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.

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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

The Concrete Jungle

I have ridiculously generous parents. By “parents” I am, of course, referring both to my biological parents and my in-laws-I very rarely differentiate.

My sister-in-law, Kait, has lived in Brooklyn for close to a year now and since I love her so much, I’ve been wanting to check in on her. She also started interning for one of my favorite non-profits, The Adventure Project, and had been working tirelessly on their annual Gala.

Much to my surprise, my in-laws were paying attention and (after singing Happy Birthday 2 months early) announced they were sending me to New York to visit Kait and to go to TAP’s gala. Did I cry? Yes. Are they amazing? Yes.

Related note: My husband is also amazing. Even though camp season is gearing up and he’s getting busier and busier he encouraged this stay-at-home mama to jet off to the Big Apple while he held down the fort with our 5 children, 4 pets AND THE 2 GREAT DANES WE ARE DOG SITTING FOR MY PARENTS. Sainthood-he deserves nothing less.

My time in NYC was spent doing very non-touristy stuff-which I loved. (Though I did say hi to this beautiful lady as I was taxi-ing to Kait’s restaurant).

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Saturday we went to a new bar near her place that was really cool. I watched as she got hit on by multiple men wearing the same size jeans I do.

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And we celebrated my being in NYC (and out past 10!) with a glass of my favorite whiskey.

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Sunday was really crappy weather but we managed to walk around Brooklyn and visit flea markets, second hand shops, etc. We also caught a comedy show that night (Kait is seriously way cooler than virtually everyone I know. She hosts a comedy show out there and also co-runs this hip-hop blog with a friend of hers.) and I tried a few different Brooklyn lagers.

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Monday was the day of The Adventure Project Gala. I have this weird compulsion that I want to be helpful if there’s an opportunity for it. So Kait and I got to the TAP offices at about 9am. From then until 6:30pm when the event started we were helping set up and whatever else. I met some really great people during those hours-those who work for TAP and those who work for partnering organizations as well as other volunteers like myself. Then the gala started and I proceeded to enjoy the free cocktails and time socializing.

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I also caught up with a few women who I traveled with to Haiti, which was so fun.

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After the gala we helped pack everything up and take it back to the TAP offices. Then Kait and her friends decided they were hungry and one really wanted Korean food. All this resulted in me being up until 4am. Yikes. But Kait’s friends are as amazing as she is, so it was so enjoyable to be around them and share that part of her life with her.

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After not enough sleep, Tuesday was our day to finish stuff up at TAP and then explore the city. First we walked around the Highline, which was absolutely amazing.

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Walked through a Chelsea flea market where I found a coat that I’ve been dreaming about and lusting after since. I mean, seriously. SOMEONE MAKE THIS FOR ME!

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After a few days in the concrete jungle I had a serious hankering for earth. I get that I’m a bit of a hippie but I had no idea just how much until I hadn’t been able to touch the actual earth. You know, put my hands in some dirt, feet in grass, etc. So off we went to Central Park. We played frisbee with one of Kait’s friends and I did a bit of yoga. But mostly, just enjoyed the sights.

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We ended the night at a restaurant where we talked about things ranging from comedy to racism. One of my favorite things about Kait is she chooses friends who challenge her and encourage her to continue growing as a human. Love that.

Travel back home was complicated (seriously, I would love just 1 time of normal flights) but the end result was that I was home with my family.

The next day at home was spent teaching my classes and going to the kids’s school where they were all awarded various things. All day I was struck by the realization that I am so infinitely blessed to be able to experience NYC with one of my favorite people in the entire world and then to come home and experience life with my other favorite people-all in the span of a week.

What a lucky lady I am.

Girls Girls

Remember this post about Dailah not getting a familial sister? I mentioned that building a sisterhood with friendships will be important for her but what I didn’t mention is that it’s been a lifesaver for me too. Even though I have ridiculously amazing sisters (3 of whom I got to spend time with yesterday, which would explain my overall jovial mood!) I also happen to have friends who have become like sisters to me.

My brother-in-law went out of town to kill innocent turkeys hunt so my sister thought she could pass the time by having us over for a spa night complete with wine and other girly drinks.

One of my greatest friends is a literal beauty school drop out which bodes well for spa night. First, the drinks.

Ashley (“Hot Pocket” as we call her or just “HP”) came up with a Pinterest creation that was waaaay too delicious.

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I can’t actually think of any situation that isn’t made better with these 3 and an alcoholic drink.

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Of course we did “normal” spa stuff like pedicures and manicures.

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But we also did things like bleach my hair (going back to blonde, what can I say? It just feels right.) and this:

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Waxing. facial hair. Ladies, when did this happen? I’m completely aware that I have more testosterone than your average lady. I mean, literally, my blood contains more than the average female. This explains lots of things namely my strong jaw line 😉 and all of the facial hair. Thank God I have a bestie who doesn’t judge, just gets her wax out and takes care of binness.

I’ve been really lucky to have close girlfriends my whole life. I’m a lobster (Friends, anyone?) with anyone I’ve once called friend. I’ll be praying for them and hoping for their happiness all the days of my life. But at this stage in my life my friends/sisters feel more like a lifeline than any other time in my life. Marriage, parenthood and life are made all the better with friends. The really rough times are a bit easier with these people too.

So thankful for these people I’m not even going to worry about the fact that I just posted a picture of me getting my mooostache waxed on the interwebs.

Heeey

I have this friend since second grade, when we talk on the phone (every couple months or so) we open with “heeeey” (pronounced like “hay” with the “a” drawn out). Every time I can hear her smile-and I’m sure she can hear me smile as well-and then we pick up where we left off. The “heeey” is our way of saying, “I’m sorry it’s been so long, we have 10 kids between us, life is bound to go too quickly.”

So…heeeey.

I think the best way I can summarize what’s been going on is with bullet points.

-The big 3 are wrestling. My dad was a good wrestler, as was my brother. I come from “a wrestling family”, as it were. If you live in Iowa and you say you are from “a wrestling family” you automatically get a little more street cred. This state is crazy about its men in tights rolling around with each other. Because I’ve loved my little brother so intensely for as long as I can remember I used to hate watching him wrestle. It’s just so intense, it’s just so vulnerable. Weeeell, it’s way worse as a mom. Boys had their first tournament last weekend and I really did feel like I was going to throw up all day. It is insanely hard to watch them get beat at something. I’m nowhere close to a helicopter parent but in those moments I see why it’s an epidemic in this nation-in many ways it’d be so much easier to shelter my kids from experiencing that for as long as I can. Instead, I sign them up for another tournament this weekend. Builds character, right?

-We got a new kitten. Made the mistake of going to a friend’s house who lives in the country. Their farm cat had 7 farm kittens. Say what you will but dammit if the sight of all 5 of my kids begging me for another cat isn’t impossible to say no to. Zach finds it just as difficult, thus: Evie D. (“Evie” for Z’s grandma “Evelyn” and “D” for my grandma “Delores”.) She’s sassy and fun and funny just like our grandmas. Oh, and we brought her home on New Years EVE. It’s just the perfect name. 🙂

-I took the GRE. Yeah I did. I decided to apply to grad school. It’s something I knew I wanted to do since I was in college myself, but I’ve loved raising my kids so much. Now that they’re in school it’s just good timing. I’m going for my PhD in Communication Studies, hoping to one day teach at the collegiate level. If I get in then I know it was as good a timing as we thought, if not, there’s always next year!

-Christmas was amazing. Many times on Christmas Day I looked around me and thought “I never even thought to dream this big.” That is how good life is right now. It’s busy, and it’s crazy but it’s good. This year we did the “Something you want, something you need, something you wear and something you read.” Then a gift from Santa and some stocking stuffers from us. I LOVED it. By nature I love things simple and efficient, so that fit the bill extremely well. If you’ve been looking to downsize presents in order to focus on more important stuff, I can’t urge you enough to do something like it.

-I’m going to Haiti in just over a week. After Wine to Water Jody asked if I’d like to go and see just how good The Adventure Project really is. Um, yeah. Many times, particularly as money is always tight around Christmas, I’d say to Zach, “Honey I just won’t go to Haiti, it’s fine.” And God love him, he consistently said, “It doesn’t matter, you have to go, Tesi. I won’t let you not go.” Sweet Jesus I love that man. So I’m going. I am really, really excited.

So much more has gone on, obviously, in the last few months. But as I rang in the new year with my kiddos, my hubby and my sister/brother-in-law I couldn’t help but realize just how great this year was. We had our struggles, boy did we! But they were worth it. Because we’ve come to 2013 and we are stronger and happier than ever.

We have no idea what 2013 holds for us but we are excited about life. We are thankful for it. And I’ll take that any day.

I have this weird thing with people who talk about being “busy”. As much as I, for the most part, am pretty good at letting people “do them” I am complete shit at that when people talk about how busy they are. It’s all relative, right? I have Facebook/blog friends who are moms to more than 10 children. 10. At any point when I feel a little overwhelmed by my “busy” I think about what it must feel like to feed/bathe/clothe that many people and I tip my pretend little hat.

I’m not that busy.

And really, I’m not.

My sister got married almost 2 weeks ago. I can’t wait to show you pictures. She was beautiful, my new brother-in-law was handsome. They were so happy. I am crying right now just remembering it all. It was absolutely beautiful. I’m so thankful they found each other. I love them both more than I can possibly put into words (which is why, on a sidenote, I did a flash mob as my matron of honor speech). Good times.

This weekend my hubby and I are heading out for some fun with friends. The thought of being with that guy with no kids makes me a little slap happy.

And the weekend after is Wine to Water. Lots of fun stuff coming up with that.

But this post is really about the fact that a few days ago Tariku asked if he could snuggle with me. Please re-read as many times as necessary.

My Tariku asked to snuggle with me (for the first time in 4 1/2 years).

I was hot and grumpy, talking to Zach about various things.

But I snuggled the shit out of my son, of course I did.

This boy who still shirks a good deal of my physical touch asked to snuggle after so many years.

I wanted you to know because things are really good with us, despite that, they really are. But man I didn’t know I had been missing that so much until his little body draped over mine.

So if you’re in the thick of the cringe-when-touched or any of the other stuff that we gladly (or not so) take on as adoptive mamas I just wanted you to know.

Carry on mama warriors. It’ll be worth it. Promise.