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!

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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.

How It Went

Friends, I cannot tell you how moved I am right now. Today I watched these women, myself included, speak their truths with courage, compassion, honesty, and strength.

All of you who reached out to share support prior to our meetings? We felt that. You wrapped us in love and with the help of the ACLU and each other, we went forward to the offices of BOTH our Senators today to meet with their staff members. As I said in a post or two ago, this is not a political party thing for me. So I am not going to berate the elected officials from my state here, but I am going to tell you that we were received differently by the two groups of staffers and that it was in the second meeting with Sen. Sasse’s office where we felt seen and maybe, just maybe, heard.

{OK, I am going to go political for a moment. As many of you know Ben Sasse likes to speak and loves rhetoric. It would be super, super great if he would take his words from the Senate Floor from last night and apply them in action to his vote on Kavanaugh. You can call him and tell him that (please).}

When we left the second meeting, which began just 10 minutes after the end of the first one (so, hello whirlwind), there was a collective sigh of relief that we had just done that. We shared our stories. We shared our views. We asked questions. We carried all our sister survivors with us, including the ones who have not been given an opportunity to speak.

And it. Was. Powerful.

I am in awe of the fortitude I saw in those women today. There were moments of intense emotion, yes, and there is no need to apologize for that. What we brought was real and what we shared touches so many of our lives because what impacts a survivor impacts everyone around them.

My part was both short but of value and meant the world to me in terms of using my voice, even in small ways.

Several of us agreed to start off the whole process by shaking the staffer’s hand and saying something of the following:

“Hello. My name is Jennifer Welsch. I am a constituent and a sexual assault survivor. I request a meeting with the Senator.”

I was the first one in line to do this for both sessions.

In the Fischer meeting I did not speak another word. In the Sasse one I did.

Y’all, it was beyond empowering to take back my power and give a face and a voice – my face and my voice – to this movement. I have been keeping myself small in public spaces on this trip but after we finished today, I walked out of the Russell Building with my head held freaking HIGH.

I was given shitty circumstances by being assaulted. All of the women in my group were, too. But from that dust and ash, we rise, and we will continue to rise until we are seen and heard and believed by all.

Our pictures taken afterward (seen above) were full of power. The hands in the air? All the better for you to see us, my dears.

And because I adore Nahko and his song “Love Letters to God” (see lyrics below) I kept my palm open because, yes. Yes I can fight with an open fist, a loud voice, a brave heart, and a peaceful purpose.

“Don’t believe all you’re told/and open/open up your fist/ it’s a misconception, you can fight like this/and praise/with the power of prayer/if God’s on our side we can take the stairs/to the heavens” – Nahko & MFTP “Love Letters to God”

Late Night Update

Y’all, today has been intense. I hope to sleep soon. We had an incredible meeting with the ACLU and all the women from the five (?) states who are here. Over 20 of us are from NE.

We made our plan for tomorrow but as of now, Senator Fisher does not plan to meet with us, nor does Senator Sasse. Senator Fisher’s staff will see us. I will have a small speaking part in tomorrow’s events and will leave a copy of this letter behind when I go (see below).

Please feel free to call our Senators or email them or tweet them or whatever you can do to help support survivors. There are plenty of good judges out there (& no, I don’t believe they all have to agree with me politically, although judges are supposed to be a bit above politics (& so I digress)).

Senator Fisher,

My name is Jennifer Welsch. I am a constituent from Hastings, NE and a sexual assault survivor. I would like to request a meeting with you to discuss the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh.

As a survivor it troubles me greatly that you are not representing my voice when you say that you will vote to confirm Brett Kavanaugh for a lifetime to the Supreme Court, or the voice of any person in Nebraska who has been affected by sexual violence.

Sexual assault is not a political talking point or battle; it is a humanitarian crisis, and how we – how you – respond in this particular moment speaks volumes about our values and our support for Nebraskans and all Americans. Survivors have no choice but to live with the ramifications of their attacker’s actions for the rest of their lives. But you, Senator, can make the choice to stand up for all survivors, all people, who do not wish to see someone with the temperament and accused history of Brett Kavanaugh, who, if appointed, will make choices that will impact all of us for the rest of his life.

Best,

Jennifer Welsch

On a Wing and a Prayer (with a Pump)

Do you have rituals when you fly?

Although I have taken some long flights in my life (getting to Tanzania takes time, my friends), my frequency isn’t terribly high, especially in recent years. I bet I can count on one hand the times I have flown since kids.

That being said, at some point in my life, I started a take off and landing ritual that to this day, I do every time. Every leg of a trip.

I say the Lord’s Prayer.

I’m not saying I am a terrible flyer but traveling is stressful and repeating those familiar words in my head as we leave and return to earth grounds me (pun very much intended).

On today’s flight, the added stresser to an already intense trip is the need to pump as I am flying for the first time while still having a breastfeeding baby at home.

Because my friends kick ass, I was able to borrow a pump much smaller than mine for the next few days. Never mind the fact that my first time using it while waiting for my first flight to leave took me just as long to figure out as it did to pump (& made me very sweaty in the process, but thank goodness for small blessings like no one in the seat next to me). I still got it to work and that is winning. And now that that learning curve is done (whew), I should be good to go from here.

On a (literal) wing and prayer with hope for the days to come to be of purpose (& with time to pump)…the journey continues.

Uncharted Territory

In case we didn’t figure out from WA’s pregnancy or her first three weeks earth-side, this sweet fifth child of mine is bound and determined, in all her glory and cuteness, to do her own blessed thing. She may look like one of ours and sounds like one of ours (because, hi, she’s one of ours) but make no mistake that she’s also here to carve her own path, thank you very much. Then again, don’t they all?

In Wilson’s case, this carving takes many shapes. Such as drooling all the live-long day. Such as sleeping through the night earlier than anyone else (gold star for that one, Baby). Such as needing/wanting the pacifier (long side story: we’ve never had a paci kid and I honestly think this might be a residual NICU thing for me. She really liked it when we were there and it helped get her sucking reflex going in those early days. Then, when we got home and she had some bouts of what I call her NICU cry – a really loud, freaked out sound of SOMEONE COME GET ME RIGHT THIS INSTANT I NEED PEOPLE NOW COME GET ME – the paci helped that, too. And apparently I still don’t like to hear her cry or fuss because when she does, my first answer is the paci. Whoops?). Such as boob drama.

Another long side story: what has gone through Stage One, Two, and Three, is now sitting as yet another unknown in the original hurt boob – some sort of stinging, stabbing, constant pain plus weird spot but not a bleb on my nipple. I know. Everyone is sick of me talking about my boobs. I AM SICK OF ME TALKING ABOUT MY BOOBS. But they are pretty hard to freaking ignore when they hurt constantly and you have to use them every three hours to feed a human being and your other human beings insist on sitting on your lap and hugging you and therefore bumping your sore boobs and the ugh just goes on and on and on, it seems. Which, if in all my whineyness I have not yet mentioned, seems terribly shitty to start in Month 5, the time in which things are meant to be getting EASIER, but I digress. And okay. Done with the shouty caps. Maybe.

So, yes. Five months in with Baby No.5 and it is clear that as much as one might think that we’ve got it all figured out by now and know exactly what we are doing, that is just never going to be the case. 1, 2, 3, or 7 (nope. measures have been taken. we are not having more than 5, my friends!) still applies because each new person is their own blessed, beautiful (minus the boob drama) uncharted territory.

The Slow Down

This morning, during Hour 4 of the day, but what felt like it could have, should have really been Hour 14, I found myself nursing the baby and watching the other two play* while wondering, how in the world have I done this in the past? How did the long days of feeding a newborn while entertaining, or at least sort of supervising a toddler or two actually happen?

*by play I clearly mean, parallel play, and by parallel play I clearly mean each one pulling out as many random toys as they can possibly find and dragging them all over the house in ways that instantly destroy any order or cleanliness that I managed to create in the previous 24 hours.

To be honest? I can’t remember. I’m sure if I combed back through blog posts, I’d find a story or two about it, but as for now, my brain seems to have blocked that (which makes sense if this time around feels like the “easiest” go of nursing/working our way through the long winter/newborn days). I think the ease comes from a massive letting go on my part to be not too concerned about what the others are doing, even if that means they are spreading mixed up toys from one end of the house to the other and tearing the bed apart for yet another fort/sleep spot. They are happy and the being-fed baby is happy, so subsequently, I am happy.

More honesty? I really am happy and not just for the chaos acceptance.

Even though we have very much entered what I call The Slow Down where every day is pretty much the same, just with a slightly different feeding schedule, I feel content. This is a time with a newborn where the clock/calendar are sort of fuzzy details that you try to hold on to, but don’t always do so well with, that just happens to coincide with TSD of the school year. Jan/Feb are notoriously odd months in the world of education, so just as teachers are in the mode of “Have we hit March and all the long-weekend breaks, yet?” so too am I constantly amazed not only by the time on the clock, but the date on the calendar, as well.

So why so happy? Because I’m in this beautiful, privileged bubble of something I haven’t had much of in the last seven years since I went back to part-time teaching/last year when I did that AND started a small business which is to say: time to “just” be a mom. Of course that is laughable because there is nothing small about the task/role of being a mama, but right now I am not trying to juggle it with anything else outside of the house and I love that.

That doesn’t mean that I no longer love my teacher hat, but after the intensity of last year, and last spring semester in particular, it’s super awesome to go through my days now and know that I have no lesson plans to update, papers to grade, sequences to write, FB posts to schedule, or any other commitments beyond the seven people in this house. Instead I can nurse the baby while the little boys “play” around the house and the Bigs are at school and my biggest “how am I going to pull that off” is going to the grocery store (no, really. that’s actually kind of a big question right now because I sure as sh!t am not dragging them along with me but hate going at night, so how is this ever going to happen?), and the constant mountain of laundry.

The Slow Down may be a bit of a mind game and time warp, but right now I have to say, it’s also a major blessing. From here, our family moves forward without renumbering, so these sweet endless numbered days are a little buffer, a little grace-filled existence in which we get to continue settling, to not be pulled by outside influences, and to just be. As long as I eventually get to the store so my coffee supply doesn’t run out, time can go as slowly as it darn well pleases right now.

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