Yes (now what?!)

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I love this picture, taken the other night by my sister-in-law at her house. Jon’s not mansplaining (he doesn’t do that) but for some reason the way this looks tickles me.

I’ve been accepted to my first law school. There are still half a dozen applications pending, so I don’t know what will ultimately shake out as a plan, but the truth is this: I threw my hat in the ring, and have a concrete Yes.

That incandescent “yes”…the smile didn’t leave my face for hours. I smiled at everyone I passed, and if I’d had a hat to throw in the air, I would have. I got a Yes. And it wasn’t just a Yes—it was a yes with very generous scholarship attached.

This amazing thing has happened. It was something I worked hard to do—I studied for months, I took a really hard test (while waiting on gallbladder surgery, woke with pink-eye, the brakes went out on both my car *and* Jeffrey’s car, which I drove to the test—test-day was almost ridiculous in its absurdity) and I did well enough that I not only passed, that a law school has offered me not only a place, but money to attend their program. Achievement unlocked! So why was it easier to accept the hard parts of studying and applying than to accept the reward?

For someone like me, for whom trauma still sometimes surprisingly rears its head, good things happening can be scary. Even acknowledging it being scary is scary. I have a hard time trusting good things, and that sometimes affects…everything?

I think acknowledging the complexity of accumulated experiences is helpful. I’m not telling myself not to feel these feelings, but I *am* telling myself not to get too wrapped up in any one of them. They’re just feelings. They come and go, and I don’t have to amplify my anxieties, nor do I have to minimize my joy.

So this really amazing thing happened—something I wanted and worked hard for. That’s great! This really amazing thing also brings with it decisions, shifts in focus, and potential changes not just for me, but for my family. That’s new and maybe it can feel a little scary, but it’s also okay. I acknowledge I am incredibly fortunate—my husband and kids are fully behind me and are cheering me on, even when I’m afraid.

If I have learned anything over the last two decades, it’s that change is the constant. There is no stasis in life. None. Some changes we choose and welcome, some not. But life is in a constant state of flux and flow, and finding ways to be emotionally okay with that truth is a step towards a meaningful life.

Either way, deep breaths are called for, and required. And if you see me randomly smiling to myself in the clearance racks at Target, it’s not because the jeans were marked down. Well, maybe it’s that, too…

Thanks for coming to my personal pep talk.

Busy Be Back Soon (Again)

IMG_5389The last week has been insane. You know when you have so many plates juggling you don’t know where to look? I’m there.

My kids’ godmother lives in Ohio, and we took an impromptu road trip to see her and help support her and her family over some bumps. It was a good trip–I pulled my three kids from school early on Friday and we took advantage of the three-day presidents weekend. While we were on the road, why not also tour a law school or two? Oh, and maybe a snow storm could blow through for the majority of the drive? Yes, great!

We had fun though, and it was worth it. Jon got a weekend at home with Kelsey and our expanding zoo. I made a bid for another puppy–a brindle mastiff girl who ended up in rescue. Someone else got to her before me, so I hope they love her as much as we would have. I’ll keep trying.

I’ve applied to six law schools now. I’ve heard folks apply to 18 or 20, hedging their bets. I’m kind of wracked with existential anxiety over whether I’m not being smart, or whether I’m being realistic–I cannot pick up and move across the country, and I’m not getting into an Ivy, and I’m a “mature student” *gag* so I have to be smart, and I’m targeting select schools where I think it makes financial sense to focus. Like so much in life, it’s about balancing all the advice, weighing it out, and then doing what you’ve worked out is best for you and your family. It’s hard. I have two more on my list, so maybe making it a lucky 8 would be good.

At the same time, we’re helping Jeffrey navigate this process from the other end. Adulting is hard when you’ve been doing it for almost 30 years, and it’s hard when you’re just learning how to begin. There are so many variables and unknowns right now.

The kids were in school for all of two days this week—not because of me and my lackadaisical approach to long weekends. The district called snow days on Wednesday and Thursday, though it was 47* on Thursday. Go, Virginia! The superintendent of our district actually sells joke merchandise about school closures, because he moved here from New York, and like me, is floored by the calls they make about snow.

There are potentially exciting things coming down the road for Bean and Autism activism. I will report more as I am able. He’s also being honored by the school district for his community service and food bank donations. It looks like he’s going to stick with lacrosse, and he’s decided he wants to learn how to drive.

Abby was so content to spend the weekend with her godmother. They have a special relationship, and I deeply appreciate the bond they share. Abby made all-county band, and is so humble, she forgot to tell us, until the day of the concert. She kept telling me she was just practicing for a “band thing.”

Finishing off the week, I have a contract to go over and sign, student aid forms to fill out for both me and for Jeffrey, book club, a friend in from out of town, and…I think that’s it? I mean, other than the regular stuff of running a house with four teenagers, three animals, and two parents.

Mid-February

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There is so much going on right now, I just have to jot some notes down so I don’t lose track. Too many moving pieces, too many things to keep on top of…

We’re keeping our fingers crossed that we don’t have to face another shutdown tomorrow. 35 days without pay really sapped us and the stress was heavy. We had to talk this week about what to pay, and what not to pay, in anticipation of another shutdown. Things look optimistic, but until something is signed, we (and a million other people) are holding our breath.

Jeffrey is facing making decisions about college and the coming years, and seventeen just seems so young to have to make these kinds of choices. So much of it is a leap of faith, with a fair dose of the hubris of youth. Giving him space to work out his options, while doing out best to provide him with maps and tips along the way. It’s hard for everyone.

Bean is growing in huge leaps and bounds right now–not just physically either. He donated another 80 cases of peanut butter to a local hunger project, and there are more things in the works that I can’t share details on yet.  He also tried crew, but decided he liked the helmet and gauntlet gloves of lacrosse better and so now we might have a lacrosse player? It helps that his SpEd teacher is the lacrosse coach. A lot.

Abby is Abby. Quiet and unassuming, still waters run deep. I won’t transgress her privacy any further unless or until I have her permission. But she’s doing okay. Same with Kelsey.

There is a pile of law school applications sitting on my desk, ready to go. It’s been a daunting process, but I am very close to having all the jots and tittles checked and double checked. Somehow, February 14 seems like a good day to submit. Here goes nothing…or everything.

We don’t really do Valentines Day. It’s a holdover from my single mama days. Auntie Heather came to Spokane once during the hard years, and we held a tea party on the 14th, and since then, I like celebrating the day with how our family loves each other. We did a dinner the other night, but I covered the walls with pictures of us together. Jon and I have our anniversary for ourselves—but this family is worth celebrating, too.

I’m watching my nephew today while I tweak the last few details on my applications, and his mom attends a funeral.

I’m cooking potato leek soup because leeks were a great deal.

I found an amazing new barbecue joint that has BURNT ENDS and I nearly cried they were so good.

It’s Thrift Store Thursday, and I shall return and report. I’ve had a run of good luck. We’ll see if it continues.

I pulled my back out last weekend, and it’s finally starting to loosen up. It’s been a miserable week, walking around like I’m 93.

Maybe doing a revamp of our bedroom wasn’t the greatest idea? Just moved pieces around, rearranged, swapped out pictures, etc. It feels fresh for spring.

Have you ever tried Afghan food? Omg, my sister-in-law and I stumbled into the most amazing Afghan restaurant and I can’t even think about it without salivating.

What’s your week look like?

February Pause

IMG_5238It’s February. The sun is out and the air is a warm. Last week we were sub-zero, today we’re hovering around 70 degrees. The whiplash is a little disconcerting if you ponder it for even a moment, but mostly I’m just loving the feeling of the sunlight on my face.

The windows on the house are all flung open to gulp in as much beautiful fresh air as possible before the chill returns. Because it will. (And so help me, this better not trigger the blossoms, which will then inevitably freeze.) The cat are each slung languidly in different windowsills, and Tiberius isn’t sure what to do with himself there are so many squirrels in his yard.

I lit a nag-champa and welcomed the lunar new year. It’s the Year of the Pig, the last of the 12-year Chinese zodiac cycle. The nag-champa smoke floats on the breeze, and if I close my eyes, it feels like Santa Cruz 25 years ago. This is normal for a California February, and my heart sings of home. The only thing missing is the jasmine and eucalyptus. The scent of jasmine makes me cry with homesickness; it always bloomed early, along with the camellias that grew everywhere.

I can hear children laughing and their mothers calling to them. Bicycles whir by, and the soft jingle of metal tags tells me at least a dozen dogs have walked by my house. The afternoon sun is still too far away for the really good rainbows to fill the  prisms in my window, but there are a few tiny ones trying to peek through. The shadows are growing long and golden, and Maxfield Parish would like the light.

Snow is forecast next week.

Today, I’ll breathe in the sunlight, and give thanks for my dog and the amazing humans who fill this house I am so fortunate to call home.

Peanut Butter & Doing Good

It’s been a busy week for our family, and we’re headed out the door in a few minutes for Bean to hopefully give away some more peanut butter. I’ll return and report in a bit, but for now, if you’d like to read about what’s going on, you can check:

The Washington Post
The New York Post
People Magazine
The Deseret News
The Today Show
ABC
CBS
CNN
FOX
NBC

I’ve actually got THREE pages of links to articles, from as far away as New Zealand. It’s INSANE and wonderful, in the middle of some really heavy times, people can be so good, and we are all craving some spots of light.

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Hot Water

screen shot 2019-01-15 at 11.16.36 pmTonight I was cold—too cold for my socks or my space heater to fill. I turn the steamy shower on, and by the nightlight, I take my contacts out. My husbands lenses fizz quietly to themselves from their little hydrogen peroxide cylinder, but mine are done and I leave them to curl into little blue-tinged crescents on the counter. Delicate like glass.

I like night showers, I like the way the hot water falls on me in the dark. I like the heavy white noise that fills my ears and stops my anxious thoughts. Just the warm water, the dark, and my skin slowly warming and tingling back to life. I like the slippery bar of soap,  and I like the way my skin feels scrubbed and clean. The steam now smells of lavender and vaguely of home. I can see out the widow into he inky blackness, the glowing snow reflecting the dim moon in my backyard.

The cost of water edges into my calm, and I feel guilty for the water bill that the furlough means we cannot pay. I shut the tap off, and wrap myself in the heavy cotton robe hanging on a simple nail in the windowsill. I have lived in this house for five years, and I have replaced everything, but I like that small little nail.

I like the gentle smudges of black around my eyes, as I rub a circle clear on the mirror and lean in, my myopic eyes shift their focus. With my contacts, I cannot see close. Without them, I lean in and everything is clear and bright. The details of my skin are fascinating for a brief moment. I like the juxtaposition of my in/ability to focus. It feels right.

The blowdryer offers up a second wave of white noise, blocking out all the worries, and I like that. My warm hair blows around my like a tangled halo, soft and a little wild, and I like that too.

I leave the robe draped over my chair, and shrug on my grey sweater, over my grey stripped nightgown. My kids would laugh, calling this my uniform. I like grey a ridiculous amount—it’s my comfort color, and right now, it’s a good thing.

My husband sits in his chair by the window, a book folded in his lap, a pile of clean laundry with him in the chair. He stares off in the middle distance, his face half shadowed from the inadequate reading lamp on a rickety table I love and he’s baffled by. He spent the day calling our utilities, our insurance companies, our mortgage company; all the bills typical of any family of six people. He wanders around the house, helpless to do anything, helpless to contribute to the work to which he’s dedicated his professional life. We’re trying to make the money leftover from December last through January, while not knowing if it will have to be stretched even further.

I like the little reprieves we can find. Even if it’s just hot water.

What a Shutdown Means

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DC Metro Train Car, Friday 11 January 2019

We’re two weeks into 2019 and we’re three weeks into the federal shut-down. I’m starting to think until the ripples reach the rest of the country, that a lot of folks don’t quite understand what that means.

I don’t want to fixate on things too much, but it’s serious for the nearly million families affected, and it’s going to be even more serious as the financial and social ripples spread out. Right now, in the Northern Virginia area where we live, and where employment is heavily, heavily federal, what it means is this…

The majority of Federal employees aren’t what people imagine when they listen to the news. It’s not the lobbyists on Capital Hill, or the special interest lawyers. In DC, it’s Smithsonian employees, curators, archivists preserving our national heritage. It’s the cafeterias, gift shops and janitorial services in each of the many national museums and other federal buildings. It’s the tourist economy around the entire National Mall. It’s the monuments themselves, which are fenced off and not available to visit. It’s the vendors who line downtown DC, which is normally hustling, regardless of the month. It’s FBI agents investigating all manor of crimes, State Department professionals who work to ensure world stability, food inspectors making sure regulations are followed, scientists with years-long research projects, transit authorities, passenger and freight rail safety and inspections, trucking and mass transport, and it’s the tragedy of National Parks that might be irreparably damaged in some cases.

It’s the air traffic controllers at every single airport in the country. They are “essential” so they are reporting for duty every day, but they are not being paid. That’s a pretty damn important job for people who are feeling burnt out and stressed, having last made money before Christmas, and trying to figure out how they’re going to feed their families and pay their bills. The same for every TSA agent in every airport. “Essential” and also working without pay–and those are not high-paying jobs. Mo, who you know and love, has worked every day, including Christmas Day, is a single mother of three, and has received no pay. Her former husband is also a federal employee and is also not being paid, so there is literally no support.

Let’s not forget the foreign service members who are reporting for duty in far reaching countries, who are not always safe, and who sometimes have with their families with them, who are far from home and also not being paid.

Repeat this story half a million times. The other half a million are waiting at home, desperate to get back to vital work they have pending, projects that have been in the works for years, research that may now be compromised, and far-reaching medical testing that is in jeopardy

In the Northern Virginia area, as this shutdown drags on, our Metro transit trains are empty, and we are starting to see small businesses fail. Restaurants are deserted, grocery store shelves are low on products. Maid services, yard services, “extras” are being cut, and the economy is shrinking. Some of this might come back when things eventually open, but some of our communities are irreparably damaged.

My own husband has three college degrees and a decade and a half of federal service. Like so many people in our area, he chose federal service out of love for his country, despite often higher salaries in the private sector. He’s a highly trained specialist, and trust me, you may not know what he does, but you want him and agents like him doing their jobs.

Federal agents cannot strike. If a federal agent who is deemed “essential” doesn’t show up for their job, they don’t just loose their job (and possible seniority and retirement), but an arrest warrant is issued for them. So whatever you’ve been hearing on the news, or facebook, or from your loud uncle is not likely the whole story.

And none of this even touches on the emotional upwelling of fear and trauma this brings up for children (and parents, to be frank) who have already lived through loss, housing instability and food insecurity. We don’t know how we’re going to pay our bills—and neither do most other people in our area. Consider the ripples.

And I didn’t even get to foodstamps, WIC and other programs protecting the most very vulnerable among us. And that 800,000 number is the actual employees. In our family, my husband supports us and four children. If you extrapolate that out, the number of people being harmed and left without means of support is horrifying.

The United States of America needs to be up and functioning. People need to grasp how important those many professional, highly trained and dedicated civil servants are not just for our own health, safety and stability—but for the stability of the entire world.