Sunday, January 22, 2017

Acknowledgement is not Accusation (Yes, it's a political post)

So many days have passed since I last wrote and I've wanted to hop on here and write but I'm full of angsty emotions that are pinging around my brain.  So we all know that I didn't want the president we now have in office.  But, as I told my kids, it doesn't always work out how you want and yet America continues on as great with potential as always.   It's an amazing country and we are beyond blessed to call it home. Our history is built on pendulum swings.  History is not a smooth line, it's a mash up of moments, people, ideas, success, failure, belief, change, love, hate, kindness, but never stillness.  
And, no, I don't think we are doomed as a nation.  But I am worried.  I worry when after the march we saw yesterday, I see white women saying "What do you mean we don't have equal rights? Of course we have equal rights, we all live in America where all you have to do is work hard and you will succeed..."  To quote our current president: "Wrong."  While that is exactly how it should be, and while that is exactly how we would have it, it just isn't true for everyone in our wonderful, and still evolving, nation.  Women have made incredible progress in this nation, but remember it was only my grandma's generation of women that got the right to vote. Only my mother's generation that could finally get their own credit card without a man signing for it, and only my generation that a woman could not be fired for pregnancy.  Progress is measured in centuries.  Our still relatively young nation has only begun to advance in equality for all when you take the long view of history.  
I am not dumb, I am not naive, and I am not out of touch for recognizing that we have more progress to achieve in many areas, not the least of which is women's rights.  And for people of color the progress is even harder.  Again, to those white women who I hear dismissing the fight for rights they feel we have already achieved, I respectfully disagree that all American women are treated equally everywhere and I know that those of color have even more challenge.  I worry that these women who make this statement about everyone having equal rights then feel that my acknowledgement of this inequity is somehow me trying to say they are racist, sexist, or at a disadvantage themselves. That's not what I am saying. 
Acknowledging that inequity exists, especially for people of color is just that; an acknowledgement. It is not an accusation.  It is not a judgement or a holier than thou chastising.  It is an acknowledgment that we can do better.  We must do better.  We will do better.  That is America.  We change. We grow. We continue to strive to fulfill the promises of the past and future. 

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Kindness. But First, Coffee.

Kindness.  Today I was thinking about kindness and what a simple but amazing weapon it can be.  I was going to talk about how we can all be more kind and how we can start our days out right with being kind.  But then I realized that Tom would bust me for being a total hypocrite. To quote my daughter Katie "It's not that you're unkind in the morning it's more that the morning is unkind to you." 
Before I dramatically describe my aversion to mornings I will state that overall I'm a happy and friendly person.  I pride myself on being able to communicate positively and build great friendships. I smile often. I love making people happy and was even once voted "Most likely to be happy" by my high school peers.  So, maybe after reading this you will just know that you might not want to hang out with me as I'm waking up!
I wake up and feel like I haven't gotten enough sleep and then I have to summon up the maturity to not be a complete and total jerk to my family.  I often fail.  I really do suck at the whole morning thing. I swear it feels like the covers are about 50 pounds, the air temperature in the room outside my covers must be cold enough to allow snow to fall at any minute, and my eyes have suffered a malady that doesn't allow them to open, alternatively, more than a centimeter before they forcefully slam shut again.  
How can it be morning already?  I have a shirt that says "But first, coffee."  And it's true.  I need that cup of coffee. The coffee isn't even the really important part but I think it is just knowing that I can have a moment, just a moment,  to pause all of the needs/wants/expectations that are surrounding me.  
I sort of have this mental image of waking up being the same as wandering into a forbidden area of a forest and looking up to see the local residents surrounding me in a circle, hands on pitchforks. "What are you doing here?" their suspicious eyes ask me. Some even have spears pointing at me - and it's just me, in the middle of the circle, warily looking back at them while I clutch my cup of joe. But with every little sip of that warm java fortification, a morning menace disappears from the circle.  A few more sips and circle is gone and I settle into the morning around me.  Now I can actually talk to my children without making a face like their words are Hollywood style spot lights shining into my eyes.  Now I can actually sign that forgotten permission slip, write a random note to a teacher. Now I can discuss storm troopers and light sabers in the serious tone they deserve.  
It's all a little silly, this morning aversion, I will admit.  But I'm pushing 43 years old and I've sucked at morning as an activity for truly as long as I remember.  I don't think it's going to change.  My poor best friend from high school used to come pick me up sometimes before school and she would march into my room and drill sergeant me out of bed.  She would lecture me and yell at me in a continuous verbal barrage until I dragged my sloth-like self out of bed with what I can only imagine was a very evil eye pointed at her.  
Why does the world have to start so early?!  What's wrong with you people who like to wake up, go to they gym, run errands,...all before 8 am?  That's just not right...;)  I've tried.  There is a benefit to exercising early in the day and, yes, it is nice to have errands taken care of early on. But you know what I love to do the most early in the morning?  Sleep. And then coffee. 
So yes, I will wake up in the morning and do as proper humans do. I will (usually) stifle my urge to whine about being tired, the cruelty of the morning, and the injustice of alarm clocks.  I will help the kids get their stuff together, make sure they have food in their bellies before setting off, and make a game plan for the day with Tom.  I will even get myself showered, dressed and off to a productive day of work.  But first, coffee! 

And here's your happy news for today:

Science says Coffee Is Good for you!  
So drink up and enjoy 13 benefits! Yay for science!

Coffee Love Story
A cute little vimeo movie project.  Coffee, love, adorableness ensues.  2+minutes of cuteness.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Losing and Finding Hope (The Miracle of Mary)

Hope can be a scary thing; a vulnerability or an opportunity to open your heart to a potential devastation.  But hope, nonetheless to me will always be my default.  I believe I was raised to expect that eventually things do work out the right way. Now, the right way that eventually happens vs the right way we expect when we initially hope can be two extremely different things!  I look back at different points in my life and if I were to visit the "me of then" vs now I would see that they didn't work out how I hoped at that time but they did work out in a way that I wouldn't change.

When Tom and I were newlyweds, we wanted nothing more than to be parents. Married at 25 we wanted kids immediately.  At about age 27 we were told by an expert that we were never going to have kids naturally.  We decided on adoption because to us the important factor was being parents, not being pregnant.  We started the slow and confusing process of adoption; social workers, paper work, and wondering literally where in the world our son or daughter was or might be.  We sold our condo and bought a house knowing that it would be important to have a house for a social worker to visit and approve of.  We filed paperwork and tried to be patient.  This would take years they told us. Then, suddenly we got the unexpected news that I was somehow miraculously pregnant! We were thrilled. But the social worker said we had to cancel the adoption process which was surprisingly hard for me to do. We hadn't been matched with a child yet so we had to stop the process in light of the pregnancy.  I felt like I was letting go of the child I started conjuring in my mind.  But we stopped the process, said so long to the money invested, and re-adjusted our mind set to the baby on the way.  We felt so lucky to be pregnant, against the odds.  Proud to prove the experts wrong. Those few weeks were joyous and exciting but it didn't turn out how we expected.   On December 23rd of that year, I miscarried.  The baby of our dreams was no longer with us.  I no longer had a baby inside and no longer had an adoption in process.  I was lost because suddenly I didn't have hope.  I just felt like the rug had been pulled out from under me and didn't know what to feel except for sadness.  We mourned the loss of the baby and more so the loss of hope because we felt this was a once in a life time chance we had been given.  But then, through time, quiet moments, love from family, support of friends and reflection, we began to hope again little by little.  We began to hope more.  Hope that maybe if we were successful once, we could be successful again.
Back to the doctors we went. Medication, charts, calculations, and hope. Month after month.  And then one day...the little stick had a plus sign!  We did it.  We were pregnant again.  My grandma had just passed away the month before and we asked her to send us a baby from heaven and here it was.  I knew this was our gift from her and I knew it was going to be ok.  Hope exploded in my heart.

Pushing 30 years old, 5 years of trying and it was finally going to work out. I was confident and calm that this pregnancy would be perfect.  But nothing is ever truly perfect, right?  Imagine my shock when  I rushed to the ER bleeding, hemorrhaging.  A physical exam was done, tests were taken  and I was told I had lost the baby.  This time I wasn't sad.  I wasn't angry. I wasn't terrified.  I was nothing. Because my mind could not accept that this baby, the gift, would be taken from me.  I spent weeks trying to figure out how to mourn, how to cry, how to start the grieving process.  Honestly, I don't even remember much because I just stopped feeling because I could not accept it.  Frozen. How could I ever find hope again?
Nearly two months went by and emotionally I was still on vacation but physically I just wasn't feeling well so I called my doctor and talked to the nurse about my symptoms. She had an odd tone in her voice and said she wanted to have me do some tests. I agreed to a blood test.  I thought I had an infection related to the miscarriage.  She called me the next day to say that my test had high HCG levels.  I asked her what that meant and she said it is a sign of pregnancy.  I told her it was wrong, we hadn't tried for a baby, there must be something wrong with my body. I had heard of miscarriages that weren't complete and left tissue behind in the uterus and I thought this was what was happening. She insisted I have an exam.
Tom took me to the ultrasound and I was so upset when the tech happily asked me how far along I was because I had to tell her I miscarried.  I thought she was so insensitive.  We headed in to the ultrasound and the tech hooked up the machine, inserted the ultrasound wand and gasped as something gray and blobby flashed onto the screen.  She yanked the wand fiercely out of me, causing me to flinch.  I said "what's going on?!"  I really thought there was some kind of mass inside of me. She said "There's a baby in there!  A BIG baby!"  It was like she was speaking another language because her words made no sense. Finally I started stacking her words in order and comprehending them.  "A baby? Is it? Is it like, alive?" I asked in confused voice.  And she gave me a weird look and said "It's moving all over. And it's big. Too big for me to do an ultrasound like that safely. Sorry to have yanked like that but I have to do an ultrasound on your belly."  I looked at Tom because I was so confused.  I truly couldn't understand what was happening.  He was crying.  The kind of tears I hadn't seen in a long time.  Tears of joy and tears of hope.  And I was still just trying to understand what was happening.  I didn't understand his tears.  I wasn't pregnant, I thought.  I lost the baby, I thought.  The tech was just confused, I thought.
It probably only took 5 minutes for her to set up the machine but I truly felt like it took 20 minutes, like she was stuck in slow motion.  I wanted to know what was inside of me, what was wrong because I couldn't, I wouldn't dare hope that there was actually a baby.  She finally applied a big glob of gel to by abdomen and pressed the paddle down and the screen came to light with different shades of grey.  "There's the baby!" she said " You definitely have a baby in there!" Grin grin goes the tech's face.  More tears from Tom as he stares in wonder at the screen and squeezes my hand.  All I can think is wait - wait for her to tell you what's wrong.  Wait for the bad news.  Wait.  But the tech happily continues to point at the screen.  A head, an arm, look, a foot.  She says "How far along were you when you were told you lost your baby?"  10 weeks I tell her.  "How long ago was that?" She asks.  I estimate about 7-8 weeks ago.   She explains "this baby is measuring near 20 weeks. You didn't miscarry this baby. Maybe a twin. Maybe a complication.  But this baby is healthy. You did not lose this baby."
I was half way through the pregnancy that I thought I had lost. It turns out that the E.R. doctor got it wrong and the tests that would prove it were lost and not delivered to my OBGYN so we didn't know the truth for 7 weeks when my nurse was smart enough to order the blood test and ultrasound.  And in that moment, gel drying on my tummy, lights dimmed, and the sound of a baby's hearbeat echoing through the room, every bit of hope I thought I lost came rushing right back into me, into my smiles, into my tears, into my iron grip on Tom's hand.  Hope wasn't gone, I'd been hiding it right behind my heart.   This is the story of Mary. The story of hope.

Never lose hope. Don't be afraid to hope again. Sometimes you might need to put hope on hold for a while, stick it on the shelf for a bit to let the other feeling take their turn but never lose it forever.  In our darkest moments, whether they be personal, political, familial, social, we have to remember that with time and patience, it will work out.  Hope will get us there.  Time and hope.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

To Dog Or Not To Dog?

To dog or not to dog?  That is the question.  Or really I think the question is when to dog.  Everyone in our family loves the idea of a dog.  A companion, a playmate, someone who will finally clean up the food that falls on the floor...
But is now really the time?  Probably not.  Dogs are a lot of responsibility and we are already a bit nuts and overwhelmed in this family.  But is that going to change anytime soon? Probably not.  And from a therapeutic perspective, a dog would be awesome for Katie. And Mary has so much love to give that she would snuggle that furry friend at a level 10.  And Ryan would play and play and play with a dog. But I just don't know if I really want another being to take care of...

But then I wonder if the universe is trying to tell me something.  2 days ago Ryan was playing and singing and he stopped and looked up at me and said "Oh!  I really want a dog!"  and then went back to playing.  Last night I had a dream that we adopted an abandoned dog.  Then today when I was out with Mary, my sister texted me saying she found a dog for us on a rescue site... I didn't ask her to.  I told Mary the picture of the dog she sent was really cute but maybe I would like a dog like a golden doodle because I heard they are gentler and would be a good therapy type dog.  Then, when we got home we were talking to Katie and mentioned something about a dog and she said "I had a dream last night that I went geocaching with dad and we found a lost dog and we adopted it. But if we got a dog I think I would like a golden doodle..."   

Am I crazy or are we supposed to get a dog?! 

Ok, enough Dog talk - Let's see what went right in the world:

Firefighters and Cake!
Monroe WI firefighters responded to a call at a house where they discovered the source of a burning electrical smell was coming from an oven.  While a fire luckily did not break out, they learned that the malfunctioning oven was supposed to be cooking a birthday cake for a 4 year old girl.  So, after making sure all were safe, the firefighters took the extra step of delivering a new cake to the little girl so she could still celebrate!

Taylor Swift Surpirses 96 Year Old Swifty!
Taylor Swift recently surprised a 96 year old WWII veteran at his family holiday celebration this week.  This self proclaimed "Swifty" has been to two of her concerts and is a huge fan.  Swift  shocked everyone when she just suddenly showed up at the party, sang "Shake it Off" and hung out with the man and his family, including 20 grandchildren! No one knew she was coming.  Can you imagine??  The video is awesome to watch.

Friday, December 23, 2016

No Exploding Rolls!

Merry Christmas Eve Eve!  As of last posting we were struggling a bit in the Young house but we are having happier days now.  Katie is back up on her feet which relieves us all.  We are glad to be back to the normal we no longer take for granted.  No time was wasted taking advantage of having the team back to full strength.  We turbo cleaned the house today in anticipation of the party tomorrow and then tonight we messed it back up again making gluten free cinnamon rolls! 
This baking was an experiment since in the past we've just baked those kind of rolls that come from the hella-scary tubes that make that freaky popping sound as you slowly peel the paper from the tube. Man, do I hate that. I always behave like a complete freak sort of bending my ear down to my shoulder to cover it, plugging my other ear with my free hand, squinting my eyes and gingerly tugging the paper away from that cruel tube, at arms length, as if it's a live grenade, ready to blow.  Am I the only one with an unnatural fear of rolls from exploding tubes?
Due to their gluten-mania, those dastardly rolls are no longer an option.  So, Katie and I decided that we must continue our cinnamon roll on Christmas morning tradition by making them from scratch this year.  Mary lucked out by accepting a last minute sleep over invitation at a friend's house and missed what I can only describe as Thing 1 and Thing 2 take a cooking lesson in the kitchen. The first batch was a total disaster!  Instead of rolls, they were more like weird little cinnamon blobs without enough sweet stuff mixed into where there were supposed to be folds.  Maybe Ryan will like them....  The second batch was much more successful and came out looking and tasting like sweet, gooey, cinnamon goodness.  Phew! There is something to be said for learning as you go.  Cooking and every day life have that in common: you have to be willing to try something new, learn from your mistakes and keep going.  Turns out that if you don't give up, you might end up with something sweet! Wishing you the best this holiday weekend.  

Oh, and here's what went right in the world today! 

Little Dude Busts a Move!
7 year old Tristan recently had successful surgery at American Family Children's Hospital in Madison, WI.  He was feeling so good that he shook his groove thing for the camera to celebrate.  His facial expressions are priceless.  He's hoping to go viral and be "internet famous" by Christmas.  Please watch and click share to help Tristan keep his spirits up!

Delivering The Mail...ON FIRE?!!
Take a look outside of the window and you will see that delivering the mail can be fierce.  Despite snow storms, pounding rain, intense heat, frigid snow, and the extremes of the weather, the mail always gets delivered.  But what about fire?!  In this story you will read about how a mail carrier rescued almost all of the Christmas packages in her truck despite the growing fire that was engulfing the vehicle.  She remained calm and with the additional help of a good Samaritan nearly every package was spared the flames.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Seeing the Best When You See the Worst

It’s been a hard few days in the Young house.  Katie has had so much pain arising from her Ehlers Danlos Syndrome (EDS).  EDS is so frustrating and cruel because while she unfortunately has pain every day, sometimes it just “attacks” and she is so severely affected.  She had a weekend with so much pain that walking was not an option, nor was moving anything on her body in general.  So, we did a lot of carrying her and using the wheelchair.  It’s hard on everyone who loves her to watch her suffer.  She missed out on a girl scout event, dinner with grandparents and school yesterday.  But you know what?  She still smiles and finds ways to be happy despite pain and loss of function.  She has really gotten into coding and developing games lately.  And she has a crazy fun sense of humor and a wicked smart mind.  And she is surrounded by love. Big sister Mary watches out for her like a warrior protector and steps up to help her and fills in on Katie’s chores during these frequent pain spells.  Mary is an amazingly kind person with a quiet confidence and wisdom that serves her and others well.

I wish more than anything in the world I could take the EDS away but I can’t.  And while I hate it and spend so much energy on worry and anger and anxiety over it, this stupid condition has also shown me the best sides of my children.  Katie is a tireless fighter who overcomes monumental challenges daily with a ninja spirit and a grin. She has figured out how to live around EDS, how to be in charge.  Mary’s kindness and selflessness has been displayed not just occasionally, or even daily, but multiple times every single day. It’s a lot to put on a big sister and she handles it with grace.  And Ryan has become a cheerleader for both of his sisters but is especially attuned to and proud and encouraging of Katie when he sees her back up and walking after days in a wheelchair.  They all amaze me every day.   So on those days when I feel like giving up and just sinking into anger over my child’s condition, I see them and I see so much more than just the struggle.

I’m skipping the news links today and reporting on my kids because that’s what went right in the world today!

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Slaying the Dining Room Dragon

Snowy Saturday salutations!  Today it snowed and then snowed some more and the Young 5 gratefully stayed inside all day long.  There was plenty of playing and goofing to go around but also a major project!  As some of you who have seen our house (oh messy house) know, our "dining room" has come to resemble a small Amazon distribution center. Perhaps more appropriately referenced to as a box jungle,a cardboard kingdom, the storage platform formally known as a table! Amazon Prime, along with their subscribe and save program present fantastic savings opportunities as well as super convenience but there is one teensey weensey, complicating factor.  It turns out that when you get a giant box (or 3) of your monthly goods, you have to actually put them somewhere. Who knew?  And slowly, over about the last year, that somewhere became the dining room table.  From cereal, to crackers and gluten free oatmeal to an overabundance of paper towels, we've had an ever growing warehouse of dry goods.  Like a walk in closet of our formal dining room! Today we conquered Mount Saint Amazon (A.K.A Fort Box Land and The Great Wall of Snacks) and returned the room to a place where people can actually sit and eat!  Ryan was so amazed.  He honestly didn't realize there was a table there. Oy! He was genuinely giddy to discover a table and announced it was a super beautiful table.  He then realized that the chairs were there for a reason and sat down, just taking it all in. He returned many times just to sit.   I sat there too for a while.  We washed, dried and placed the red Christmas table cloth on the table along with green candles in anticipation of next week's party.  I'm thinking a cribbage game at the recently rediscovered table is due later tonight  - look out Tom, I'm coming for you!  Perhaps a family game of Tripoly at the party next week?  Not that the news of our defeat over disarray, our conquest to clear clutter, our mastery over miscellany isn't great news in and of itself but here is some of what else went right in the world today:

Waiting 80 Years for "Mr. Right"
Get an ice pack because this will make your heart melt!
Maria, age 80, had never been married and assumed she never would be... until the dashing 96 year old Carlos came into her the man in the room down the hall in the nursing home!  As soon as Carlos moved in and saw Maria he was hot on her trail and they quickly fell in love.  The nursing home soon hosted a wedding at which all of the residence rejoiced at and Maria and Carlos danced and toasted with non-alcoholic cider.  No longer neighbors, they now share a room as a married couple. Maria said while it took a long time to find her soul mate, Carlos was worth the wait!

Scrooge the Ticket!
A town in Ontario Canada is turning parking tickets into an opportunity to give to charity.  During the month of December, folks are allowed to "pay" their parking tickets with donations to others in need.  In lieu of paying cash, tickets can be payed in the form of donated toys, food, or gift cards.  You have to admit that if you're going to get a ticket, this would be a nice way to "pay" for it.