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.

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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.

Dailah is 9!

Dailah is 9!

As July 26th neared, I asked Dailah what she wanted to do for her birthday. In our house the birthday person gets to choose everything we do and eat as a family, which is often the most exciting part for them. We rarely go out to eat as a family so birthdays are their one chance to choose wherever they want to go. Dailah, though, decided she wanted homemade spaghetti instead because “It’s too hard to have a quality conversation in a restaurant, it’s so loud and there are TVs everywhere.”

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Dailah’s first reaction for virtually everything is hesitation. “Hey Dailah, here’s a young lady your age, why don’t you introduce yourself and play for awhile?” Hesitation. “Dailah, why don’t you try doing a cartwheel on that trampoline?” Hesitation. She definitely tends towards a fixed mindset-if she doesn’t succeed at something initially then she believes she will never be successful at it. But after the initial hesitation she usually goes all in. So it was the case with her friend Kenna, who was the sister of one of the boys on our baseball team. Hesitation and then, best friends. (Image from Snapchat, find me there: tesileagh).

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Once she’s all in you simply won’t find anyone as hard working or passionate as Dailah. She’s open to new experiences for sure, but doing something in her wheelhouse? That’s her jam. And if it includes snuggling babies or pets, fuggetaboutit.

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She’s beautiful, to be sure, but I genuinely believe God saw what was on the inside and decided he would have to attempt to make the outside be just as wonderful. He failed, because there’s just no way to encompass all the joy and life that lives inside this one in just one suit of skin. (Those eyelashes are her real eyelashes. I believe the kids refer to this phenomenon as “I can’t even”)

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We’re not a big present family. The kids get to open a few small things that are usually picked up within the checkout aisles of our local Meijer but they never complain. Dailah was rather ecstatic with her fake nails and crossword puzzles.

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She’s currently obsessed with cheetahs. Obsessed. Dailah takes after her dad with regards to obsessions-they tend to come and go with the tide. As someone who doesn’t really obsesses over anything, I used to get swept up in each obsession buying Zach or Dailah whatever they needed to show that I supported each one only to-2 weeks later-see those same things collecting dust or in the Goodwill pile. It used to be maddening but now I secretly find it charming, who doesn’t love seeing someone so excited and passionate about something? I get that all the time with these two, I’m pretty lucky in that way. (Notice the cheetah print fake nails-$4 to show I support the obsession? #worthit)

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After her week at camp the counselors gave her the “trendsetter” award. They said if she wore her hair one way one day, all the girls would wear it that way the next day. That she came up with some odd combinations of outfits but every time she walked out of the door like she owned the world in that crazy outfit and it somehow looked like the most stylish combination they’d ever seen. They talked about her willingness to help out campers who were struggling and to never leave anyone out. It’s like she sought out the kids who were feeling left out and brought them into the fold, they said.

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Dailah has grown so much both physically and emotionally in the last year. It’s been so awesome to have deep conversations about what it means to be a girl/woman in our culture. I sometimes forget that we are as open of a family as we are until we are in public. After her cheer competition standing in line with hundreds of people she turned to me and yelled, “These bloomers are going right up my vagina!” Heads turned and one woman said to me, “I’m not even sure my daughter knows the word vagina.” Dailah was shocked to hear this. Doesn’t everyone speak openly about vaginas she wondered?

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Perhaps I’m most proud of her developing sense of humor. It’s no secret I love comedy and it could be said our family’s love language is sarcasm. Dailah has always been funny but this year she’s started learning when it’s appropriate to use it and when it’s not. As her timing has gotten better so have her witty remarks (and notes).

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Or this one, after she helped babysit my nephew Julius (JuJu) while the adults went out for a bit.

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Being a mother to Dailah has always been and remains to be a delight every single day. She is uninhibited joy, laughter uncontrolled all mixed with the intensity of her favorite animal. She is the best snuggler the world has ever seen and the conductor of so much life. I still can’t believe my good fortune at calling her mine.

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Love you so much Dailah Leagh. Happy birthday baby girl.

Ian Matthew

Last Mother’s Day weekend when my parents were visiting us for the first time in Michigan I got a FaceTime call from my sister. I knew immediately she was calling to tell me she was going to be a mom. I knew because 1) I know her in a way I know no one else and 2) she and I share a mutual hatred for phone convos so to go above that and FaceTime me could mean only one thing-baby news!

My mom and I did what we do best-cried-and she did what she always does when we do that-laughs awkwardly. What I couldn’t say then due to all the feels was that I knew Kara was going to be a phenomenal mom and that I was so incredibly excited for her (and for me!!!)

Around 4 months later I got a call from my brother (who, as it happens, hates phone calls with the same white, hot hatred that his two sisters do. Text people, text!) asking if I had heard from our sister, that he heard something was wrong and she had to go to Iowa’s major hospital in Iowa City. I started immediately crying, because…above, and spent a few frantic minutes trying to get ahold of Kara.

Once I did I could hear in her voice something was not ok. It turns out at her 20 week ultrasound the doctor found something called a “double bubble” on the baby which can sometimes mean the baby has Down Syndrome (DS). Once Kara and her hubby, Matt, went to their follow up appointment the doctor said they were over 90% sure their baby had DS and that it would need surgery soon after birth. My sister is a woman of few words (it’s been told that I’ve taken them all from both of my siblings, probably some truth to that) so even though I could hear all of her feelings in her voice I also knew something that perhaps in those moments she had forgotten-she is bar none the strongest woman I’ve ever known. You know the expression “0 f*cks given”? My sister was the one that inspired the phrase, I swear.

I digress…Personally it was a weird dichotomy, I wanted so badly to be there for my sister in whatever capacity she needed but I was also still really excited to be getting this new niece/nephew. I have enough friends who have either given birth to or adopted children with DS so even though I didn’t know what it was like intimately, I had “watched” the other kiddos grow and was just really excited.

Over the next few months I watched as her belly grew and the excitement for the wee one grew as well (they did not find out the sex of the baby, much to my chagrin). I have many nieces and nephews but I must say there’s something different about having it all come from my sister. The woman I watched nurture her Cabbage Patch babies now nurturing a human life, so amazing. I watched as her heart softened a little bit every day, even as she grew more physically miserable. A week before she was set to be induced I texted, “I would like to be with you when you have the baby but if you just want you and Matt I’ll understand that too.” I assume because she knows me so well she knew what I was really saying was, “Come hell or high water I will be right outside the door whether you like it or not.” Sweet sister responded with, “If there is any way for you to be there, I would love it.”

Almost one month ago I posted this on Facebook:

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Kara was being induced because she had roughly triple the amount of amniotic fluid of an average pregnant woman and also because she is a strong woman and told them to take that little sweet cherub the fekk out. 🙂

After a drive that took about 1.5 hours longer than normal and ended with me drenched in sweat I arrived to find she was already having contractions. I also found her toenails were in terrible shape and seeings I’ve birthed 2 children myself and knew for the next day or so she’d be staring at her toes-it was time to take care of business.

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We weren’t supposed to get to Iowa City until 8 but with the weather and her contractions Kara, Matt and I decided we should head there early and just see what’s up. And by “Kara, Matt and I” I mean “Kara and I” as Matt just laughed and loaded the car with all of our bags.

By the time we got there her contractions were picking up and due to miscommunication the nurses assumed she came in because she was in labor and not because she was supposed to be induced a few hours later.

I’ll just say here that watching my sister in labor might actually be worse than experiencing labor. Granted, it’s been 8.5 years (the actual f*ck?) since I was in labor, but I really do stand by that. So hard seeing those you love in pain, even if they did bring said pain upon themselves willingly. 😉

My parents came a few hours later and while my dad tried to get some sleep in the waiting room, my mom and I watched as Matt supported Kara by primarily staying away. We both repeatedly commented on how great they both were doing.

Then things started to go downhill a bit for the baby. Heart rate dropping, needing to switch Kara side to side, give oxygen, etc. I could tell the moments that were relatively standard for a woman giving birth and the moments that were not (based mostly on the speed with which nurses/doctors came in and also whispering. Whispering is not good). It became clear after awhile that the baby wasn’t doing well so they took Kara back for a C section and left Matt with Mom and me to get in his gown and mostly just stare awkwardly at each other because…fear and nerves. A few minutes later a nurse ran in and then ran out just as quickly so before I could say “give Kara a kiss! Tell her I love her!” My 6’4″ brother-in-law, squeezed into a gown fit for a 5’4″ man, was off to become a daddy.

My dad had returned upon hearing things went downhill so he, my mom and I looked at each other and remarked how terrible we all looked. I guess that’s what sleep deprivation, anxiousness and lack of sustenance will do to a person.

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42 hours later (maybe it was 30 minutes, it felt like 42 hours so I’m sticking with it) Matt came in with a big ole smile to announce Ian Matthew had been born and both he and my sister were doing well. After showing us a few pictures, off he went to the NICU to hang with Ian while we waited for Kara.

Once we saw that she was ok my dad and I drifted out claiming an aversion to puke and moseyed on over to the NICU, hoping to get our eyes on Ian. Though it didn’t work out that time it was incredibly relieving to know Ian was out, he was ok and that I would get to put my hands on him in a matter of moments.

Matt was there the first moment I got to meet Ian but then Matt went to check on Kara so I got a few quiet moments alone with my new nephew.

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I cried, obviously, because he was just absolute perfection and also because I prayed over him and I always cry when I pray. I am supes good at being Christian. Anywho, while I was crying a sweet nurse came in so I explained myself by simply saying, “I’m his auntie.” She asked if he was my first niece or nephew and after I said no, that I had many I’ve cried over, she said simply, “Yes but this must be your sister’s. Feelings are bigger when it’s our sister’s baby.”

Perhaps that’s true, I just knew the big feelings over his health-which was shaky-and his tininess, made him look so incredibly helpless. It is a testament to how much I love Zach and my own children that I didn’t immediately move in and surgically suture myself to Ian. Sometimes that’s how much it hurts to love someone you know who will face some difficulties-it feels easier to just physically make sure when they do face those difficulties that you’ll be right there to face it with them.

I was trying to take pictures when that same nurse said, “If you give me a second he’ll be without his wires completely while I change them out.” Oh boy the excitement of knowing I would get to see what that little face looked like without all the tubing! It did not disappoint.

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I also happened to notice he had a certain turnout that his auntie has been relentlessly teased about for decades. Granted, his might have something to do with being squished in a womb for 9 months but I’m going to go with it being the first sign of him being a sprinter like his auntie. 😉

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When I got back to Kara’s room I noticed she wasn’t doing well. Though I never had to have a C Section, none of her symptoms seemed “normal” to me. It was really pretty scary, honestly. So for the next day Matt stayed mostly with Ian and I got to take care of my sister. As nerve racking, tiring and sometimes gross those hours were together I will tell you they felt so very holy at the same time. It’s been hard living away from my sister so to be able to share those hours with just the 2 of us is something I will never forget and always be incredibly grateful for (particularly because she made it out of them and is just fine). When I texted some of my friends about how she was doing I got so many responses with something like, “You are so lucky to have such a great relationship with your sister.” I knew it before but I definitely know it now. It’s a blessing I’ve done nothing to deserve to be sure.

The next night while a nurse was helping Kara I snuck out to give a quick kiss to Ian and see if Matt needed anything. In my few minutes there I’m pretty sure I talked Matt into going rogue and holding Ian, and if we had time maybe I should hold him too? At that point there were no secrets between my brother-in-law and me (that’s what happens when you spend 2 solid days, every hour together. Poor Matt. Oy vey.) so he just gave me a look that said, “You know how I would normally feel about this but I’m too tired to argue with you.”

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I wish there were words to describe how sweetly Matt took care of both Kara and Ian in those first few days. I mean really how do you talk about a man who is so sweet and easygoing jumping into action and becoming almost stern when doctors and nurses are talking about his son’s pending surgery or his wife’s bodily fluids? You just don’t. There aren’t any.

Since my sister was so sick for a full day she didn’t really get to see Ian at all so Matt took on the sit-and-stare duties of babies in the NICU usually shared between mom and dad. Every time Kara became aware of what was going on she lamented the fact that she couldn’t sit upright enough to visit Ian and so Matt came regularly with new pictures and videos that eased her pain.

Finally, over a day after giving birth, Kara could sit up long enough to be wheeled to the NICU. I cried. She beamed. It was as awesome as you are assuming it to be.

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Though she had already started feeling better, once she got to hold him it was as if she found a new determination to do it again. Ahhhh motherhood, bringing out the strength in women they’d never known since the beginning of time. She turned the health(ier) corner and never looked back.

Though I tried to coax Ian’s eyes open every moment I was with him, I first saw them when he heard his mama’s voice. Sweet little peanut hadn’t gotten the memo that auntie’s care more about those things.

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After an echo showed Ian’s heart was good and ready for his stomach surgery, Kara and Matt geared up for another round of emotional eating staring at each other. He sailed through surgery with flying colors and even though they learned of a follow up procedure he’ll need done within the next few months, everyone was happy to hear he was as strong and relatively healthy as we knew he would be.

Sadly, I had just a few short days with the new family as it was time to head back to Michigan with my family and my job. I got one last time to whisper how much I love him and how proud I was to be his auntie before I left. (Notice the vein in my neck. That is the cry vein. It is enhanced in that moment for obvious reasons.)

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It’s been almost one whole month and I’ve not been able to visit them again. The good news is both Kara and I have gotten over our disdain of FaceTime so I’m able to “see” him that way and make sure he never forgets this obnoxious voice of mine. We have plans to visit him in a few days ( 12, to be exact) and though all of my kids are excited to meet him it’s Dailah and me who are counting the moments until we leave.

I don’t know a lot about what the future holds for Ian in terms of his abilities or his Down Syndrome but I do know he has incredible parents who will navigate the waters of special needs parenting with the best of them. In my time as a special needs mama I know 2 things: 1) It will bring out a warrior not yet known inside my sister as she sets up meetings and appointments and champions Ian’s education and health and 2) It will be more rewarding than anything she has ever known or dreamt of in the past. Every new milestone becomes a miracle.

And I think we all know once we’ve witnessed a miracle, life in itself becomes inexplicably sweeter and fuller.

Love you to the moon and back my Ian Matthew. 12 days.

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*After 3.5 weeks in the NICU, Ian has been released from the hospital and is doing well. Hallelu!

Colorado

Colorado

A few weeks ago I took off for Colorado to hang with some of my very best friends. I remember the first time we got together I was so nervous. I had loved these women and their online personas for so long I just wanted so badly for them to be exactly how they seemed. They weren’t. They were even better.

So this year I was just excited-counting down the weeks, then days-excited. Mostly for these women but also because I love Colorado. You guys, I want to live there. There, I said it. It’s gotten so bad Zach isn’t sure he wants me to visit anymore. I just love it! The mountains, the lakes, the culture. Everyone seems to be out and about all day, eating well and moving their bodies. I love it. Also, come on. It’s beautiful.

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Chandra picked me up ass early from the airport (that’s just what I do-make 34 week pregnant ladies wake up at 5:30am to come get me at the airport) and brought me to her house. I was so excited to meet all of her boys, including her awesome hubs. This is her backyard, by the way. I see you Colorado.

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We headed up to Deirdre’s new place in the mountains (near Winter Park-Frasier). Carrie and Sarah’s plane from Seattle made a pit stop in Nebraska (!) and ended up being many hours late so Chandra, Cathy and I made ourselves comfortable in Deirdre’s house without her. 🙂

The rest of the week was spent mostly with either coffee or wine in hand chatting on Deirdre’s couches. Also eating. Lots of delicious, delicious food. Cathy, Chandra and Deirdre spoiled us with their fine cuisine.

Friday the 8th happened to be Sarah’s birthday so we celebrated it by taking a pontoon out on a lake in the mountains. Right after I posted about gaining my Michigan boater safety license Deirdre texted me, “Glad you got that. How about you drive a pontoon boat for us on Friday?”

I take my duty very seriously, as shown by me asking the dock hand what I should know about the waters and vegetation and such.

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The weather was absolutely picture perfect but the conversations were my very favorite part. It turns out nature was pretty great at celebrating Sarah’s birth as well. That Sarah, she is amazing. Grateful for her, as always.

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We had lunch on the boat and then tried many times to get the perfect picture of all of us.

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The weather was perfect…until it wasn’t. A storm rolled in so I opened the throttle, Deirdre (with the metal rod in her back) hid and Cathy and Carrie just went on acting like nothing out of the ordinary was going on.

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Rocky Mountain National Park was equally kind to us.

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We even got to see a moose! This was a first for me, no idea why we were all so taken by it but we watched it move for a really long time. Nature is incredibly mesmerizing.

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We went on a few hikes, welcomed another adoptive mama for dinner, slept in bunk beds and allowed each mama as much sleep as they could possibly want or need.

I remember in 1st grade Trysten came home and told me about how his teacher told him we each have a bucket. If you’re nice to a person you fill their bucket, if you’re mean-you poke a whole in the bucket. The lesson being, obviously, be the kind of person who fills buckets.

We’re in the home stretch of summer over here in Michigan, this means a whole host of things-namely abject chaos. When my kids are nervous/anxious about something it presents itself in a myriad of ways, all of which are on this side of annoying.

So thankful I had the 4 days in the mountains to fill up my bucket, memories from my week with these women work to offset some of my frustration at the last week of summer. Though I have so many good friends who live closer, these women get my specific kind of mothering in a way not many can. They are the ones I text or call when news of Michael Brown comes out (more on him later), the ones I text random things to with the question, “You think adoption related or boy related?” They’re my people. Make sure you make time for women like them in your life, so that on days when you’re pretty sure you will be driven insane by life you can text them and they’ll say “Yeah, it’s Lord of the Flies over here too.”

*Also of note, I got to check out an awesome run shop in Denver started by a guy with whom I went to college. Pat is and has always been a top notch dude. He’ll take care of you right Denverites, go get your gear from him.

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*I got to see Common in the airpot on my way home. He smells of sex and baked goods. Trust that I don’t like being objectified and believe in my heart we women shouldn’t do it to men but come on…it was Common. I took a terrible sneaky pic and then “casually” made my way next to him so that I sat by him on the train. We parted but I’m pretty sure he’s just as torn up about it as I am.

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*My parents are the very best. Every year I text my mom, “Girls weekend x date, can you watch the kids?” So when Zach is pulling 18 hour days and I’m off drinking wine and eating carbs my parents are taking my kids on more adventures than they get in a year with me. So thankful for them.

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#2-She who knows how to safely maneuver a boat-wins

#2-She who knows how to safely maneuver a boat-wins

I actually have a really big project I want to do right now (rip up carpet and put down laminate flooring. Perhaps demolish a wall.) but someone-cough, Zach, cough-is doubting my ability to finish such a task. It seems I’ll have to convince him I’m serious about this whole year of Tesi thing before I start on major home improvement makeovers. Lame. 😉

I’ve mentioned it before here but I was basically raised on a boat. My parents have pictures of me as a wee infant riding in the footwell of my parent’s ski boat. Some of my earliest memories are eating cold meat sandwiches in the blazing heat of summer after we convinced my dad to finally stop skiing long enough to allow his 3 children to eat and/or jump in and out of the boat as much as we wanted. I also gained the nickname “chipmeisty” on the boat due to my love of and allegiance to anything fried and salty (that still exists, by the way. I have no control when it comes to trans fats and fried potatoes. Bless.)

Anyone who knows Zach, particularly in the professional arena, can attest to his strict adherence to the “safety first” policy. For those who know him best in the private arena, it can get kind of annoying. 🙂 That said, he had asked me to take the Michigan boater safety course and subsequent exam before driving the boat. Though I reminded him I was basically raised on a boat, he was unwavering in his allegiance to safety. For months I’ve felt a little put off by it, also a little lazy about it. 3 hours of online work? Plus it’s always just been easier to let him drive the boat while I tanned dutifully next to him. Recently he’s reminded me that, had I passed the exam, I could’ve taken the boat out with the kids while he was working. It’s the year of Tesi so it was time.

I just sent this picture to Zach with the caption, “Safety first bitches!!!!”

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So if you need me for the remainder of the summer/early fall I will be here. Because even though the theme for this year could be “taking the bull by the horns” in this case I’m doing that by taking the wheel with an approved PFD.

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#1-Learn to hang frames

As I said in my original post-this one I’m a little embarrassed about. There has been a small pile of picture frames, thread portraits and even a random piece of wood that fell off our wall left for Zach for far longer than I care to admit. It’s summer which means Zach works extra long hours, often not getting home for good until I’m deep into my REM cycle. It has always just felt wrong (though I admit it’s been done) to leave a list for him on the fridge of things that need fixed and hung for when he gets home at night.

Let me just say had I known I’d be able to accomplish this first small task of mine barefoot, in a swimsuit cover up and while drinking beer I maybe wouldn’t have waited so long to give it a go. Full disclosure, it was all the measuring and the math that got me nervous. And Zach’s OCD. He tells me everyone wants their stuff perfectly hung so that each room the items are hung at the same height and feature the same width between them. (He’s lying, right?!?!? That can’t be true.) Either way, I totally nailed it.

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I’ve gotten some really great ideas so far from you all. Stuff you are doing in your life or stuff you want to do. I’m going to definitely take on some of them! Keep me posted if you have any more ideas.

I sent my friend this picture with the caption, “Well into my year of Tesi.”

Her response, “Only you would start the year of Tesi in July.”

And it’s true. But the reality is I’m not promised January. I might only have a few days or weeks to teach all of my kids (with special thought of Dailah) that you’re never too young or old to learn new tricks. And to quit running from things that scare you. Of course the kids were all curious to see their mom with a hammer when dad was standing right there so I explained my year or learning new things.

Yesterday Dailah was invited to her friend’s house across the lake. Normally she would ask one of her brothers to row her over but yesterday she said good bye and I looked out to see her rowing herself.

A year that goes beyond DIY

Last week the tire on my minivan that had been slowly leaking for a week or so finally got tired of my constant refilling and popped. Fortunately, just off the interstate was a tire shop. Unfortunately, the tire shop was chock full of the single reason we women hate going to auto shops-garden variety male chauvinists who earn an A+ for patronizing.

After a good 10 minutes of him lying to me (we don’t have air to fill your tire, it will be 1.5 hours for us to change into your spare, etc) I stormed walked off and, with the help of my 5 children, put my spare on. I left with a quick, “Just so you know, I go through about 6 tires a year, big mistake-big. Thanks for nothing asshole.” In my head it came out like a stronger version of Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman but the way my face was distorted in anger and my breath constricted it probably came out a little less mentally stable.

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I’ve been thinking a lot lately about other areas in my life that I’ve willingly given away my own agency. There are many perks to our culture’s specialization. We outsource everything from getting our oil changed to meal prep-we’ve talked ourselves into allowing “the experts” in each field to do for us what just the generation (or maybe 2 generations) ahead of us did themselves. In a lot of ways this is great-it allows people more time to work on their areas of expertise as well. But I can’t help but wonder if it’s not at least a bit detrimental to our health as a society as well. Simply put, for those of us who love The Walking Dead, most of us will die in hours should the zombie apocalypse happen. 😉

For me though, it was hard to coalesce the feminist in me who wanted to throw the man in the auto place on his back and tell him to go to hell (namaste as well, obviously) and the woman whose first instinct was to call her husband as if he-being 2 hours away-could make this all go away. How am I the woman who has no problem taking her 5 kids on solo road trips all of the time and also the woman who cried one dark, dark night after Zach had been gone for a week because I couldn’t get the wine bottle open?

I’ve decided that for the next year I’m going to start taking back a bit of my own agency. This isn’t about DIY-though I love the idea of that movement as well. This isn’t about craft projects or hobbies, I want this to be more about survival, home ownership-adulthood. It’s also not about things typically categorized as “male” or categorized as “female”. I have ideas on my list that could fall on both sides of that.

I have small things on my list (hang picture frames-don’t judge, I just always have Zach do it) but I also have big things (change the oil in my car, spend a full day/night on my own outside). I don’t know if you are like me at all but my nature is that if it scares me-don’t do it. If I won’t be immediately great at it-perhaps I just wasn’t meant to do it in the first place. My heart knows none of that is true but my head often easily wins and I’m just kind of tired of allowing it so quickly.

Here’s what I want from you-what are your ideas? Male or female what are the things that you wish you knew how to do or maybe are embarrassed that you always have someone do for you? While in Iowa this week I told a few of my good friends about this idea of mine and each one (male and female) was excited about it. They gave me some really great ideas as well. It helped me in numerous ways but perhaps most of all in knowing I’m not alone. Not alone in being a smart woman who is left befuddled at the mere sight of tangled TV cords but also not alone in wanting it all to change.

Obviously I will bring you along with me. If I know myself at all I know there will be loads of foul ups but also little and small victories-both celebrated equally and unnecessarily I’m sure.

So tell me, what should be on my list? What would be on your list? Email me tesileagh@gmail.com, no ideas are bad ideas. I’m excited and nervous but mostly excited. Also scared.

Let’s do it.

Let Us Be Women Who Love

I have so many posts to write about the move and so many feelings but this post has been on my mind since Zach walked down to the house from his office at Abe Lincoln and said, “So you ready to move to Michigan?”

Before moving to the Quad Cities I was a self described friend of boys. I didn’t have a whole lot of really close girlfriends because I felt like I just didn’t get along with women at the time. In hindsight I know it’s because I had been too scared to let women in. Nothing gets by women, you see, they ask questions and tend to genuinely care about where you’re at in life-at least the ones I’ve since come to know and love. And it can be really scary letting people in. Really, really scary. It’s also beautiful too but at the time I was young and let the fear win.

It’s hard not to reflect on my decade in the Quad Cities without devoting so much thought to the women who have forever changed who I am because of who they are. The women who have inspired and encouraged, loved and challenged me. The ones I called in the dark days and the ones I called to celebrate a large (or small) victory.

In my reflections it’s become quite clear to me that I have both large and small players. Obviously I have my soul sisters, the ones with whom I tell everything but I also have the smaller players. The women I see in my classes every week or the ones who text me the most perfect texts at just the right times.

I regret waiting so long to open my heart to the sisterhoods I now appreciate so very much. I do not exaggerate when I say that in so many ways these women (and many more who are not pictured) have saved me on more than one occasion. These women understand that when we help each other up, we help ourselves too. What a tremendous blessing.

Let us be women who Love.

Let us be women willing to lay down our sword words, our sharp looks, our ignorant silence and towering stance and fill the earth now with extravagant Love.

Let us be women who Love.

Let us be women who make room.

Let us be women who open our arms and invite others into an honest, spacious, glorious embrace.

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Let us be women who carry each other. 

Let us be women who give from what we have.

Let us be women who leap to do the difficult things, the unexpected things and the necessary things.

Let us be women who live for Peace.

Let us be women who breathe Hope.

Let us be women who create beauty.

Let us be women who Love.

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Let us be a sanctuary where God may dwell.

Let us be a garden for tender souls.

Let us be a table where others may feast on the goodness of God.

Let us be a womb for Life to grow.

Let us be women who Love.

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Let us rise to the questions of our time.

Let us speak to the injustices in our world.

Let us move the mountains of fear and intimidation.

Let us shout down the walls that separate and divide.

Let us fill the earth with the fragrance of Love.

Let us be women who Love.

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Let us listen for those who have been silenced.

Let us honor those who have been devalued.

Let us say, Enough! with abuse, abandonment, diminishing and hiding.

Let us not rest until every person is free and equal.

Let us be women who Love.

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Let us be women who are savvy, smart, and wise. 

Let us be women who shine with the light of God in us.

Let us be women who take courage and sing the song in our hearts.

Let us be women who say, Yes to the beautiful, unique purpose seeded in our souls.

Let us be women who call out the song in another’s heart.

Let us be women who teach our children to do the same.

Let us be women who Love.

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Let us be women who Love, in spite of fear.

Let us be women who Love, in spite of our stories.

Let us be women who Love loudly, beautifully, Divinely.

Let us be women who Love.

-Idelette McVicker

On “Staying at Home”

I’ve been a stay at home mom (SAHM) for almost 6 years. Before that I had an incredibly unfulfilling job/career track that had a fancy sounding name, decent salary and an itemized budget that included lunch meetings and coffee outings.

I grew up with both of my parents working outside the home (pops is a CFO and moms a woman who put her master’s degree to good use as a high school guidance counselor before retiring a few years ago) so there was always pressure-though never expressly stated and probably more internal -to get a good job and stick with it. My siblings have both done very well at that, my big sister is a Pharmacist (she’s actually the pharmacist in charge at her store) and my brother the very best chiropractor in the biz (see!).

So it surprised me and everyone else who knew me when I announced I was leaving my “good” job to stay at home 6 years ago. I can’t say for sure what led me to that decision but I know for certain it had a lot to do with how miserable I was at that job. It also had a lot to do with giving birth to Dailah and having to drop her and Trysten off at the daycare where the other women would tell me how it looked when she took her first steps and Trysten got his first real injury. We were adopting Tariku later that year as well and, after reading all the things that could go wrong with an adoption, I was committed to pouring all my time and energy into healing his young heart.

I would say my first few months staying at home were really eye opening for me. Though I would’ve sworn up and down that I loved having a to-do list and thrived on being busy, the opposite was actually true. I really loved my mornings spent watching Trysten play and Dailah eat her Cheerios. I could feel the tension between living how the culture wanted me to live (succeed! make money! upward mobility!) and how I wanted to live (raise healthy children! leisure! live a life of contentment!). In the end, I found teaching a few hours at the Y each week was best for everyone. It gave me a little adult time every week and gave the kids some new friends with whom to wrestle. Though I was/am “working” I, in fact, don’t really even make enough money to cover the gas it takes to bring me into town so I’m not sure it qualifies in the way most would describe the term. 🙂

Now that all 5 kids are in school full time I would say the number 1 question I get asked from people who know me semi-well is, “So now are you going to get a job?”

So weird, right? Because for me, my job hasn’t stopped. My #1 goal continues to be raising healthy, loving, respectful, responsible young people and though I have so many friends and family who also have that as their #1 goal and manage to have full time careers as well, I still feel like home is quite literally where my heart is.

I’ve told Zach I’m now in this new phase of life in which I have lived in a space and time where I was doing exactly what I was “supposed” to do but was completely miserable there. I genuinely feel like those were the darkest of my years. Though I’m sure a lot of it had to do with the actual job, I also remember crying at my desk some days looking at pictures of my sweet babes. But I’ve also lived in a space and time where I was doing something that seemed so wonderful it felt almost counter-cultural. (hallelu I’m actually still there.)

I’m currently reading Brene Brown’s, The Gifts of Imperfection. Man, I love her. Though it’s not my favorite of hers (that title currently belongs to Daring Greatly), there are still some great gems inside. I think if anything it has reminded me that there is nothing to be ashamed of when I’m living my life in such a way that brings me and those around me lots of joy. Even when the people pleaser in me starts to put on the pressure to find a job so others can be proud of me or so I can contribute to the family’s bottom line I need to remember, “No one can define what’s meaningful for us. Culture doesn’t get to dictate if it’s working outside the home, raising children, lawyering, teaching or painting. Like our gifts and talents, meaning is unique to each one of us.”-pg.112

For those of you living out your great passions in whatever capacity you are, I salute you! It is not always easy but it is always worth it.

“Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” -Howard Thurman

 

Hey you-be nice to yourself

He is at his most handsome when he is laughing. Not the laugh he gives most people, no, the laugh he saves for rare occasions when surprise mixes perfectly with love and comedy. My beloved is often prone to seriousness but when he lets go his gums show and his eyes crinkle and I melt.

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Obviously I love seeing him in our bed, in a specific kind of derobedness saved specifically for me but I also yearn for those moments when his whole body exudes passion and a zest for life not often seen with him. Just as I’m prone to effusiveness he is prone to statue-like stillness. But not when he’s doing something he loves or talking about something in which he cares very deeply. In those moments his beauty shines from the smallest part of his heart’s center out to his phalanges.

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As Dailah grows I think more and more about body image. Specifically, how do I raise my daughter to see her the way I see her? I wonder that for my boys as well but the focus is often on Dailah because, let’s just be real here, being a young woman can be really terrible at times. I hate our culture’s rabid focus on the female body with a white hot hatred but I also know there’s nothing I can do to change that. So I always wonder how I can get my kids, in this case-Dailah, to live/survive within our culture.

I’ve had my own dealings with body issues, me and virtually every woman I know, so I went on a limb and asked Zach when he found me the most beautiful/attractive.

Women, come here for a second. Will you do this for me? Will you ask your husband/wife/significant other/child/parent that same question? Someone who loves you without condition- just ask them. You are not allowed to give them any qualifiers, “Hey babe, when do you find me the most beautiful? I mean, you don’t have to tell me, I’m just curious, my friend Tesi is really the one who wants to know, so you don’t have to answer.” None of that.

Back to Zach. His answer, “Attractive in a heartfelt sense is probably when you are interacting with Dailah. Attractive in a desired sense, probably right out of the shower.”

Yeah, he loves me right out of the shower. When my body is an unnatural shade of red (I’ve never met a hot shower I didn’t love), I’m all saggy boobs, stretch marks and acne. That’s it. That’s when he desires me most.

It got me thinking that maybe if I start to look at myself the way Zach sees me or the way Tariku sees me, “Mom, you are most beautiful when you’re dancing in our kitchen.” Or the way Tomas sees me, “You are most beautiful when you are taking good care of us.” Then I won’t actually have to teach Dailah anything, she’ll just pick it up from watching me.

I wonder if I can continue to “catch” all of my kids at their most beautiful and remark to them, “You are stunning when you are working so hard on that math problem!” then I will be the voice that is heard louder than all the other surface-level stuff our culture praises.

Do you think it’s possible? I don’t know. But I’m really beginning to believe that if the people I loved saw themselves the way I saw them then they wouldn’t say some of the harsh things they often do about themselves. I’m also beginning to believe if we can be nicer to ourselves then we can be nicer to each other. Our world needs people to be nicer to each other.

So let’s start with us. You and me. First, be nice to yourself. Next time you look in the mirror remember what your loved one said about you. This is going to be our hardest task, isn’t it? But let’s do it together. What’s the worst that could happen?

People often say that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and I say that the most liberating thing about beauty is realizing that you are the beholder.

-Salma Hayek