Return to Decency

Last week my children, like many of yours I would assume, participated in a school-wide mock election. This of course included the vote for POTUS. While I had prepared my children that not many people around here share my politics (we live in what fivethirtyeight.com deems the reddest electoral college district in the nation), I did not prepare them adequately enough for the ugly responses they would receive for sharing who they voted for in that fake election.

One of my children was called dumb and stupid for voting for Biden. Another was called “gay” (don’t even get me started on how much I can’t stand that particular misuse of language). And the third was shamed for their vote, being told by a classmate, “You shouldn’t vote for Biden. He kills babies after they are born.”

It may come as no surprise, then, that one of the first responses I heard from one my kids yesterday, after the initial JOY, was, “I’m so glad this happened on a Saturday so the kids at school couldn’t tease other kids.”

That *that* is the particular relief my child felt makes my heart heavy. It also makes me ache for those children who have been fed such lies and hatred and who now feel compelled to take it out on others. That this behavior rings true in the same nasty ways the president has modeled for four years hardly excuses it.

Folks, we need a hard shift in our rhetoric. I don’t care about politics near as much as I care about basic human decency and we simply must realize that how we speak to our kids about this election and those who participated in it matters in regards to how we speak to and about one another. Just because my politics differ from the majority around me doesn’t mean my children should have to worry about how they will be treated by their peers at school as a result of their “vote.”

We have to move beyond this polarization and start treating others as we wish to be treated. Our children are watching and listening and parroting what they hear and see us do. For their sake, as well as our own, we have work to do.

Let us return to decency and empathy.

Let us not mock or belittle.

Let us lead with kindness and compassion always.

Social (Media) Distance

Just shy of two weeks ago, a friend challenged another friend and I, on a Friday morning, to just perhaps, just maybe stay away from Facebook for the day. No scrolling. Just no time spent at all if we could help it.

And I while I couldn’t help it 100%, I took her challenge that day and ran it with it for over a week.

I still continued to post articles, memes, and pictures of my life, from both Instagram and Facebook. I thought I would just check and respond to notifications, but then, since bad habits are hard to break, I allowed myself 2-3 minutes tops of scrolling a few times throughout each day, thinking that would help.

Of course it didn’t.

Naturally I would see something that would either hurt my tired heart or make my blood pressure sky rocket and then I would chastise myself for falling into the trap of still being on there. And even though my phone informed me that my screen time from last week dropped by an embarrassingly high percentage number (think: a passing grade on an assignment), I entered this week still feeling like the games of comparison and judgement that come with social media use were taking far more than they were giving me in return. 

So, I stopped.

I turned off all notifications for FB, IG, and Marco Polo. I kept Messenger because I still wanted an easy way to connect with people who might not be able to text me. I didn’t delete the apps entirely because my “click impulse” was already relaxed after last week to not be touching those little icons as much (although I fully reserve the right to go back and delete them or move them to a back screen on my phone for good measure).

I then messaged a handful of people who I knew might be wondering about my sudden radio silence, letting them know that the next week will be a no-social-media zone for me.

And then I semi-failed because, Lordy,  I still posted several things throughout the next day! (insert palm to forehead emoji here) Apparently my fingers and brain are twitchier about this than I realized but I did manage zero scrolling, responding just to whatever was said on those posts and that’s it. So, baby steps?

Maybe it will last longer than that. Maybe I will continue to cheat (I’ll have to in order to share this post or others that I write in the future). But if you’ve read this far as to why I’m not online as much, perhaps you’ll understand my spotty response and my attempt to get to full SM shutdown, at least for a little bit, before this summer is over. There’s just too much noise in my head and heart these days and I need to sit with that without the distraction or the addition of all that is social media land. Will it work? We shall s

How Are You Doing *Really*?

Has anyone else noticed the awkward pause these days that has started happening when a conversation starts with the classic, “How are you doing?” question? This has always been a loaded inquiry that most of us never really answer truthfully (because who has time and usually the person asking isn’t a) looking for a novel-length amount of truth or b) a safe place in which to give such), but wow is it a total load of crap in COVID life.

And I say this as someone who still finds the words falling out of her mouth upon seeing people across the street or in a driveway (at 6+ feet of social distance)! Just like I can’t seem to kick the habit of asking, I also can’t help but sad-chuckle when it happens because you can see the truth written all over people’s faces (with their raised eyebrows and sort-of-there smiles) and you can definitely hear the disbelief in their “suuuuure, fine, yeah, you betcha’s” that now always comes after a pause as we all consider the absurdity of even asking or answering that.

Yesterday, though, I caught a twist on this question when I happened to see an Instagram story from my beloved Sara Bareilles in which she was participating in a tag-each-other challenge of answering the question, “How are you doing *really*?” which is to say, if you were going to answer that honestly, what would you say?

My answer has been rattling around my brain for the last 24 hours and if I’m being honest, it keeps landing back at “not great.”

For one, I live in a state that is already opening back up even though we never really shut down and have yet to see verified, complete (i.e. transparent) numbers of COVID cases decreasing.

For another, I live in a county that lives next to another county that both have some of the highest number of cases in our state and originally we were told we’d all have a couple extra weeks (until June 1) to keep restrictions in place to all of the sudden having that ripped out from under our feet by the Governor last week when he decided, “J/K” and said that our counties too would be loosening guidelines starting today. Excuse me, what?! The whiplash on that one sent me on a tailspin last week that has yet to let up.

For yet another, we now have to be the ones calling the shots about where and what our kids will be doing as some summer activities begin in the next couple weeks. We are of course always in charge of that and ultimately still are, but as things like baseball and dance start up again in June and some families around us start to participate, we have to explain to our kids why that won’t be the case for us. And sorry folks, but we won’t be doing either because to us the reward doesn’t outweigh the risk and that’s coming from two parents who very much love to watch their children do these very activities. I don’t know how we’ll explain to them that we aren’t when others are, but instead of as a state reevaluating at the end of the month, supposedly, here we are, being forced to send those emails of decline. Now. Two weeks before any sort of evaluation and real look at the state of affairs in our state.

And for yet one more, in a comedy of errors that has dragged on for a year and freaking half, we are still faced with what to do with our unfinished house projects. The carpet that we ordered in late February and have been putting off installation of for months now comes next week. Do I feel great about that? Nope, but I also want very much to have my house put back in order so I can actually put stuff away and have my house the way I haven’t had it (a.k.a. mine and done) since December 2018. DECEMBER 2018!!!

img_7893And I can’t think of a better metaphor for quarantine life than this: six weeks ago our side door, the one we use All. The. Time. broke. Just broke. I came in it. Ben went out it. And then it never opened again. Thankfully this less-than-a-year-old door was still under warranty and it didn’t cost us anything to fix, but that break happened SIX WEEKS AGO so all this time we’ve been without that, feeling even more trapped in our own house than we would have otherwise in this bizarre time. The good news is that the actual fix only took 20 minutes and the dude who came to fix it was super nice AND (even better) wearing a mask, so that helped alleviate some of my tension, but y’all, the anxiety train is running fast these days with the thought of what it will take to get to the point of actually being done with all this (renovation and Coronavirus, to be clear).

So how am I doing, really? I’m a mess. I’m wondering who to trust and what to believe, questioning what is safe and what is right, unsure of what to do and anxious about pretty much every choice we make. Are they the right ones? Who knows. Is this really any different than normal life? Maybe not. But it sure feels like the stakes are higher and the tension DEFINITELY is, so even if this isn’t all that different than the typical uncertainty of life, trying to figure out how to move forward from “this” has left me spinning.

I hope you get a second to think about how you are doing, really, and maybe even get a chance to share it with someone or write it out a bit. I know that’s not the magic bullet for everyone, but these times, they are worth a ponder and finding a writing utensil to document, that is for sure.

Choosing Relationship

Week Four, folks. Week. Four. How did we get here already and are we sure it hasn’t already been four months and not just four weeks? I don’t remember a time when time has been more slippery than it is now; do you?

For us, Week Three was hard. Lots of big emotions. Lots of hiccups and challenges at finding (and failing) at a routine and of course with realizing that in terms of school, this really is how it is going to be for the rest of the academic calendar. Even with seeing that coming from a mile away and being relieved by that call, we all felt it in our souls and were saddened by it.

Trust me when I say, I acknowledge and give thanks for the privileges and comforts my family has right now. That being said, this is still an extreme challenge, and since literally none of us know how to do this current crazy life, it is still so, so hard, and there are moments all day long that make me question if we are doing the right thing.

Mostly that applies to our kids, their education, and their well-being.

We are definitely still trying when it comes to their school packets, we are. We appreciate the effort their teachers are putting in there and we want to try to keep some sort of retention/”school” going for next month and a half. But I’ll be honest and admit that my relationship with my children means far more to me than completing worksheets or going on websites/virtual tours/etc. right now.

I feel far more worried about damaging their own little stressed and confused, sad and disappointed hearts and minds than I do about science, math, or social studies right now. Yes, we will keep trying, but also yes, we are going to give ourselves as much grace, outdoor time, board games, and even movie marathons as we need (together and separate) to get through this never before seen challenge.

Part of what I’m missing most right now, though, besides my old anxiety levels, is having easier access to my support system – my family and friends that have always been around for past moments of chaos and crisis. But now we’re all in chaos and crisis simultaneously and we literally cannot and should not be doing it physically together which sucks so very much.

And bless it, as much as I don’t know where I’d be without technology these days and all the ways to video message, sometimes the virtual interactions leave me more depleted than a real-life social gathering because the being together without being together is heart-hurting. I don’t want to give them up but they are also a stark reminder, each time, of what we can’t actually have right now.

I’m still choosing relationship, in whatever form it can come with both my roof-sharers and allll the people I miss in real life right now, but I’m also having to process a lot of big feels after doing so, which I guess is just part of going through a collective mess of indefinite uncertainty. I hope and pray it ends as soon as possible, just like I hope and pray for the strength of all relationships – personal, professional, familial – that are being tested right now.

Leap Day

After being a relatively calm germ zone for the first seven weeks of 2020, our house got hit HARD in the final week of February. In fact, I haven’t been this ready to be done with a particular month in years (the last was back a few years when we had a really nasty April, I believe), so I’ll be honest – I’m not thrilled that this February happens to come with an extra day.

It started with poor Mr. Lincoln who woke up in the middle of the night last Thursday-into-Friday and from there we entered the most bizarre virus holding pattern I have ever witnessed. It looked like this: someone gets sick middle of the night and is terribly ill for somewhere under 12 hours. Then comes a night of calm followed by a good day (we played baseball as a family the day after LT was sick), but then that night another person would fall sick, in the middle of the night of course. And Repeat, repeat, repeat.

It was NUTS.

And even though we had high hopes that someone, anyone, of us might escape the madness (I can’t even tell you how many times I washed my hands, how many Clorox wipes we used, and how much laundry I did), it just wasn’t meant to be.

All five kids, both parents. Down and out over the course of eight days.

See why I’m ready to see this month GO? But that wasn’t meant to be because of course this happens to be a Leap Year.

Actually, though? That might be a good thing. Since our last woman standing (RL) was in agony yesterday, that meant we had today to have our first All Clear day in over a week knowing that that’s it. All she wrote. No shoes left to fall with this virus.

img_6928Even though it feels like my brain/heart would have liked to mark this Leap Day with something(s) special, I’m plenty good with what we had instead; in fact, no pukers and sun shining was plenty special, thanks. Instead of worrying about any fanfare, we treated today like any other Saturday – watching Lego Masters, going on a family walk to feed the ducks, and about 10 loads of laundry for me to process (Lord in Heaven; so much laundry, even when we don’t have gross sickies in the house). After the last eight days, typical, low-key, even a little hum-drum was a welcomed, happy change of pace.

And now? Cheers to my month: March!

A Mama’s Mantra

Does anyone else remember that feeling from childhood when time stretched on forever and days lasted weeks or sometimes years? How about from your early 20s when you thought 30 seemed old and how it’d be ages before you were 40? And then did you blink and find yourself suddenly 37?

Yep.

Me. Too.

I think any adult, especially one upward of 30, would agree that you get here (whatever your age/here is) faster than you think because that molasses time really is reserved for the young only. As you age, time only speeds up, and days/weeks/months can fly by, even though something all parents (especially those of the stay-at-home variety) know is that those days can also still be forever long and challenging.

This week started off for me with illness – something no mama has time for ever but hard as we fight it, our bodies just know the best way to slow us down and force us to rest. In a way, that’s OK because B and I already don’t try to cram every bit of joy and holly jolly into the month of December, so a little fire-throat-induced-reprieve early in the month was doable.

For two days.

Then, suck it up Buttercup – it was time to dive back into parenting and life.

As I explained to a few folks I saw yesterday, being upright was basically happening against my will and the fact that I was dressed and had my hair curled was only because I was faking it with coffee, to which a wise friend responded by saying that she’s been doing that her whole motherhood and all I could think was, YES, Sister, YES.

Because ready or not, like it or not, we are of the age where time flies and life (thankfully) just keeps coming at us full speed. With this many little people along for my ride, I need a little extra fuel in my tank and not just on the weeks where I’m trying to recover from a germ bomb. I promise, coffee isn’t the only form my fuel takes, but by golly, it is today. And probably will be tomorrow, too.

Honestly? I’m OK with that.

Because by “faking” it, I don’t meant that I don’t enjoy the journey; I just want to make sure I’m awake for it. 😉

Faking it with Coffee

 

Early to Rise

It’s no secret that we’re Sleep Sticklers and have been forever and ever. This has earned us some awe, some confusion, and some disbelief over the years, but for real: since RL entered the picture, HD has been an EARLY riser (5/6s for years now, but trained to stay in bed and not turn lights on until 6:30), which means we’ve been going strong for seven years now of early to bed because 1) our children are tired and 2) we are tired. There’s no staying up until even until 7:30 on a regular basis for any of them because Mama don’t play when it comes to the fact that they need sleep and if we let them stay up late, they are STILL going to get up EARLY (sorry for all the shouty caps and long, crazy sentences. My brain is as tired as the rest of me right now.).

Case in point? The Big 3 got to have their first sleep overs last night and now this morning we are all already in fall out mode with meltdowns and irritability.

This is, of course, entirely our own fault.

A few months ago we planned a date night in Omaha and rather than stick the grandparents with all five children for dinner and bedtime, we farmed a few of them out to very kind, very gracious, very helpful friends for their first-ever not-with-grandparents night away.

Based on the reports and pictures, everything went great. There were a few tears from a few kids, but everyone made it for the long haul, including Ben and I who drove to and from Omaha for dinner and a concert in a total of 8 hours.

And even though he’s better, Truman’s still fighting off germ bugs and it would appear Wilson is, too, so let’s just be clear that the Welschies 7 are on the Struggle Bus today.

But the children in particualr? They are a whole new level of exhausted and we’re only halfway to bedtime at this point. I know no one expects a lot of sleep from a sleep over, and we have zero qualms with what transpired for them last night (seriously: if you housed one of my babies last night, I give you nothing but the utmost praise and thanks!!!). But you give my oldest an inch and apparently he’ll take a good four hours to go to bed and STILL get up at 5:45 the next day.  This means the rest of the day is going to be a true test for all of us. Tomorrow will be much the same. Because as anyone with an Early Riser will tell you, it doesn’t matter how late you let them go; their bodies are still going to get up at the (bum) crack of dawn. So now have to try to keep our eyelids and our attitudes skyward, because, parenting. And adulting. They just don’t stop for the tireds or birthdays (HBD, Husband! I love you always, even when exhausted.)

At least we still have a tiny sense of humor this morning (check with me by 5:00 today. It might be dead by then) and managed to document our “tired faces” for the camera, including eye masks for me because my bag and circles have bags and circles at the moment:

Coffee, anyone?

 

Home Improvement (Remodel Update)

Our house projects have been underway officially for over a month now, and updates here have been slow because progress has been a bit of the same. That’s partially because of the holidays, partially because of life, and partially because I don’t think these kind of projects ever go quite as one would hope in terms of time or cost.

Fortunately we’ve reached the point with the basement side of things that most of the potential “issues” have been uncovered. Don’t worry; I’ll go knock on wood now that I’ve made such a braggy boast, but with the bathroom and laundry room and floor plumbing and electrical all roughed in now, we’ve been able to see what is and is not OK down there.

Unfortunately, down there has shown us that some things up here (i.e. on the main floor) fall into the NOT OK category.

As it happens when you go poking around in an older home, taking down the ceiling in the basement showed pretty quickly that our main floor bathroom was struggling. Actually, just the shower, really, but that’s kind of a big deal. The grout we’ve tried to patch with in recent years just wasn’t enough to seal (literally) the deal, nor could it deny the fact that there was definitely a leak there for a while.

So, a new shower led us (*ahem* let the record show: it was my husband’s idea first) to decide to put in a double sink vanity in the main floor bath while everything in the basement is still open. The toilet started leaking, too (because, why not?), and the flooring has clearly taken a beating over the years, so when it is all said and done we are getting a 90% new main floor bathroom in addition to the previously planned projects.

Ooof.

BUT, this is good to discover now because who wants to spend all that money on new construction downstairs only to have the upstairs mess it all up anyway? There’s no need for us to suddenly have two showers in the basement, if you catch my drift.

img_2816It looks hopeful that we’ll have walls by next week which means we can move on to flooring and installments of all the things in both of the “new” rooms downstairs there soon. That’s good, because then all that main floor bathroom stuff is going to arrive, and so are the kitchen cupboards, because yes, that’s been part of the plan all along, too. And while I have some choice, choice words to say about that process already (many of them are colorful and contain four letters) if you ever want to hear them in person, I know that eventually we are going to have turned this house into SUCH a functional space for our not-so-little family.

img_2815

 

 

 

25 Things

Another year, another round up list of all the ins and outs, the bigs and smalls of the past 12 months. Never easy to compile, but I always love the end result.

  1. Traveled to Washington D.C. on 36 hour notice to lobby for the first time ever as sexual assault survivor, fighting against the SCOTUS nomination of Brett Kavanaugh. It was one of the most intimidating roller coasters I have ever been on, but I am proud and honored to have done the work of speaking out and standing up for myself and all others impacted by sexual violence.
  2. Said “goodbye” to my two remaining grandparents, Cliff and Gert. Although 89 years makes for a remarkably long life, I still wasn’t prepared to see either of them go. Same for Ben’s grandma, Louise, who also passed this year.
  3. Made it to the One Year mark of breastfeeding with Baby No.5. All five made it at least twelve months and WA is still going!
  4. Did 30 minutes of yoga every day for five straight months, even with a mostly broken toe.
  5. Mostly broke one of my toes.
  6. Became the (mostly) sole source of holding of Wilson Ann for five months, too, who turned Velcro-lite mid-summer(she could be put down at home as long as extra people weren’t in the house and she’d also go to Ben). She’s better-ish now.
  7. Took the plunge and got my “mother’s tattoo” of five flowers for five babies on my left forearm. Love. It. 0F6D15AB-8867-456D-9140-C877720236E4
  8. Began teaching online for Bellevue University – one class in the fall term and two in the current, winter term.
  9. Taught a three-week (three credit hour) summer lecture for CCC.
  10. Took myself (and some of my best girls) to see Nahko in Nebraska – TWICE!
  11. Took my three oldest babies to their first ever “rock show” – OK Go doing their Live Video Tour at the gorgeous Holland Center in Omaha. I loved it as much as they did (and now my kids will forever have a warped perception of concerts because they all got to go on stage for the encore to dance/jump with the band!)
  12. Read 71+ books. One of them was just shy of 1,000 pages.
  13. Joined a THIRD book club (to read the 1,000 pagers)! LOL
  14. Wrote 47+ blog posts.
  15. Sent my fourth baby off to his first day of preschool.
  16. Kept Grounded Sky alive via Prenatal Yoga classes taught throughout the year.
  17. Survived a whole semester of the morning routine of in-out-in-out-in-out that is our to school, to speech, to preschool, to home run with just me and all five children.
  18. Committed to staying in this house by coming up with projects that could be done here instead of continuing the house hunt.
  19. CHOPPED OFF ALL MY HAIR. Funny that it took me this far in the list to remember it; I must finally be over the trauma of it all! LOL! Donating 9″ and 12″ chunks was amazing and while the general public loved the cut, I am much, much happier with the below the ear length style I’ve managed to reach since the initial cut in January.
  20. Learned how much I love Golden Milk Lattes. So much so that I had to learn how to make them myself!
  21. Picked up an almost (week)nightly routine of watching The Rachel Maddow Show with Ben. Rarely do we miss one.
  22. Started using blue light blocking glasses when I am on the computer/my phone for extended periods of time. I think they help my eyes (and brain) feel less frantic by the end of the day, and they seem more effective than just the “night” setting on my phone/dimming my screen.
  23. Started a house plant collection. I am ending 2018 with three. Here’s hoping I can say at least the same (or better) by the end of 2019!
  24. Made four trips to SoDak. Before children, that wouldn’t have been an impressive number, but in recent years, one or two trips a year was usually it. Two of those were to Yankton, one to Pierre, and one to the Black Hills. That’s big travel for us, and some of it included vacation moments, but it was all, unfortunately, funeral related.
  25. Learned to drink black coffee. JUST KIDDING. That may never happen, but I’m completely out of ideas, so we’ll chuck this one on here as a goal-ish for the future. 😉

Cheers and here’s to all the big and small in your lives as well!

What Comes Next

The last four days have been a whirlwind. In an unfortunate twist of irony, I had my worst night of sleep last night, AFTER everything was all said and done. So in case I wasn’t going to be feeling it today anyway, I definitely am now after my whopping two hours of “rest” before my early morning wake up call to make it to the airport on time. I am already on my second set of tears for the day and I doubt they are my last.

The IT I am feeling? It has many forms.

For start, I am exhausted both in the physical sense but also, clearly, in the emotional, too. I moved mothering mountains to make this DC trip happen and the effort of trying to hold my shit together for so many days as I traveled and trained and lobbied (and pumped) was intense. Even all the yoga I know and do couldn’t keep tension from settling in to my jaw and shoulders (& also, how did I get shin splints?).

The “it”ness of emotions has been a roller coaster. I have been anxious, proud, determined, nervous, sad, pissed off, empowered, grateful, shocked, loved, hurt, bolstered, undone, hopeful, disappointed, and hangry (which I will argue belongs on this list), and often I have moved from one to the next and the next and then back again through this list and all the other emotions I can’t even name right now.

Whatever comes of the vote in the Senate, I can remain proud of the fact that I came and shared my experience, strength, and courage not only in those Senate offices but will all the amazing survivor sisters that I met. I have a forever place in my heart for all of them and all of you who reached out to share stories of your own with me. I hope you know I carried you in my pocket, in my heart, and in my prayers.

I also hope you all can see how the real effort here was in humanizing our experiences. Yes, we had a goal of encouraging our Senators to pick another judge. I’m not saying that the judge who fills this SCOTUS seat has to share my political beliefs, but I am saying that I don’t believe Kavanaugh is the right judge for the job. It is in that spirit that I hope everyone reading this can understand that at the core of it, many survivors like myself want to be seen as human beings worthy of respect and this nominee and how the situation has been handled feels very disrespectful. You do not have to agree with my politics to support what I did this week. It was an act of courage and that alone was a remarkable feat for each of us on this trip. We are worthy of being seen for our efforts, no mater the outcome.

If you know a survivor, and I am willing to bet you know several, even if they haven’t been as vocal as I have been lately, reach out. Don’t tell them what you need. Ask them what they need. We are raw right now and we all have our own way to process; please ask your people what you can do to support them and then do you damndest to make that happen. You humanize us when you give us choice and power like that. You help IT feel just a little bit lighter when you do that.

Yesterday, during our second meeting, I found my eyes wandering at times around the beautiful conference room in which we sat. I mean, do you see this chandelier? It is gorgeous. In seriousness, though, I had to remind myself in those moments to stay present, stay focused on the intensity. As I move through the coming days I hope to stay present for my family and for myself as I allow all of this – all of it – to become a little less intense. A little more settled. May we all find little ways to feel just a little more peace. If you can, be that for each other.