#MicroblogMondays: ISO Holiday Spirit

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It is 6 days before Christmas, and I am in dire need of Christmas spirit. Our tree is up, but that’s about it due to the wiring/fiber project and frankly, scope creep.  I’m off work for the rest of the year, and there is plenty to do, but I can’t find my motivation.  It’s been a year. Between health issues, work issues and more work issues, kitty cat issues, 7-year-olds going on 13 issues, and the election, we – the adults in the house – just want to hibernate until…until when? When things are better?

It’s a year for things to be up-ended, even our holiday celebrations.  Jimmy and his brother both starting new jobs means less vacation time, so we had his family’s Christmas celebration on Sunday when we usually have it after Christmas.  Instead of spending the day after Christmas baking goodies, I made only two small batches on Saturday since they are flying back to NJ instead of driving. We will have Christmas with my family later this week and then actual Christmas at home and then we’ll be done.  It isn’t bad; it’s just different. Everything feels different this year.

It’s been quite a year.

But we will muddle through as my favorite melancholy Christmas song suggests. We have an excited little boy who is counting down to Santa – maybe one of the last years for Santa in our house – and two Advent calendars to maintain. Cookies to bake for Santa and for us.  We introduced him to the Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter movies recently, and it is so special to watch his wonder as he discovers those worlds.

So maybe the wooden Advent calendar is underneath the stairs and there is a TV in our fireplace. So maybe one strand of my carefully-checked lights on the bushes outside stubbornly refuses to work. So maybe the $1.39 lights for the windows I bought refuse to work consistently (thanks, China!). So maybe I’ve already watched Christmas Vacation three times. So maybe my Christmas cards still aren’t done despite actually having a formal family portrait this year.  So maybe I prefer to read Trixie Belden fan fiction instead of engaging with the news because reality is too much.

It is what it is. And maybe, just maybe, Christmas spirit will find me.

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This may represent the entirety of our decorations this year.

 

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15 Years

Today is our 15th wedding anniversary. What? 15 years already?!?! But it is true. Fifteen years ago on a similarly unseasonably warm day, I walked down the aisle, almost caught my dress on a pew and gripped Jimmy’s hands so hard that he joked the imprint of his ring would be visible on his bone.

You might think we spent this milestone anniversary having a nice dinner out or doing something special.

We did. Sort of.

First, I picked up takeout hibachi for about the zillionth time this year. Who needs the teppanyaki show when you can get the same food to go without the time commitment?

Then, we had normal nightly chores to do. School papers to sign for Daniel and practice for the next day’s spelling test. Lunches to make and kitty cats to be fed and treated.

Finally came the main task of the evening. We are having AT&T fiber installed tomorrow. Jimmy is very excited about it and we needed to do some wiring before the installer comes out tomorrow.  And I use “we” throughout because I helped (not always graciously).

Our living room is in disarray because we took apart the entertainment center earlier in the week for the fiber installation. Our bonus room is filled with pieces from the entertainment center. The TV is in front of our coffee table. And in the middle of it all is our Christmas tree, begging, hoping to be decorated soon.

Tonight, though, was devoted to wiring. Tonight Jimmy was in the crawl space underneath the house after drilling a hole in the wall to the crawl space. I fed him 50 feet of a bundle of wires with only a tiny bit of discord (we don’t do projects like this well).

It felt like that scene in Poltergeist in which Jo Beth Williams is preparing to go into the other side to get Carol Ann, and the scientists see the rope and tennis balls coming through the ceiling covered in ectoplasm.

As I was feeding the wires to Jimmy, it took all my restraint not to start chanting, “Cross over, children. All are welcome.”

The wiring is ready, and even though the house is still a wreck, we will fix it this weekend. The tree will be decorated.

It may not have been the anniversary night one sees in movies or reads in books, but it was certainly real.

Happy 15th to us. We got shit done.

To Mother

I’ve posted several times about motherhood and what it is like when you don’t have the typical physical experiences of becoming a mother. I read an article recently on trans parents and their experience of motherhood. Titled rather provocatively “Is Motherhood Gendered?”, it brings a new dimension to the ongoing question of what and who is a mother:

is motherhood something innate, as we are so often told – a chemical reaction of love and self-sacrifice tied to the ‘transformative’ process of pregnancy and childbirth? Or, is it something that can be learned? Ultimately, is trans motherhood about emphasising similarities or, perhaps, about learning to embrace differences?

It’s very often a heated, complex topic. Am I less of a woman because I did not physically grow, birth and feed my son? Is a trans woman less of a woman if she does not? I admit that reading that article and its terminology and scenarios had moments of confusion for me: a biological woman transitioning to a man who decided to have a child? Mind blown. I literally do not have a vocabulary for that, yet I hope that if we can figure out how to refer to those familial situations, we can figure out how to refer to other situations in which a mother is the mother but not the biological mother.

In regards to mothering, I like the direction that philosopher Sara Ruddick  is going:

Sara Ruddick promoted the use of the verb ‘mothering’ as gender-neutral; she proposed that rather than being a product of our sex and gender, ‘mothering’ is a practice. In the past, mothering has been associated solely with female work, representing the ‘female’ qualities of gentleness, softness, kindness. But in today’s world – where men can stay at home, women can go to work, and gender can be switched – ‘mothering’ must be expanded to include others too.

Sometimes I wonder if it seems silly that I am hung up on the physical aspects of motherhood when the point is that I was able to become a mother. A genetic mother. The point is that it can be hard to be a woman, a mother, with a less-than-traditional path in this society.  The definition of being a woman is still tied to motherhood, and when you differ from that, it is painful and difficult. Even now, 11 years after we started our TTC journey, I still feel “other.” And age has not helped because I feel like I am entering the span of life in which I am no longer considered to be a legitimate woman. Invisible. Yes, these are my own issues. Yes, many of them are likely silly. If I – a cisgender woman – feel like this, I can imagine how my trans sisters feel. My hope is that we can work together to create a new vocabulary that represents our experiences and realities and expands the definition of what it means to be a woman AND a mother.

Another Birthday

Today is my birthday, and I am 39. I’m having complicated feelings about it, the ones many of us have once you reach a certain age and the milestone birthdays aren’t quite as fun because of what they symbolize.

It has been a weird summer, a weird year. The first few months had stress and anxiety due to my husband being out of work, a house project that (predictably) went slightly longer than expected, work anxiety of my own, school decisions for next year, and health concerns.

We hoped that once summer came, coming with the end of the school year, another successful Listen to Your Mother: Raleigh-Durham show, health concerns allayed (although not necessarily improved), three beach trips, school decision made and a major change at my own job, we could exhale and detorque.

Instead, we felt unsettled all summer. I was never able to relax completely at the beach, and the summer flew by. Work stress continued – I have relearned the painful lesson that nature abhors a vacuum when it comes to drama. And worst of all, we had to put another cat to sleep, leaving us with an “only cat.” I feel down and blue and like I’m just failing at so many things.

We also learned that the upcoming season of Listen to Your Mother will be the final one, at least under its current branding and organization.

Those sound like major first-world problems, and I feel like I’m whining. I don’t know why this year felt the way it did. We’ve had other years that were truly terrible. There’s just something about this year that has felt and feels off.

But it is my birthday, and that’s a good thing. I have people who love me and a job that while frustrating and drama-filled more often than I would like, is interesting and stimulating.  Daniel has adjusted well to his new school.

And Fall is coming. Pumpkins and changing leaves and holidays. The heat will break eventually, and maybe, just maybe, I’ll find a little energy and enthusiasm.

Happy 39th birthday, KeAnne.

#Microblog Mondays: Beach Fluke 2


Last week I wrote about the fluke I had at the beach over Memorial Day. Well. We arrived at the beach yesterday for our full week of vacation and have already encountered fluke #2.

We were in the grocery store – the same grocery store from last week’s post – and I saw a familiar face. It was a coworker who retired two years ago and moved to Washington state and who had returned to NC for vacation.

How bizarre! Perhaps this is an enchanted Food Lion?!?! I jest but I have raved for years about the bookstore in this same shopping center – it has the most eclectic collection of books and more than once, I have found a book I had been thinking about. Serendipity.

Hopefully these special moments foretell a great vacation. We did see this yesterday, and I’m hoping it is auspicious.

#Microblog Monday: Fluke 


We went to our usual beach for Menorial Day weekend. Though we go to the beach twice a year, we have seldom left town for holidays like Memorial Day or the Fourth of July. This year, we just could not bear the thought of another month before our first summer trip and managed to find an inexpensive rental.

Anyway.

We stopped by the grocery store our first evening to buy a few supplies. As we walked in, I noticed a car with the license plate “OtherMommy.” 

What shocked me was that it was the same license plate I noticed almost five years ago and wrote about. It had to be the same person, and the car listed a Raleigh dealership.

I know that sometimes we think coincidences are super rare, even when science tells us otherwise, but still! What are the odds of me seeing that license plate five years later at the beach we visit?

Of course it may be an example of a decent memory and the Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon. Clearly the license plate made an impression me half a decade ago.

I like a little magic, so I prefer to believe Hamlet: 

There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.

Addendum

Thank you all for your comments on “Plans in Pencil.”  I’ve been thinking about what to do with those embryos a lot lately and along with it has come the return of the old anger and bitterness, some of which you can see in both the piece I wrote for Listen to Your Mother and the recent post on grief.

When I returned to work after the LTYM show,  I found a curious email in my work inbox. It was from a friend of someone who had attended the show, and she asked about adopting our embryos because they are undergoing infertility as well. I guess her friend had told her about my piece and my mention of our embryos, but it appeared the gist of the piece had not been conveyed.

The writer’s pain was obvious in her email. Part of me was floored that she had emailed me, a complete stranger, about our embryos and she had to search a bit to find my email.

Seeing this email two days after the show, I could not respond. I didn’t know how to respond. I was exhausted both physically and emotionally and I had no words other than, “no, you may not have them.”

I still haven’t responded, and that’s cruel of me. I know how she feels. I know how desperate she must feel to email a stranger. I need to respond, but what do I say?  Is it possible to let her down gently? Maybe I am dreading her counter reply of asking me why I can’t donate my embryos to her if I’m not going to use them and accusing me of being selfish.  Are we being selfish by keeping them frozen and neither donating them to research nor placing them for adoption?

Many decisions are selfish, though. Our decision to use surrogacy to have a biological child is often deemed selfish (at least in the media and comment sections). Someone else’s decision to adopt could be selfish depending on motivations. A relative’s decision to have three children could be interpreted as selfish by someone concerned about the impact on the environment and overcrowding.

Sometimes in the realm of infertility, it seems you are always making someone unhappy.