Who We Are When No One’s Watching

It’s been awhile. So much to say. But for now go check out my post on the Mama Bear Blog (I’m posting over there a bit more regularly).

“Almost three years ago we moved from both of our families and friends in Iowa to relocate to Michigan. I would say the first year I relied pretty heavily on my phone for all the things. Most of those were healthy—keeping in touch with good friends, receiving updates on my nieces and nephews, keeping track of clients to make sure they were staying on their health journey, etc. But some of it was exactly what Esther talked about with us—I simply didn’t know who I was without constant reinforcement from my online community. While in Iowa I had friends and family for that reinforcement, so rarely would we go a day without seeing someone who could remind me of my worth. But once we moved I found myself relying more on the strangers behind their phones and computers to give me those reinforcements. A ‘like’ on Facebook, a retweet on Twitter, a comment on Instagram, they were all a poor replacement for Leslie’s hug or lunch with my friends, but it was enough to bridge the emotional gap for me.”

Go here to read more.

Advertisements
An Open Letter to My Daughter On the Precipice of Puberty…

An Open Letter to My Daughter On the Precipice of Puberty…

Yesterday we were at an orthopedic appointment for Binyam and while waiting for him to be done with his x-rays Dailah and I were talking. This is when she told me that for lunch she was able to have Doritoes and a few chunks of chocolate because a few friends of hers didn’t want to eat theirs from their lunch box because they said it might make them fat.

They are 10.

We had the conversation we often have when we pass magazines of women tucked, airbrushed and whitened. The idea that she will feel pressure to look a certain way or act a certain way is not new to Dailah because, like me, she is constantly watching and feeling. My conversations with Dailah have morphed from the “there is no one way to look or to be healthy and confident and beautiful” to “listen to your gut, don’t drown out that voice inside that tells you the world is wrong or that you’re too much of anything.”

We got home and I thought of the hundreds of other things I wished I had said to her in that moment. I realize she’s not ready to hear some of this but as I started writing I realized not only was I writing to my 10-year-old but I was also writing to myself as a young adult as well.

Parenting Dailah intimidates me so much because I feel like I’m still trying to figure out what it means to be a woman and how to listen to my gut instead of our culture or patriarchy in general. I’m just terrified of me being the reason she tries to hide her incredible bright light. Normal aging and figuring things out is a valid and understandable reason why she might struggle with these same things, those I can live with. But if when she gets older she tells me that I have had anything to do with her feelings of low self worth-whether that means I didn’t prepare her enough or I didn’t empower her enough-I don’t think I’ll ever be able to forgive myself.

So with most things I’m trying to figure out, I started writing. This one’s for Dailah. And for you, dear reader. Or your wife or daughter. And for me, of course for me.

———————————————————————————————-

Before you I wasn’t sure I even wanted a girl. I’ve never been an overly feminine woman so I never had big dreams of getting nails or hair done with a daughter. I was also really scared of the daunting task of raising a woman. With Trysten I didn’t know what I didn’t know and I could fool myself into believing with a little work and a lot of heart I would raise him to be a great man-plus he was caucasian, even then I knew all the cards were stacked in his favor. With you I remember all the ways in which I failed myself as a woman or all the ways in which the world used my female body to discount my words, my thoughts or my work and I was overwhelmed at the thought of raising a female when I had messed up so terribly at being one myself sometimes.

Dailah, I continue to be nervous about raising a daughter. You’ve been physically gorgeous from the start you see; even when you were a tiny baby who hadn’t lost all of your fur covering all the nurses would come in and tell me you were the cutest baby they had ever seen. There are very few family outings that pass without a stranger coming up to you and remarking on your beauty. I think as your mom I’m supposed to beam with pride but instead I shrink just a little bit. Because I don’t ever want you to think your beauty is the thing that you were born to offer the world. When people focus on your physical body I’m worried you’ll forget about how creative you are-making toothbrush holders out of empty Kleenex boxes and decorating your room with new artwork on a bi-weekly basis. People will talk about your beautiful eyelashes and beautiful smile because they are indeed striking but in the quiet of the night I want you to be thankful for the brain that loves math and the heart that breaks every time you see a person without a home on the street corner. Beauty fades, dear one, but your inquiring mind and big heart are the things you are uniquely qualified to offer the world-focus on building those.

A father of one of your friends made you change your shorts after a cheerleading practice once. Your cheer shorts are more like underwear as they allow you to tumble and jump without riding up your lady bits but you were just 9-years-old. Since he shamed you for their short length I noticed you do something that you hadn’t done before, you pull on the shorts whenever you wear them, willing them to grow a few inches. There will be men and women who will shame you for anything you do. I too had a teacher yell at me on a bus full of my high school peers for the top I was wearing. Whenever I recall that memory my cheeks flush and my stomach drops. Living and moving through this world as a woman means you’ll end up getting used to this feeling. It isn’t fair and it isn’t right but it’s the truth and it’s one of the reasons I feel ill equipped to raise a daughter. For a people pleaser like me, it still hurts when people shame me about my style even though as an adult I know it has more to do with their low feelings of self worth than the length of my shorts or the cut of my top. Start to develop the ability to separate what is your actual style and what our culture is trying to tell you it is. Choose comfort over anything else because when you’re comfortable you’re confident, and confident is the coolest and most beautiful thing you can be.

I hear your brothers call you dramatic almost on a daily basis. Though I stop them every time and remind them of the times they sound exactly like you without anyone calling them dramatic-I worry about how it affects you. You’re not dramatic, baby girl, you’re a storyteller. And the world needs more authentic storytellers. A story is not worth hearing with just the facts, your audience needs you to set the stage and tell them how it felt to be living in that moment-what did you hear and smell? And you tell that. Your teacher told me of the time when you got up in front of the class to tell them about our trip to Ethiopia, originally you were reciting from your journal but finally the details got too big and the story too important to continue holding the journal. You threw the journal on your desk and continued the story, gesticulating wildly. It was one of the best stories she heard, she told me, it didn’t even matter if all the details were 100% accurate. You have stories in you my fierce daughter; do not let the world tell you that they are too dramatic to be counted. Keep the drama, dearest, keep it within the art you constantly create and people will see the world through your eyes. And it will be beautiful.

Your fellow women are the best things God will ever give you. There is no room for drama in your relationships, honey, so don’t pay any mind to the shit on TV, movies or magazines about that. One day you might get married or might have kids and to be sure those will be some of the greatest gifts God gave you too but your relationship with women will be one of the first gifts and one of the last. Here’s the rub and the reason I was hesitant to become a mommy of a young lady- our culture will tell you in so many subliminal and not subliminal ways that you are to compete with women. They will throw models on the covers who have been airbrushed and starved without telling you they have been airbrushed and starved. They will feature women in TVs and movies who have personal chefs, personal trainers and dermatologists on staff to preserve their six pack and their skin but they won’t tell you they have all of that. This is one of the biggest lies sold to us-that these women are our competition.

The truth is, honey, they are just doing them and you need to just do you. Find a few truth tellers for friends, the women who will let you know when you are better than the way in which you’re currently behaving and the women who will plan a girls night out when you get the long awaited promotion. You won’t get along with every woman, trust me on that, but you need to respect every single one. Because life is hard and being a woman is harder, we are all just trying to figure it out as we go. There is no right or wrong way to live this life so even when you don’t like a woman you need to find it within you to love them. Love them then send them on their way with no ill feelings towards them at all. Find your people, babe, and move heaven and earth to be the best friend you can be to them. You will mess up so when you do, apologize and move on. You will be hurt but when you are, accept their apology and move on. You need women, Dailah, no matter how great your future husband or wife is you need female friendships more than you can possibly understand right now.

You were born with a little bit of Klipsch and a little bit of Dawson coursing through your veins. This means your body type could be wide shoulders, small boobs and calves that can’t squeeze themselves into off the rack boots or you could have small shoulders, large breasts, a generous booty and long legs. You could have something of a hybrid of those. I have no idea what genetic code is within you but I do know it doesn’t matter. This is a tough one and one in which I spent too much of my life fighting and starving. Maybe there isn’t a way to talk to you about this to make you see what I see now-that being healthy and in love with your body no matter the rolls and wrinkles is the most liberating thing in the world-but I want to try. I want to tell you that the size of your waist or the curve of your hips are nothing more than more stories for you to tell. There will be people that will take it upon themselves to tell you that you are too skinny and ones that will tell you when you have gained a few pounds. The world will make you feel like there is one way to look but I need you to shut them out. You do so well with that now and I cry just thinking about the ways you carry on through life undeterred even when a fellow fifth grader tries to shame your low back hair or your little booty. In many ways you are more self-assured than I am-certainly than I was until my 30s. I hope you continue to wear your invisible armor, Dailah, because there is too much to do and see and being worried about how you look will stop you from experiencing that. Eat the food, drink the whiskey, and stay up until the wee hours of the morning playing silly games with your friends. Sleep with your make up on from time to time and go out the next day for pancakes and hash browns not giving a whit about the smudged mascara underneath your eyes or the slightly smeared lipstick at your mouth. Taste life without worrying what it’s doing to your hips, baby girl, and then call me to tell me all about it.

Use your body Dailah but use it how it was originally intended. Run if it feels good and dance when the mood strikes you. You will be tempted to use your body and allow it be used in different ways. You’re like your mama, sweet thing, and are already far too awake to the world. You notice that the world has already laid claim to your body and you’re just young enough to voice your concern over this truth. Fight this tooth and nail. I spent more years than I care to admit using my body in transactional ways because I didn’t realize that my body was mine. That I didn’t have to dress it up or starve it, expose it or offer it up. In the last handful of years I’ve learned to own my body. I work out when I want to because I feel like a badass not because I’m worried I’ll change my shape if I don’t. I eat what makes me feel good and indulge in vegan chocolate whenever it’s offered to me. I do this because whenever that small voice in my head repeats the language of our culture, I offer the language of love as rebuttal. There are days when I can tell you’re in your head and are not entertained by my required 5 minutes of dance while we cook. But once I start it’s impossible for you to stay in your head. You smile despite yourself. Because we are 100% in our own bodies, allowing that language of love to transform us into another time and space. When you become tempted to allow the language of culture dictate what you wear, how you move your body or who you give your body to-remember us in these moments. Remember what it feels like to be so fully alive and full of light and use that to chase out the dark.

Men. Oy vey sweet thing. You will have your heart broken, it’s true. Sometimes that heartbreak will be mostly the fault of your love but sometimes you’ll realize in hindsight that the heartbreak lands on you, which feels even worse. Just as with your friends- you will need to learn to be the best forgiver that ever was because you’re dealing with another human and humans are fallible, even the best ones like your daddy. I hope you have many loves over your lifetime so you will know exactly what you want and won’t settle for anything less. I got married young, it’s true, but as soon as I met your daddy I knew I didn’t want to be with anyone else because I had spent the years before that falling in and out of love with various good men. Find someone that will hold you accountable for your actions, I don’t want you to end up with someone who will allow you to trample on them. You’re a strong personality-it’s why we call you Doozie-and I thank god for that every single day, but be careful about dating or marrying someone who will let you make all the decisions no matter their opinions. Power uncontrolled is a scary thing because it makes you believe that you’re right all the time and that’s simply not true of anyone. Believing that won’t force you to be internally reflective of the ways in which you can be better and do better, I want for you a partner who will push you to be the very best version of yourself. Find a nice man or woman, of course, but make sure they feel strong enough to tell you how they feel. An equal partnership is a mostly happy partnership. I want you to find someone that may not add to your happiness every moment but one that you’ll look back after years with them and be full of gratitude that overall the years were full of joy and love.

Sex. It’s a big one for women and it’s one that took me so, so long to figure out. The world wants us to be two different things simultaneously and it’s impossible. Our culture wants you to be a sex vixen that knows every position and also a virgin. Growing up Christian complicates this even more and I’m so, so sorry for that. I wish I could tell you how to work through that but the truth is I still am so I’ll keep you updated on my progress. I don’t actually know how to successfully navigate hormones and society’s pressures as I did a pretty lousy job when I was younger but I believe in you and I think you can figure some of this out on your own with your dignity still intact. Here’s what I can tell you about what I’ve learned about sex: it should feel good. Not just physically but mentally and emotionally as well. I spent way too much time in my teens allowing heavy petting to happen even though I didn’t want it to because some young men thought no was a suggestion or because I just genuinely didn’t know how to say no. Practice saying no all the time with little things. Start right now. So that when the time comes (and it will, unfortunately) you will say it loudly and boldly. And remember, “no” is never a suggestion. If you’re thinking it in your mind, say it with your mouth. If he doesn’t listen and keeps touching then get the hell out of there. I don’t care if he’s your boyfriend of a year or the good looking stranger you had crazy amazing conversations with at the bar. You get to decide where it goes, he doesn’t. You are already being told that your body is not your body by our culture but that’s the biggest lie sold to us as women-no one else gets to tell you what to do with your body. So tell your partner what you want and don’t want and get on with it.

Have orgasms. If your partner doesn’t care to wait long enough until you have an orgasm then he or she is not the right partner for you. Don’t be afraid to tell them what you like and if they are not willing to work hard to give you an orgasm then they are not worth your time. Also don’t fake it. There is no way for either of you to learn if you’re faking it. Be authentic, don’t be ashamed and stay in the moment. Sex is best when shared with someone who respects you, find that and there will be no regret in the morning.

Develop your voice as soon as you can. You’ve already started, there’s not a person who knows you that wouldn’t agree that you tell it like it is and don’t mince words. Your opinions and your thoughts matter just as much as the man next to you. You will have teachers and bosses who put more weight in the man’s ideas than yours but you need to keep speaking up. Sometimes sexist things aren’t as obvious as offering you 70% of what they offer your male peers, sometimes it’s as subtle as treating you like the administrative assistant in meetings when you’re a Vice President. Kindly remind them of the hard work you put in to get where you’re at and suggest they bring in the hard working administrative assistant so that you can focus on doing your job. You probably won’t change our culture at large or the culture in your workplace entirely by your voice and you will be sure to piss people off and hear people call you a bitch but baby, let that slide right off of you. Earn your place at the table with the hard work and determination that you ooze out of your little bones already and don’t give any mind to the haters. Revolutions don’t start with bra burning, they often start with one person bold enough to believe she deserves better and demanding others start treating her that way. When the situation calls for it, be that woman and know that I have your back. I won’t come in and do the hard work for you as tempting as it is, but I will be on the other end of the phone call when you’re done. You can let me in on the moments when you were scared, because speaking your mind is always scary, but you’re one of the strongest women I know already-you got this my love.

As strong as you are don’t be afraid of your emotions. They don’t betray you they guide you. For a very long time I thought that my propensity to cry rather easily was a weakness but now I see that all along it was a compass directing me to the things that moved me. I think you’ve inherited this from me, as proven by the other day in the car when you turned to me while reading your book with tears in your eyes, “Mom, the kitty didn’t make it. I’m so sad the kitty didn’t make it.” Let those tears out, sweet thing, and don’t be ashamed of them. It’s easier to hide your feelings and your emotions from the world then to let them out for people to misuse or dismiss them but that’s a cowardly way of moving through the world. Know that being vulnerable and learning to understand your emotions is one of the strongest acts we can do as humans. As long as you never use your tears to manipulate, each one is there for a reason. The world is beautiful and brutal place; if you’re not feeling both of those at any given moment then you’ve closed yourself off. Be strong enough to welcome it all and don’t let anyone shame you into suppressing your wild heart.

All of this said, being a woman is also really incredible. There is nothing as extraordinary as sitting down with a group of women and relating in truly deeply ways. When we embrace all that makes us women there is nothing more powerful in this whole world, I truly believe that. Once you’ve learned to tune out all the rest, you’ll be able to harness the real power inside you that is uniquely female. This person that is both tender and fierce. The one that nurtures animals back to health and then turns around and fights injustice when she sees it. I don’t want you to be afraid or overwhelmed by all the ways being a woman is scary, intimidating or oppressing-I want you to build your life around all the ways that being a woman is empowering, liberating and unendingly beautiful.

I may not have been praying for a girl before I had you but every night I am so incredibly grateful that you’re mine. There will be times when life chews you up and spits you out but as long as you learn what you were supposed to from it, you’ll be just fine. Being a woman means you’ll forever live in the tension of trying to claim your body when so many others lay claim to it as well but there’s also so much beauty in womanhood too. Stand in your strength, expose your heart and don’t think for an instant you’re less worthy than anyone with a penis.

Remember that you are loved infinitely more than you can possibly imagine right now and that there is not a thing you can do to be loved more or less-by me or by God. I’m not perfect at this womanhood thing but as soon as I learned the extravagant love that has always been there for me, my fight got bigger and my voice louder. It’s what I want for you. Because you are deeply, truly loved.

-Mommy

img_5360

*Photo by Sy Abudu

A Full Decade with Dailah Leagh

A Full Decade with Dailah Leagh

Yesterday our one and only daughter turned 10.

IMG_7122

Double digits she said when she woke up. Booya!

IMG_7113

Her one wish (other than a kitten and to pull up the carpet in her bedroom) was that her cousins, aunts/uncles and grandparents could be there on her day. Dailah’s love language is quality time, I’m afraid she might get that from me.

IMG_6958

She is OBSESSED with art. Every day she has found a new medium that she attacks with gusto only to mostly abandon it a few weeks later. Her room is full of the cast offs. For two weeks she’s been spending 9am-2pm learning to sculpt, the intricacies of pottery and beginning jewelry. She has never been happier. When we recently cleaned her room she said, “I need someone with courage to go through my room and throw away things for me. I just can’t do it. I can’t help but remember all the good memories with each thing.” I’m the opposite so I threw away virtually everything and haven’t lost a bit of sleep over it. 😉 But I respect the ways she creates mini alters with her love.

IMG_6758 IMG_7117

Dailah is probably my pickiest eater. She doesn’t vocalize her objections to my cooking very often but rarely does she consume it with abandon. Thus on her birthday she chose donuts, cinnamon rolls and pizza as her food staples. I pray one day she learns to love the taste and texture of quinoa but she doesn’t currently seem to be headed down that path.

IMG_7114 IMG_7118

Though she started out as my worst snuggler of the family she has come back with a vengeance. If she isn’t laying her feet on you then she is straight up climbing onto your lap. In the car she is the first to extend a hand and have me hold it while I drive and she chats about her running internal dialogue. Because I’ve had a few good snugglers in her brothers that lasted right up until they became teenagers, I’m going to embrace these moments knowing they won’t last forever.

IMG_5360 IMG_6706

We were listening to NPR months back and there was a story about the need for kids with cancer to have real-hair wigs. Dailah asked a few follow up questions and then we dropped it. A week later she said she was ready to chop off all of her hair as long as it could be donated. No hesitation, no regrets. She has always been one that makes up her mind and then commits to the process. Love that.

IMG_5250

Dailah has a real knack for falling asleep in the car. On the way to a softball game? Yup. On the way to birthday dinner? Yup. If she’s not chatting about all the things then she is sleeping. Perfect example of her ability to go 100% to the point of exhaustion.

IMG_6754 IMG_7119

This one is a daddy’s girl. In her eyes Zach can do no wrong and she’s constantly asking me how she ends up with someone as great as her dad. He took her to a little bar in Downtown Kalamazoo on one of their date nights so she asked to go there again last night for her birthday. While there she looked sad so I asked her what she could possibly be sad about. “Well I guess this place isn’t as much fun unless it’s just daddy and me.”

IMG_5596

At dinner we had a few other guests who were riding with Zach and Trysten to their baseball game. So Trysten and the other young man, Ray, were on their phones before the food got there. Dailah asked if she could make a birthday rule where Trysten couldn’t be on his phone. “He doesn’t need it when there are so many games he could be playing with me.” She longs for the days when they all use to hang out with only each other-truth be told I do too-and no matter how many times I tell her that they will all end up being good friends as adults, she just doesn’t believe me. As much as she laments the fact that she’s got so many boys around her all the time she loves them and was so excited to share her birthday treats with them-choosing their favorites so that they would be equally excited.

IMG_6414

Last night in the car she asked if I had heard that Meghan Trainor took down her video for the song “Me Too” because the Director had photoshopped her to appear thinner than she was. “Isn’t that so brave, mom? I wonder how many other famous women it will take for magazines and movie people to stop doing that to women?”

And then as we were watching So You Think You Can Dance a young woman and her dance partner messed up their audition pretty badly. So the young woman asked for a second chance, saying she knew they were capable of better. “She has so much courage mom! To speak to adults with respect but ask for what she wants. That’s why you always tell us ‘the answer will always be no if you don’t ask the question’ isn’t it?”

I admit to being more intentional in a lot of ways as I raise Dailah. There are far more mixed messages in our culture for women than for men. I feel like I’m constantly commenting on things being said and discussed in the public and private arenas. It sometimes seems that when you’re growing up as a female the world is full of asterisks just waiting to be defined.

I love so much that as she has met, friended and gotten to know young ladies who are choosing to gossip about other ladies or speak negatively about them-that she has respectfully stopped being as close with them. I love that when I ask her why she hasn’t called “x” lately she always says something like, “They just want different things from their friends than I do.”

I love that she asks really thoughtful questions about relationships, sex, politics, business and the like. Dailah is constantly awake and curious about the world and does not consider the fact that most of the world just wants little girls like her to accept the status quo, be meek and apologize for taking up space. She has never wavered and has always, always accepted that her ideas, questions, and voice matter in the world, something I’ve quite literally just come to believe of myself in the last handful of years.

I’m humbled by the task of raising her because in many ways she seems so much stronger than I am. But every morning I wake up and choke back happy tears when she comes out of her room with a smile and extended arms waiting to embrace me and the rest of the world.

Love you my Dobadays. Happy birthday baby girl.

IMG_7126

Female friendships and the power they have at making you forget you’ve got broken ribs (and pneumonia).

Female friendships and the power they have at making you forget you’ve got broken ribs (and pneumonia).

There is currently a stranger in my house. This very sweet woman came with her husband to care for me while I’m on forced bedrest due to the very unpleasant combination of pneumonia/cracked ribs. I hear the woman scrubbing my toilet, God bless her, while her husband shovels our front steps. She’s singing to herself, undoubtedly to distract for the godforsaken things she has witnessed in and around our toilets (boys. Bless), and I’m stifling tears of gratitude.

These strangers are caring for me because a few of my friends sprang into action when they heard I was sick. They live in other parts of the country-Colorado, Seattle, Portland-and yet they managed to show me their love. This time in the form of an older woman who is not only cleaning and doing laundry but also brought over dinner.

This isn’t the first time I’ve been carried by women I love. I’m reminded of the text I sent just a few weeks prior, “It’s been 7 years, I don’t think he loves me. I’m so scared he never will.” And the immediate response, “Being taken for granted is not the same as not being loved. He loves you. He just doesn’t connect his actions to your feelings to the overall meaning of it all. Love continues to be work, every single day.” When you’re in the emotional isolation chamber sometimes it just takes an outstretched hand with similar scars beneath the door to remind you that you aren’t alone and that no matter what you’ve done or how badly you’ve messed up they will be there. Not with a hand to point fingers and judge but a hand to offer a cup of coffee and a kleenex instead.

Yesterday was a bit of a low day. I realized that, counting the time I was sick in Ethiopia-I’ve been mostly sick for 2 straight months. As a person who hasn’t really been sick for years I’ve been driven slightly mad by two months of foggy headedness, coughing, pain and lack of exercise. I’m sure I’m not the only one who when physically uncomfortable tends to devolve into some nightmarish emotional and spiritual discomforts as well. Feelings of ineptitude and unworthiness, reminder of all of my past mistakes. This all happens so much quicker when I’m metaphorically chained to the bed and allowed too much time in my own head.

And then a stranger shows up at my door reminding me of these women I love. And I can feel them prop me up on their shoulders, helping me place one foot in front of the other. Because they are both the most loving and sarcastic creatures, I can also hear their jokes about the ineffectiveness of my natural deodorant and the visible stains on my matching sweatpants/sweatshirt combination.

I don’t often feel brave but I’ve witnessed bravery in my friends who could choose to love a woman with more of her shit together but roll with me instead. It’s far safer to love me and encourage me from an emotional distance but these friends choose instead to jump all in and go with me, having my back in every failure and (sometimes more remarkably) every success. I don’t always feel like a good friend but I’ve witnessed true friendship in women who don’t just say they love me but show it every day in their texts, their random book recommendations, their scheduled dates to come visit or the stranger at the door with her cleaning supplies.

I think one of life’s true mercies is feeling so completely understood by someone else. The last handful of years since I stopped expecting Zach to meet all of my emotional needs and started opening up to fellow women for that have been some of the best. Zach is the greatest husband there ever was but he still will never be able to sympathize with my devastation at Alan Rickman’s death or make eye contact when the speaker in the room is saying something subliminally sexist.

I’ve no idea how I got so lucky to be friends with so many remarkable women who are moving mountains with their love but I’m so thankful I get to pick up my rock and join them. Even on days or weeks like today when I’m bedridden, the mountain gets moved because they are willing to carry one on my behalf no matter the cost to themselves.

It’s an amazing thing, to be loved as I am. If someone as busted and broken as I can be than you most certainly are. Hope you’re feeling that as strongly as I am today.

Much love,

Tesi

IMG_3799

 

 

On being lonely, a year and half after a move.

There’s this crane that always sits on the edge of our dock. Every day I see her multiple times a day by herself just looking out on the water. I finally had to do a little research on cranes because I was so curious if it was normal to have a crane be alone for so long. It’s not, as it turns out, and yet there she sits-by herself for the last year and half.

IMG_9340

For anyone who has moved somewhat recently you know when I say I’m lonely that it doesn’t mean that every hour that passes I lament moving here. Most of the time I am caught up in our day-to-day life, one that wouldn’t look a whole lot different if I were still in Iowa actually. Wake up, meditate, hustle kids to school, teach a few classes, grocery shop, dog snuggle, Snapchat lunch and dog snuggles, homework, post-school activities, husband snuggles and bed. All the same no matter the state.

Anytime I cried myself to sleep thought about how badly I’d miss my sisters and friends before we moved to Michigan, I would tell myself that in this stage of life we really didn’t see each other much anyway. It’s the ebb and flow of life, right? I think perhaps nowhere besides motherhood do you feel that so succinctly. When my kids were little I needed my girlfriends in a desperate sort of way, in a bring-me-coffee-and-come-over-quickly-so-our-kids can-play-together-and-we-can-speak-about-anything-but-kids kind of way. It’s no coincidence it was during that flow of life that the idea for the first Wine to Water event was borne.

But this ebb? Even in Iowa a good portion of my friendships were handled via long text conversations while seated at a baseball game. Some of my best friends live on the west coast and I only see them once a year yet we make up for lost time as soon as we are together again. That was all the proof I needed to believe I would be ok not living close to friends and family.

What I failed to realize, though, was that I was able to enjoy my long distance friendships because I also had no distance friendships. I couldn’t possibly have foreseen that when the vast majority of my friendships were on the long distance side, it would tip the scales and send me reeling-even 1.5 years later after the move.

I couldn’t possibly have known that investing all of my time into creating friendships that were deep, powerful and so very life affirming would make it so much harder to see women in my new state and have to talk about stuff like the weather or our kids (we are so much more than mothers, no?). Though I haven’t dated since I was 19 (!) I imagine dating feels remarkably like trying to make new friends without the additional perks of make out sessions and free dinner-and really, who wants to be dating without those?

I went to an acupuncturist a few months ago. When she was doing her typical assessment she hovered her hands over my heart and said simply, “You have deep sadness.” Even after I tried assuring her that I felt pretty great she interrupted me with, “You have deep sadness, it is not my business whether or not you choose to acknowledge it but it’s there and it’s undeniable.”

I’ve always been one of those “make the best out of any situation” kind of people. I recognize that it can often be annoying but it’s kind of my set thermostat. Only recently have I realized there are some cases where that might be a crutch with which I lean when I’m too scared to admit that I’m a little sad, maybe a little lonely. That even though life is terrifyingly good in so many ways, I just miss the hell out of my support system. Perhaps that’s why when the acupuncturist told me I had deep sadness the first face I saw in my head was that of my sister’s and then in quick succession my best friend and other sisters.

I’ve been lucky though, to have made a few friends here who are my kind of people. I was at lunch with a few of them the other day when I turned to one and said, “I’ve always been teased about how quickly I eat but the first time we had lunch together we finished at the same time and I knew we were going to be friends.” And it was true. Though I buffered the sentiment in a joke, what I was really saying was, “You have no idea how good it feels to have so much in common with someone geographically close to me again.”

But I’m realizing that being happy and hopeful about certain aspects of life in MI doesn’t negate the fact that I cry every time I leave Iowa to head back home. Spending time with those I miss the most almost makes it harder, which honestly surprised me to learn.

Zach will sometimes make comments about the time I spend on my phone texting/checking in with social media. I admit it’s gone up over the last year, though I’m currently doing better about putting it away thankyouverymuch. I have no problems admitting I maybe overuse it as a way of staying grounded to a life now gone, that checking in with the people I miss on social media gives me a false sense of being there being in their lives in a more tangible way than I currently am. It’s a long cry from sitting next to them sharing a plate of chips and guacamole and a bottle of wine but for now I’m giving myself time to ease the transition.

I know if my life were a romance movie I would be looking deeply into Zach’s eyes telling him that wherever he is-is home for me, and it’s partially true but it’s missing the big picture. Because most women know in any happy family photo if you zoom out you’ll see the best friend who just helped with hair and make up, the sister who just dropped off the one kid with the suspicious looking chocolate mustache and the various other women who all played a part in making the woman in the center of the picture smile broadly with her chest proud. If you look closely enough you’ll see the tension between the woman and one of her little children and then, upon even closer examination, you’ll see one of the friends quietly lifting mom’s arm to put around the shoulder of that child. Bridging the gap of humanity and brokenness one encouraging word at a time.

The longer I live the more I’m convinced we were never made to live in isolation. If the last year and half has proven anything it’s that naiveté really does favor the young. So even though I’m sure it will get better, today I’m just admitting that it’s hard. And maybe I’m just a little too old for this shit. 😉

This morning after my meditation I was slower to open my eyes than usual. I could hear the kids starting to wake up and I just wasn’t ready to enter into the madness quite yet so I sat there and just breathed in the silence. After a few minutes I heard a weird bird call that wasn’t familiar so I opened my eyes to place the visual with the auditory and there she was-the crane on the edge of the dock.

Though this time there was another one with her.

Water Party!

Before we moved to Michigan I called my sister (in-law) Leslie and said, “Ok, we have to decide if we’re doing Wine to Water right now. I have 15 tubs of stuff stored in my basement that if we decide to do it will heretofore reside in your basement. And when I say “we” need to decide it really is “you” need to decide because your work load will approximately double and you’ll have to do all of the physical tasks.”

It was really hard being so far away during the planning stages of the event. Arguably my favorite part of the whole thing is getting to spend so much time with Leslie and other party planners so perhaps it’s no surprise that I went over my anytime minutes on my phone plan the months of October and November. 😉

DSC_0073

Leslie very smartly gathered a group of dedicated women to brainstorm new and creative ways to mix it up without losing the integrity of the event (Leslie and I are very passionate about keeping it low key, gritty, east coast vibe. We never want it to look like every other silent auction for non profits that can be found throughout the world for all of the days.) I got to FaceTime in on that gathering and was humbled to hear so many great women excited about raising more money than last year (which was our highest amount raised in the 5 years the party had been happening.)

Leslie and I had known after last year that we had to cut back some on the art (oftentimes it was the same people bidding on art over and over and those people, we figured, had probably run out of space on their walls.), scrap the craft station and develop a variety of things at different price points so that more people could get involved in the actual fundraising piece of the event.

So this year we featured a few pieces of art, some rather amazing baskets, a wine pull and various raffles. The crew from Davenport went above and beyond in gathering the supplies/gift cards/items for the baskets so that each basket was worth well over $100-some even closer to $300.

As with last year, Becky Straw the Co-Founder of The Adventure Project, flew out to thank the great people of the QC for being such great supporters of the organization. I saw her all night answering questions and speaking with donors, just another sign that TAP cares about their individual donors. I love them.

DSC_0042 DSC_0050 DSC_0057 DSC_0058 DSC_0063 DSC_0066 DSC_0336

 

We also had more community businesses partner with us than ever before. It was so cool to see so many great companies rally around the common goal of providing jobs and clean water to the people of Uganda.

Leslie and I decided (admittedly on a whim) to fly Andy Landers out to be our musical guest. It was such a great decision in the end because his music is always great and fits so well with the event.

DSC_0300

My family once again put in hours of hard labor to set up the event. Thursday night my parents brought a trailer to load up all of the tables and chairs with my brother-in-law and dad doing most of it. My mom, having had total knee replacement surgery just 2 weeks before, decided she was feeling up to holding doors and pushing dollies. Because she’s a hard ass. And also kind of crazy. 🙂

DSC_0071

My other sister (in-law) Emily simply worked her ass off. In so many ways she took my place this year and I’m so grateful for it. If you ask her she’ll downplay her contribution but she sincerely worked so hard I want to acknowledge the fact that she hasn’t gotten nearly the credit she deserves. (Pictured here, far right, serving wine). I really love her.

DSC_0393

 

Close to 400 people came this year which made our huge event space feel cozy and intimate. I loved seeing so many people I’ve missed these last months while in Michigan as well as people who were new to hearing about The Adventure Project.

DSC_0379 DSC_0420 DSC_0451 DSC_0475 DSC_0493 DSC_0491

I also loved seeing the committee of women who helped organize the event take full ownership-encouraging bidding, selling raffle tickets, passing out desserts. It was awesome. And to see those who helped set up (including our one lone non-Klipsch, though Jason is Klipsch in our hearts obviously, who helped with the heavy manual labor) let loose and admire their hard work.

DSC_0275 DSC_0489

I also got to see a few junior high/high school friends who came for the first time. It had been too long since seeing them but it was so great to catch up. I’ve always been prone to nostalgia so seeing them just really made my heart happy.

DSC_0335

Of course as it always does, the night went too quickly and soon it was time for the real celebration. Love the last bit of the night when I can really celebrate with those that made it all possible. And dance. I freaking love dancing.

DSC_0500 DSC_0501 DSC_0497 copy

Becky Straw had identified 20 villages in Uganda that were in desperate need of clean water and our goal was to fund 5 of those (about $6,000 more than we had ever made. What can I say-we are forever optimistic).

WE FUNDED 6!!!  We far surpassed our goal and on December 11 we got an email from Becky saying our totals had reached $24,000 with more coming in since then! (that’s $10,000 more than last year for those keeping track!)

(Pretty sure that’s what we in the biz call “burying the lead” but whatevs. I like pictures and words.)

If you’re friends with me on Facebook you already knew all of this because I’ve been posting about it ad nauseam for weeks, but I wanted to make sure I had it on record on my blog for days when I was feeling dumpy and needed a pick me up.

Perhaps my favorite story of this year’s event is one that happened just a few weeks ago actually. A donation of $700 was made towards the party and when asked why she was donating the woman said she had heard one of our committee people ask a local business for a donation for a basket. Our committee person was talking about The Adventure Project and how what they do matters and is important. The person who donated was just eating at that establishment, an innocent bystander. She didn’t say anything at the time but instead researched it a bit and then made her donation. She’s completely anonymous but so generous. Isn’t that amazing?

Hope you guys have a Merry Christmas. If you’re looking to unload some disposable income before year’s end make sure you check out The Adventure Project. I truly believe in the work they are doing. Here’s an awesome video to put you in the mood. 🙂

*I am not getting paid by The Adventure Project, I just happen to really believe creating jobs=creating sustainability=less dependency=world peace. 🙂

 

#3-Wherein I learn how easy (and deliciously dirty!) it is to change the oil in my car.

Right when I decided on the year that goes beyond DIY I knew I wanted to learn how to change the oil in my car. I drive a 2012 Honda Odyssey and because we live a pretty good distance from my work (gym) and Zach’s main Y we burn through oil pretty quickly. I figured if it can be done in 10 minutes (as various establishments promote) it was something I could do in an hour.

My good friend Dan offered to lead me through the process so my first recommendation is to find a friend like him. 🙂

Dan took me to Autozone to get all the necessary supplies. If you’re as new to the oil change business as I was just find the nearest Autozone employee. I told the guy my make, model and year of the car and he was able to tell me the kind I needed. It included 4 cans of oil, a filter and a washer.

Being a novice, I had none of the other accruements needed for the changing of the oil. So we threw these in the cart as well.

3 funnel towel

 

You got your stuff so pop that hood, baby! Figure out where the oil will go once you’ve drained the old stuff and take off the cap.

Next, lift the car. Our Honda Pilot can probably be done without this added step because it sits high enough for me to wiggle myself underneath but the Odyssey rides dirty so that wasn’t an option. Thankfully Dan is a bit of a gear head and had a hydraulic jack just lying around so the front of my ride was prepared in minutes. If you don’t have something similar ask the Autozone person for ramps or find them online.

photo

Then locate the spot underneath your car where the filter and the oil drum are located. Mine is just behind the front passenger tire. Check it, this is the moment I told Dan (and his adorable son, Banks) that it was located and I needed a bigger ratchet to get the screw off the oil drum.

IMG_9564

 

(oil drum that rides beneath a car that lives on a dirt road)

 

engineoil

 

Position your oil drain under and a little forward of the screw on the oil drum. When the oil first starts to drain the force will project it out a bit so make sure the drain is under the projectile but also right under the screw as when there’s very little left it just kind of drips. Once it’s empty put the new washer on the screw and replace the screw as tightly as possible. Use your shop towels to clean the area around the screw and the drum then turn your attention to the filter.

IMG_9571

Take the filter off and turn it upside down in the oil drain. Prep your new filter by dipping your finger in one of the new cans of oil and then run it along the rim of the new filter (never realized how sexy talking about changing your oil can be. Holla!) Your new filter is ready to be tightly placed back where the old one was. (Dan showing Banks and me where the filter is on the Odyssey).

filter

 

It’s go time! Bring your car back down to earth and open up those clean, shiny oil containers. I bought 5 containers but mine ended up needing only about 4.5. After 4 I checked with the dipstick to see if it was enough-it wasn’t. (Wanna know where your dipstick is? Check your car manual to see where it is and how to use it to check the status of your oil. Nifty little stick!) How much do you love Dailah and Dan’s daughter, Cates watching this go down?

IMG_9576

Make sure you dispose of your oil in an environmentally friendly way! Just take it back to Autozone and they’ll take care of it for you.

Also, if you’re feeding a group of 12 maybe pick up $5 pizzas at Little Ceasars for after the oil change party. Did you guys know about those things? I had no idea. Perhaps more than learning to change my own oil-this has changed the life of my family. I mean pizza party for $15? Fuggetaboutit.

Next up I’m changing our Honda Pilot’s oil. I have no idea if I’ll continue to do it on my own for the long term but I was shocked to find it was so easy. Trust me when I tell you that if you have any interest whatsoever-you can totally do it. Sure, it will save us money in the long run but more than that I was so proud of myself for learning something I would’ve never tried a few months ago.

All this to say-I’m kinda killin’ it right now. One area I’ve been killin’ since birth? Finding good friends who “offer” to help me in any way humanly possible. Dan and his wife, Becky are proof of that I do believe.

IMG_9582

Let me know if you try it for yourselves! If you have specific questions email or comment and I’ll try to answer them!

*I am not getting paid by Autozone-that is just where I happened to go and they were super nice and patient with me!