Four Weeks

Tuesdays.

Oh, Tuesdays.

Historically, these are my challenge days. Sometimes I meet them with grace. Sometimes I meet them with chocolate. Sometimes meeting them with chocolate IS meeting them with grace.

Today is rainy (again) and cold (again) and it seems that Mother Nature is really feeling me on this Tuesday.

It’s been one week since I found out that I was going to DC to lobby and in that week I am fairly certain I have lived 1,000 lifetimes. I have certainly experienced 1,000 emotions, and continue to do so on this Tuesday that feels weepy and a little bit hard and a whole lot gray.

But here’s the deal. You know I am all for feeling all the feels. I am a firm believer through my yoga teaching/practice, through my therapy, and through my parenting, that you can’t live without ALL the emotions, even the difficult ones. It is what you do with them, how you move through them, how you use them that matters, and you are not a failure for experiencing the hard ones.

So even though today feels like it landed on the heavy end of the emotional spectrum, that doesn’t mean all is lost. I know that I’m going to feel a million different pieces of life today, and if some of them – many of them – are the processing and purging of all the intensity I have lived in the last seven days, so be it. Like so many others, I have been re-traumatized by recent national events and I am doing all that I can to give myself grace right now, as I hope you are, too.

I thought that grace might look like stepping away. Away from social media, away from the public, just away.

And while we did take some much needed buffer/family time over the weekend, I have not gone in to complete hiding mode. For one, I am not ashamed that our trip did not result in the changes we hoped to see, and I am for sure not letting that defeat silence me. For another, I know that we have – from this very Tuesday – only four weeks left until the mid-terms elections, and I don’t know about you, but they feel like the most important mid-terms of my life.

So I am here and I am going to continue to show up here and other places online (and eventually in public when my introverted heart feels ready to do so) to remind everyone of that important, impending deadline of November 6. And I am going to encourage you – all of you – including those of you who don’t agree with my politically (which, if you’re even still reading this, thank you, because the need to see each other as human even though we differ in public policies is so necessary right now) to vote. Educate yourself on your candidates. Ask questions. Mark your calendars. And use your (in many cases, hard fought) right to case your ballot in four short weeks.

Because not all Tuesdays have to suck and we CAN be the change we do desperately desire to see in this world. We just have to show up for it.

Side note: this was clearly not taken on this particular rainy Tuesday.

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Called to Action

So sometimes, when you put yourself out there in big ways, you are presented with big opportunities in response, and such is my experience this week.

First of all, let me begin by saying thank you for all the love, support, and kindness that you all showed after my last post. Your comments and private messages made me cry – in the good way – and filled my heart to the brim. Thank. You.

One of the messages that floored me the most came almost 24 hours after the posting and was from a friend I know via the yoga world here in Nebraska. In it, she asked me if I would be willing to share, via the ACLU of NE/ACLU national office, my story with our state’s Senators, Deb Fisher and Ben Sasse. At their offices. In Washington, DC.

To be perfectly honest, I had to read the email more than once to comprehend what it was asking of me. Fly to DC? Meet with members of Congress on The Hill? THIS WEEK?!

But of course it is this week when such meetings are needed, and because my support system here at home – Ben, my friends, my family – is amazing, I said yes.

Even though I have never done anything remotely like this before.

Even though I am 99.9% sure that I will cry at some point during the meetings.

Even though I have to leave my still nursing, Velcro baby for 48+ hours.

Even though I don’t think much will change because of my doing all this.

I am going to go.

If my horrible experience and anger can be turned and channeled into a force for good at a time when the ACLU is willing to help me do that (weighing in on judiciary nominees is not their normal tendency) in the hopes of effecting real change, the change I want to see for my children, then my answer had to be YES. There was no doubt.

I will be honest when I say that I am nervous and I will be honest when I say that I don’t believe sexual assault is a political divide, even though our country seems to be trying to make it into one here recently. Survivors come in all shapes, sizes, ages, and political parties; that much is clear. So, no. I am not traveling to DC as a member of a political party, even though it is a political action I seek. I cannot speak for all survivors when I speak out against the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh because like all other categories of humanity, we are not all the same. But given the opportunity to use my experience and my voice to speak out for those who do not wish to see that particular judge confirmed for a lifetime to the highest court in the all the land? I am taking it.

Of course I cannot control the responses or words of others, so how people choose to react to my choice is up to them. I would ask that if you’re going to comment, you do so in kindness or please keep it to yourself. My bags aren’t packed yet, but we’re working on that and I am going where my heart is called to go. As always, for those willing to extend it, your support is greatly, totally appreciated. After all, it is for their future that all this is worth it:

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#WhyIDidntReport

Although I wonder more than ever if I will hit publish on this post, I have to remember that I write this blog for myself and my own memories, so what others have to say to it, if anything, is secondary to why I feel the need to write.

I feel the need to write because lately I have been pissed as hell at the world in general and you need only look at the national news to figure out the why of that.

So much of this “talk” about sexual assault in the last two weeks since the Christine Blasey Ford allegations came out against SCOTUS nominee Brett Kavanaugh has been literally painful to observe, both on TV and social media.

Why didn’t I just turn it off? Tune it out? Because I am a sexual assault survivor and triggering as the recent days have been, I can’t turn it off in my brain, so why should I or anyone else be able to ignore it in the news?

In fact, for those who are sick of hearing about this headline and would rather hear something – anything – else, imagine being raped or assaulted and living with THAT the rest of your life. And then, imagine the nation turning in on itself and making jokes and memes at the expense of survivors and having opinions on reporting shared when they themselves have never been faced with the tragedy of needing to report….

You, too, might be pissed as hell.

I know, I am supposed to be all yoga. All peace, love, and namaste, so why all the anger? Because I can be all those things AND be mad and sad and ready to stand up and scream: ENOUGH. For the sake of my children, ENOUGH. And I fear that if more of us don’t start screaming, the change we all desire and deserve is never going to come.

You see, this is me:img_1685I am 21 in this picture, the age at which I was date raped by someone I thought cared about me, someone I trusted and put myself with repeatedly, both before and after the assault.

Why didn’t I report it? Because for TEN years, freakishly almost to the date, I had no words for what happened to me. I couldn’t call it rape because I blamed myself for being in his proximity. For wanting to be with him. My brain, my memory, could not attribute the correct language to what he did to me until I was thinking one day about another incident at a house party where a male friend kept another male from following me into a bedroom and doing God knows what to me while I was drunk.

Yes, you read that right. It was my relief of “Oh my God, I could have been raped!” that made me realize that rape actually was a part of my story anyway, because I did not want to have sex the night I lost my virginity to the boy who took it.

Yes, you also read that right. My first time having sex was not my choice.

Imagine how I felt telling my husband that. Imagine what it was like to sit in my therapist’s office and lose it over what happened to me and how my brain hid it from me for so long. Imagine telling my family and friends. And imagine how I feel when I think about talking to my children about sex someday. About consent. About waiting for “the one.”

For me, that’s a shitty bag of emotions and just like it is hard to see sexual assault so flippantly discussed online right now, I know it is going to be incredibly hard to have that conversation with my kids someday. To lay my shame before them.

But again, I say ENOUGH. Enough hiding, enough pretending, enough bullshit. If we do not lay words and language to this, we will never correct it. We will never heal from it. And if it takes a bunch of anger to get us, collectively, to a point where we can have these awful conversations, with each other and with our families, then so be it.

I will take my anger and I will channel it in such a way that brings about what matters most to me in all this – a different outcome for my children, and yours.

To the Melting Mamas amidst Meltdowns

By the end of church every Sunday, I am undone. I am sweaty. I am covered in drool and Goldfish remnants. I am also usually so taxed from sitting through 1 hr and 15 minutes of controlled time with my herd of children in the pews that by the time we get home, I am cranky and/or want to curl up in Child’s Pose and not move for at least 1 hr and 15 minutes (which, PS, is never, ever possible).

I am a literal and figurative mess on Sunday mornings.

And you know what? I attend a church that loves kids. They and their noises and their antics are welcomed on a regular basis and often I get mad props and big love just for being there with my five.

The last couple weeks, though, when I have had to wrestle a baby who can’t be put down and won’t go to anyone but her daddy (& even then only for short bursts of time) and monitor four other Littles who are busy, busy, busy in the balcony where we sit (and because summer won’t die, sweat), I find myself questioning why I bother.

Wouldn’t it be easier to stay at home with the baby? To watch the service on FB and let Ben take the kids to Sunday School? To only go to service when one of our crew is singing or playing bells?

Well, yes. That would be much easier. But we started attending this church as a family and we feel that the church is part of our family, so bailing and watching from the sidelines doesn’t feel like a real option. We want our children to be part of this community and they aren’t going to get that if we ourselves are not part of it.

That being said, an innocent enough comment got tossed my way after service today (ironic giving the sermon on “Taming the Tongue”) that took a self-deprecating joke I had made and shot it down with the message of: nope. not good enough. you’re not doing enough. And I lost it.

Not in immediate response. I held my tongue in the moment and bailed out a side door so no one would have to see my tears, but I share it now because are you kidding me? Even in jest or innocent jokes? Just as the sermon said today, words matter. And I am literally sweating my way through every service like it’s a gym workout to make sure my kids are there but not too distracting, that we are a part of it all, and the absolute last thing I need is to be made to feel like I am somehow failing. Because trust me, it’s easy enough to think that on my own.

So, please: mad props and big love only, OK? I’m doing my best to extend grace, to others and myself, and if you are one of the mamas melting and trying to tame meltdowns every week at church, I see you. No jokes about it. You are enough and your efforts are of value.

 

Staying Put

Last weekend, on a total, uncharacteristic for me, whim, I concocted a plan for us to travel to Kansas City this weekend to take the kids to their first Royal’s game. Cool, right?

In theory, yes. But then the week came (LT’s first one of preschool which went really well but left all of us a little worn out from all the extra running around and him in general simply for the fact that it was his first week of school) and by Thursday/Friday both the weather forecast (super hot + chances of rain and thunderstorms) and Wilson (diaper rash from hell and clingyness on Stage Five Alert levels) were not looking great/road worthy.

Then our sleepless Friday night happened thanks to the aforementioned diaper rash resulting in a 2-hr-awake window in the middle of the night and the most dic-er-us (TJ’s version of the word) thunder storm we’ve had in ages that woke our entire family from 1:30-2:30A. We had actually made the call prior not to go to KC, but that sealed the deal from last minute heading down there Saturday because Ben and I, not to mention the kids, were sooooo tired yesterday. Minus the ability to teleport or hire a chauffeur, it just couldn’t have happened.

So instead we’ve spent the weekend making the most of our family time and letting a few rules fly out the window to make up for the disappointing change in plans. The kids stayed up late Friday night for a movie and picnic dinner in the basement. Yesterday we did a family walk to the park, and did not reschedule piano lessons, and they got to go bowling and to Cherry Berry, and we started our first kid audiobook listen (The Boxcar Children), AND they went to bed EARLY to counter the previous night’s thunderstorm shenanigans. Today it has been board games, book listening, show watching, slime making (am I the only parent who hates making slime?), and watching the Royal’s on TV because, of course it’s not actually storming there yet (*face palm*). There has also been time for me to do some grading, Ben to work on budget, not watching the Huskers play, and even some reading.

Honestly? Even though we couldn’t resell the tickets, I don’t really care that our plans changed. Had I been thinking about it being the end of Lincoln’s first week I never would have hatched this plan in the first place because I know better. These first few weeks of school have to have sacred weekends which sometimes means not even going to church because down time is a MUST. Doing some active, some quiet, some food, some free, some cost activities just as a family unit? Also a MUST.

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If I’m also being totally honest, I’ll admit that my main motivator for wanting to go to the game this weekend (besides cheap tickets because, let’s face it – not a great season for the Royals) was to give my kids one fun trip that was not also grief-tinged. Every other major trip we’ve done this year has been and I wanted one start-to-finish excursion that was not, but then we (re)discovered that going was far less valuable to us, at this time, than staying put.

So put we are. Doing our things. Taking it easy*. I’ll take it.

*I repeat: Slime sucks.

Staggered Start

In a strange and most likely never-to-be-duplicated turn of events, we are smack dab in the thick of the longest, most drawn out start of a school year ever for our family. I suppose the fact that we have more family members than ever before enrolled/teaching school this year might have something to do with that, but truly, we’ll see an entire month go by between the first person’s and last person’s start date (Holy Transition Period, Batman!).

Ben started off with back-to-school meetings on August 6th and then he and the biggest two Bigs had their first day of class on August 16th. The other bookend will (finally) come next week when Truman gets to start attending Two-Day preschool which can’t happen until he’s three, but because his birthday is on a Thursday, that means his first day will be the day he actually turns three (and gets to bring treats and have his first swimming lesson and again, I say unto you, Holy Big Day, Batman!), and y’all, stick with me for a minute on this tangent, but I’m really not sure how this is going to go. Maybe it will be great. Maybe it will be easy peasy, lemon squeezey. Or maybe we will pay for one month of preschool and then decide to wait a bit, because even though he is now potty-trained and seems to think he’s as big as the rest of the Bigs, I honestly have no clue if preschool will stick for him yet or not. No. Clue.

The other two of-school/teaching age family members are, of course, Lincoln and I, and we both had/have our first day TODAY! LT is an old pro at preschool these days, and he is SO excited to be attending the five-day class this year, he was practically wiggling from the minute he got up this morning. He headed off into the classroom without so much as a backward glance (or goodbye!) and came home lit up about, of all things, book orders! No wonder that boy has my heart! He’s grown so much since last year – both physically and socially; I can’t wait to see all that he learns and does this year.

And then there’s me, with my strangest back-to-school first day ever. For the first time I am teaching solely online and for a new-to-me institution, Bellevue University. So no teacher clothes or hauling books around or being gone in the evening hours and missing time with my family. Instead, I’ll navigate how to fit in my online hours during naps and at nighttime, and I’ll do it all from the comfort of my couch (with blue-light blocking glasses) or perhaps, on weekend, the coffee shop. img_1274

It feels like a big day. I suppose because it is. A big month, actually, as we all take a deep breath and begin/continue figuring out what this year looks like and means for all of us. I’d say it all looks pretty darn good, even if it is the longest beginning ever in all the evers. And yes, that is my new favorite shirt in all the evers, too.

Close Proximity

Crickets here on the blog lately as for the last couple weekends, Wilson and I have been sharing sniffles back and forth and back again. You see, she’s awfully darn cute, so when img_1071I got some head cold germies, it was hard to remember to keep my distance from her (plus we still nurse around the clock, so….) and then when I got better and she got them, it was hard to remember not to let her slobber-bobber-ness get too close to me, so….I’m starting off my second Monday in a row with a head fog.

Fitting as we’ve been in a fog these last couple weeks, anyway, awaiting Ben’s grandma’s funeral (happening this weekend) and trying to wrap our (foggy) brains around the fact that school is starting, well, next week! Ben actually went back today for his first round of meetings and dives in full force with those this Thursday with kids starting classes the following Thursday.

We will have two in elementary and two in preschool (after he officially turns 3, for Truman, but knock on wood, potty training is going well, so looks like it is a go), which means this mama has to wrap her (foggy) brain around all the drop off times and split locations and all that again, which is different this year as our kids’ school is doing a two-year remodel, so they have to be taken to a different location, which feels new and little nervous making for all of us, I suppose, even though I know it will go fine once we get the new system figured out.

But we’ve honestly had a strange summer and a strange year, so shifting into the new school year and all the change that comes with it is making me glad to have at least a few more days here with all my babies under one roof (even if we are sharing too many back-to-school germs before back-to-school has even begun). I like it better when Ben is here with us so we can divide and conquer and enjoy just a tad bit more, but that’s what Paw Patrol is for, right? Right.

It may not have been the summer (or spring) we had planned or wanted, but we have been able to be together just the seven of us a lot, and that is always, always a good thing in my book.