveLearned, Challenges, Out of My Head | Leave a comment

#MicroblogMondays: Coping with The Ending.

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October, to me, represents The Ending of so much that’s good: the warmth of summer weather, all the light and sun we’ve enjoyed since the spring, birdsong, the triathlon season.

My triathlon training shifts inside, because my beloved Stiles Pond is now in the 50s and therefore too cold to swim. My bike rides are also done on a trainer inside, unless I bundle up to go outside. It’s not nearly as fun.

So I always get a touch depressed in October, mostly because I’m already missing the  strength of the sun and I am not at all acclimated to being cold, and I really hate being cold.

And it’s darker, and kind of depressing, and the leaves are dying and falling off the trees, and it means winter is coming.

So much is ending and not enough is beginning.

I need Beginnings; mini-projects to help get me through the dark and cold.

So tomorrow I’m going to begin a writing project – I’m going to join up NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) and actually start working on a crime novel I’ve been mulling over since earlier this year.

And training-wise, I’m focusing on my running for a bit in the hopes of getting faster. I’ve signed up for a 5k in the beginning of December which I’m hoping to run hard.

And I’m also trying to look at the dark and quiet of winter as being helpful for introspection, to help me go inside and emotionally make some space for the light when it’s there.

That’s what I’m doing, at any rate. We’ll see how it goes.

Do you love or hate winter? Do you have any special ways of managing the changing of a season you love into a season you don’t love as much?

Posted in #FindingMyHappy, #MicroblogMonday, Strategies, Triathlon, Wellness, Writing., Zen | 3 Comments

#MicroblogMondays: Analyzing Broadway.

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My current car playlist: the soundtrack from the Broadway show “Kinky Boots.” I saw the show a few years ago with my aunt and uncle when it was just out of previews and I really loved it. There’s so much GOOD in it: the up tempo music, the lesson of tolerance for others, self-acceptance, pushing yourself to the edge of your comfort zone, trying to meet family expectations… all of it.

I’ve really needed it lately, so I’ve been listening to it basically non-stop in the car.

Owen is getting into it, too. Which makes my heart happy, since I have an unabashed love for theater and Broadway that I’d love to share with him.

Except it’s like a game of 20 5 billion questions whenever we get in the car together to listen.

Who’s singing now? What happened? Why is he sad? Why shoes? How old is he? Has he met [the other character] yet? Why does she say, “Carry on!” What’s he talking about? What did his dad die of? Why are they fighting? Who is singing now? Why do they love shoes so much?

We can’t even get through a 10 minute ride unless I explain ALL the specifics of what and why and how. With every song.

It takes away a little of the magic, I have to admit.

But yesterday, he said, Mom, you know something? I listen to these shows and I really like them and it makes me want to SEE it. Can we go see Kinky Boots sometime?

I love that he’s getting into it, too.

(I’m just going to make him sit next to Jeff.) 🙂

Posted in #MicroblogMonday, #ThingsIHaveLearned, My Cute Kid | 1 Comment

Because It’s Personal.

I live in a small town. On the 5 miles of main road that leads people in and out of our town, there are three HUGE Trump signs. I’ve been counting signs since earlier this year, and the Trump signs are about 5 to 1. They far outweigh any other sign. My town is also not at all very diverse, and we have a pretty significantly older population – the kind of people that vote down ANY increase in the school budget, because they remember the days when stamps were 10 cents each.

Normally I don’t address politics on this blog.

But this election cycle is different.

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I was 11 when a group of boys in the 7th grade noticed I had breasts… and cornered me at school, every day, so they could feel them. I didn’t know what to say, I didn’t scream, I didn’t tell anyone about it, it just happened. I don’t actually know how long it went on, nor what happened to get them to stop, but I spent the rest of the year walking around with books or a binder in front of me, hiding the fact that I had a chest.

I was 12 when the new pastor of my church drove me to summer vacation bible school and put his hand on my bare thigh, his fingers just under the hem of my shorts. I just sat there, my heart pounding, pretending I didn’t notice. And on the way home, I made my sister sit between us. I quit going to church that fall.

I was 14 when my friend and I snuck out at night and went to her boyfriend’s house. While she went off into her boyfriend’s room, I sat in a dark room with his brother, who shoved his penis into my mouth so I could suck it. I did, because I didn’t know how to tell him no.

The fallout from these events: I made myself ugly. I gained weight. I hid my face behind massive bangs, and I dressed in baggy clothes. In high school, I crushed on guys who were gay, who I KNEW wouldn’t take advantage of me. In college, I met decent, respectful guys and hung out with them, in my flannels and jeans and baseball hats – I learned how to be one of them. After college, I went back to school for TWO Master degrees, because I thought smart women garner more respect from men. In business, I dressed like a man – pants and black and white and very little makeup. I never got too drunk at business parties, stayed away from personal topics, always talking about work. Work work work.

I didn’t even realize I was doing it.

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I watched 20 minutes of the first debate, then went to Facebook to get a sense of what people were thinking and feeling. I don’t actually know any Trump supporters – at least any that would post pro-Trump stuff on Facebook. But what I saw were people continuing to say, I hate them both. It made me feel ill.

I missed the second debate, since we were at a campsite with no cell phone reception. I didn’t hear about the tape of Trump saying he’d grab a woman and take what he wants from her because he’s famous and CAN. I also missed the Facebook live press conference he held AND the actual debate. I was thankful.

I was less thankful when we got home; my neighbor across the street had put up a Trump sign.  Facing my house.

And then, I read an article that a Canadian journalist asked for women to tweet their stories of sexual assault – to overwhelming response. What happened to me happened to millions of other women.

And then… I read what he said about women.

I felt sick all over again.

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I’ve been telling myself this whole time – since the first Trump signs in my town went up, since the first debate, when I had such a visceral reaction: Karen, don’t take this election personally. It’s not like people hate YOU or anything. It has nothing to DO with you.

But it’s clear from this weekend: it IS personal.

It always HAS been personal.

We are less than a month away from the election.

On one side, there’s a man who says exactly what he’s thinking, who has usurped politics by normalizing fear and discrimination and domination. He has very few plans, but lots of great lines about Making America Great Again! while also bragging about his penis size and how he can get any woman he wants – regardless of whether they want him or not.

And on the other side, there is a smart, very ambitious woman who has spent her life working in male-dominated worlds, who has learned how to be one of them, who seems cold and distant and hard. People don’t like her.

The crazy thing is that she’s unlikeable because of men like Trump. I know this first hand because I do the same.

So yes, it’s personal. It’s SO personal. And what I can’t understand, what I will never understand, is how people can watch the fucking awfulness that is Trump and say, Yeah, but I don’t like Hillary Clinton.

Because this isn’t about likeability. It’s not even about politics; these are not two equal candidates, debating about their views on domestic and international policies. This is about hate and entitlement and prejudice. With every news story, I have been reliving every time I’ve felt powerless and scared about being female. And saying Yeah, but… continues to normalize it.

It’s not okay.

None of this is okay.

We cannot continue to condone hate and anger. We are all human and equal, and our children deserve better than this.

All of us deserve better than this.

Posted in #BrainDump, Out of My Head, Rants | 19 Comments

Letting Go.

This weekend, we went camping at Acadia National Park.

I was nervous about the weather the week before. Looked like the weather was supposed to be cold and rainy and windy on Sunday, and I didn’t relish the idea of camping in rain AND cold. But then, a few days before we left, the app was showing it would be clear all weekend. Yesssssss.

It’s been a while since we camped, and I probably packed a bit much. I didn’t want to spend money on groceries up there, so I packed as much from home as possible. And as Jeff was putting stuff in the car, he mentioned that we were running low on space. I stood in the mudroom, looking at the jackets I had packed – winter jackets for Owen and I, extra fleece for layering – and decided against ALSO bringing rain gear. I even checked weather underground again. The app said it would be nice all weekend.

On Saturday afternoon, we saw a sign at the campground that said rain on Sunday.

What?

The weather report changed, and Matthew was heading for us. 50 degrees with lots of rain.

And we had no rain gear.

Five years ago, I probably would have forced my family to pack up and head home.

I’ll be honest: I SO WANTED to go home. Without rain gear, we couldn’t hike. The rain would send all the tourists there peeping at the leaves into the restaurants and welcome centers and onto the Park Loop Road and it would be trafficky AND cold and raining… and we were sleeping in a TENT and cooking outside and OMG I just wanted to be home in my house baking and puttering and watching football while chili cooked in the crockpot and then sleeping in my own warm, soft, comfy bed.

But Owen and Jeff didn’t want to go, and I recognized that it would be really unfair of me to make them leave; I’d be putting my own comfort above their desires, and really, that’s kind of selfish.

So we stayed. On Sunday morning we went out to breakfast and got some cheap ponchos at the Rite Aid in town. We changed up our hiking plans when we felt the wind at Jordan Pond and basically spent the day in the car, driving around the island, getting Owen his National Park stamps for his passport. We went to Thunder Hole, Owen’s favorite place, multiple times. We went to Northeast Harbor for coffee. We spent $2.00 each for a warm shower in the afternoon. We went out to Bar Harbor for dinner. And then we went back to our tent and played cards until we were ready for sleeping.

And holy shit it was cold and loud overnight. Both Jeff and I kept waking up to make sure there wasn’t water in the tent – there wasn’t – and then when the wind blew through, it sounded like a plane or a freight train. Owen was up a couple times overnight because he was cold, until I convinced him to put on a fleece and gloves inside his sleeping bag.

The next morning, we huddled inside our sleeping bags for warmth and laughed about how silly we looked. And then we broke down the campsite, got back into the car, drove the Park Loop one last time, and then headed home.

It doesn’t really sound like much, I know. Kinda like a first world thing: Gee, I’m so proud of myself for sticking it out! We basically spent the day in the car and in restaurants – it’s not like we were really roughing it.

But I can tell you, the decision to stay, for me, was not easy. I was mad that I didn’t bring the gear with us, mad at Jeff for telling me we didn’t have space in the car which CAUSED me to make the decision to not bring the gear with us, mad that the stupid weather app was wrong which made me feel like we didn’t need our rain gear, mad that we were spending more money than I had budgeted because we didn’t have our rain gear, uncomfortable and cold every time I stepped out of our car because I didn’t have my rain gear.  I wanted to go home ALL DAY on Sunday. And I fought the urge to buy more rain gear at the multiple stores in town so we could actually hike and warm up that way.

Hi, I’m Karen, and I’m a control freak.

As I got home and was uploading pictures to Facebook, I realized that in all of them from Sunday, we are actually having fun.

It was cold, yes. And wet. And windy. And did I mention it was cold?

But letting go of my idea that camping HAS to be comfortable in order for us to have fun is a good thing, too.

So yes, I’m really glad we stayed.

 

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When The Scars Run Deep.

A memory popped up on Facebook yesterday: a picture of my friend Heather and I finishing the Wineglass Half Marathon in 2012.

wineglass

I was pregnant in this picture.

It was early on, but my numbers were climbing the way they should have. I was doing intramuscular shots of progesterone in oil, and I was really, really hopeful.

I spent the entirety of my pregnancy with Owen terrified of something happening to him, so when I got the first positive on a home pregnancy test, I told myself I was going to remain positive and optimistic. This time would be different, I thought.

The race wasn’t my best. I had turned my ankle a week before the race, and somehow the day of I managed to badly sprain my ankle at the start – literally right after I ran over the start mat. Still, though, I managed to run with Heather the whole way, and I never bonked or ran hard enough that I felt like it was too much for me. And I cried running across the finish line, because I was so happy.

I miscarried a few weeks after this picture.

It was our last attempt at trying for a sibling for Owen. It was too much, all the uncertainty, the hoping and failing and shots and appointments and retrievals and transfers. We had spent 5 years altogether waging war against infertility, and we just had to shake our heads and admit defeat.

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A couple weeks ago, I went to my primary care doctor for my annual physical. On the top of the list of questions I had for her, I mentioned to her that I had been having some symptoms of menopause – night sweats, insomnia, a few hot flashes. Isn’t it early for this? I asked her. I’m only 40.

She told me that she had patients who were in full on menopause at 45, and others who were in their 50s before they felt symptoms. We couldn’t know for sure, because my mom had a hysterectomy and never hit menopause herself, and it was a little early, she told me, but I’m over 40, and it’s possible what I’m feeling is menopause.

In one breath, relief. Every monthly cycle is a reminder of what I’ve lost. Once you know your body’s cycle, you can’t un-know it, and I can’t tell you how many cycles I’ve bitterly noted my body’s signs, knowing it was no use.

But then, too. The End. We might have walked away from treatments 4 years ago, but always, always, there’s this tiny chance. Maybe. SO unlikely, remote. But maybe. Even though I’m 40 and oh my god where would we put a baby and I can’t even imagine starting all over again. I really do not want a baby right now.

But there’s still a microscopic flame of hope. Always.

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Just as ripples spread in water when a stone is tossed into a lake… our years of struggling with infertility have had a profound effect on me.

It’s taken me the better part of the past 4 years to stop punishing myself and my body for its failure, to let go of the fact the idea that my body failed me in a basic, biological, fundamental way.

We are still dealing with the repercussions on our relationship, too. I’ve heard about infertility bringing couples closer as they fight for the family they dream of. That is not our story. Jeff and I have very different ways of coping with our grief, and it affects us to this day.

And despite being 99.99999% at peace with having an only child – I really don’t want a baby right now, there is a part of me that grieves and longs and screams, I want! when I hold a new baby.

This time of year is so hard. I so wish I had been able to have another baby.

Today, I sat on my therapist’s couch, and I cried – again – at how hard it is to “get over” infertility. Even though I have an 8 year old son, who I carried to term.  I know how lucky I am – we got so damn lucky.

I’m aware of just how lucky I am, really.

But also, I grieve that it was so hard.

I grieve that I didn’t bring home the baby that was safely tucked inside me 4 years ago when I ran that half marathon. She’s gone.

It still hurts like hell.

Posted in #BrainDump, Ancient History, Challenges, Races, Writing. | 1 Comment