On Easter Weekend, Catholic Guiltily

Those of you who know me know that I’m not big on holidays. I enjoy them, certainly, but they bring such a source of stress for me that I usually pretend they’re not happening until I’m obligated to attend some holiday-related event.

Easter is not terribly stressful. You might go to church, you might go on a Easter egg hunt, you’ll most likely eat ham. (Last night, as she was helping me cook dinner, my friend Emily declared, “I’m pretty sure no one actually likes ham. You just eat it out of habit.” I think she’s onto something.) For the lapsed Catholics like myself, Easter is a good holiday to hang out with family and a great reminder that it’s time to start welcoming spring.

Easter throwback – 2007. Chicago, Illinois. Too bad I didn’t have this outfit this weekend; it would have been perfect!

We hosted another party this past weekend. After all of the fallout from the last party, we decided to call it “Ashes to Ashes: The Resurrection.” So naturally, it was Easter-themed. I panicked, because last time, I knew exactly what I wanted to wear.

This time, I found myself lacking not only direction, but conviction as well. Apparently, Catholic guilt is a seriously real thing: I didn’t want to go too far down the road to hell with my heresy, but I also wanted to have fun.

I found myself at Goodwill with two of my friends the afternoon of the party. At that point, I was still considering some sort of Eve-inspired outfit, or something Easter-egg-esque. Then we came to the undergarment rack. It’s actually great – I got a white slip for $2! Ben suggested that I buy a blue nightgown and I found a white robe to go over it. I also purchased some pink pajama pants and a pink silk shirt, thinking that I could wear those with my Easter bunny ears and be some sort of Easter bunny. (In the end, the pink was horrible. As we were checking out, I asked Jacob if you could return things to Goodwill. “You always re-donate them,” he said. That is exactly what I will be doing.)

The best thing about having a house is having a washer and dryer for when you buy undergarments at Goodwill and need to wash them before you wear them out in public but you only have two hours to get ready.

As I was getting ready, tossing nearly every article of clothing I own around my room, I imagined myself much like Lucille Bluth home alone. In the end, I donned the blue nightgown and the white robe and was quite content with my “Virgin Realness” ensemble. It was soft, which is my number one requirement for clothing, it fit, and it was sort of pretty. (Katie would later tell me that I looked like something out of The Great Gatsby, which I took as a high compliment.)

Jacob and I:

These photos were taken by the very talented Paul – I am eternally grateful that he cut the shoes I was wearing out of each shot. You have no idea how hard it is to find shoes that match undergarment outfits. I considered some shoes that I bought when I was 17 and still haven’t worn in public – they’re lovely, over-the-top sparkling heels with camel colored bows on the toes, but my feet slip out of them. I did a test run around the kitchen, realized they wasn’t going to fly, and ended up selecting some very gorgeous but not-quite-right heels. By the end of the night, I was back in flats.

Jacob and I had to run across the street to buy some batteries for a light-up headdress, and the cashier asked us if we were in a play. We mumbled something incomprehensible and slipped out, trying to contain our laughter.

It was so good to see everyone. I loved the energy of the crowd, the positive vibes and genuine happiness radiating out of everyone led to a very successful evening. It was over all too soon, and I was dragging myself home for sleep before the family packed Easter Sunday.

We went to see my dad’s family and had brunch with them. I’d worked from 8:30 in the morning until 11:30 on Friday night and then turned around and opened Dairy Queen on Saturday, so I was exhausted. By the time we’d finished our afternoon Easter dinner at my mom’s house, I was ready for a nap. I crawled up to her bed and slept for an hour.

My little neighbor was so cute – she had gotten a little stuffed bunny for Easter and so I held her and she rested the bunny on my shoulder. Pretty soon, she’ll be too big for me to carry, unless I magically develop more muscles, so I want to make sure I take full advantage of the time I have left.

My little cousins got hair chalk – apparently that’s a thing. We covered our clothes in towels and got down to the hair chalking business. It’s fun! I ended up covered in pink and green, but I had Medusa-like green chalk curls briefly. The little one, who’s six, ended up with bright pink hair. She was so excited about it.

On Sunday night, I tried to introduce my brother to Game of Thrones. We’ve still got free HBO for another month, so I intend to take full advantage of it. He sat with me while we watched the third season premiere. It’s really hard to explain everything. I finally got to the point where I’d just say, “good guy,” “bad guy” to help him differentiate between the characters. Hopefully he’ll start it from the beginning and fall in love with it like I have. (I’ve been terrible and haven’t read the books yet….it’s on my list, I swear!)

I hope your Easter was lovely!

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On Abortion, Thoughtfully

(The opinions expressed below are mine alone; don’t get all grumpy at me – I’m just having a jumble of thoughts.)

“How can you be pro-choice if you were adopted?”

I get that question a lot.

I usually choose to answer it delicately (“delicately” is an interesting word choice, I know, given that I’m not prone to grace). I usually say that to me, pro-choice is not necessarily pro-abortion but rather, exactly as it says: pro-choice.

I believe that the choice is the most important part of the argument. Once you’ve stripped away the arguments about when life begins, what God intended, and so on, you’re left with one thing: a woman’s body.

Since I happen to be the owner of a female body (I quite like the model I’m in), I have expert, first-hand knowledge of what being a woman is. I do not, however, have knowledge of pregnancy or knowledge of having to make the choice: adoption, abortion, or raise the kid.

I believe that people who don’t have that knowledge should sit down and do some serious listening. They should listen to women who’ve had abortions; they should listen to mothers; they should listen to people who’ve given children up for adoption, as well as people who’ve adopted children; they should listen to women – women who aren’t yet pregnant, who might become pregnant, who’ve been pregnant, and otherwise. Each woman will tell you a different story.

On the 40th anniversary of the landmark Supreme Court decision Roe v Wade, I think we’re all in need of some listening. Not just listening, but understanding. We need to understand that we cannot force our own personal beliefs on others, just because we believe that we’re correct in our thinking. We need to understand that the law has stood for 40 years for a reason. And we have to understand that abortion is not new. Abortion existed before you, and it will exist long after your body has returned to the earth.

I don’t think I could ever have an abortion. Were I to get pregnant (“fall pregnant,” as they say in South Africa), I’m old enough now that I could handle it (mostly). I’d also have the support system I needed: my mom is going to make an excellent grandmother some day and my brother is so great with kids. It should be noted here that none of my friends want kids, so I’m going to be that nervous, awkward, unkempt wallflower mom at the Mommy and Me class. (I went to one, once, in Illinois with the little guy I was babysitting – basically my favorite baby ever. He was very uncooperative and kept getting up and wandering and I kept getting judgmental looks from all the other “mothers.” Phew. Was so glad when the final song was over and we could book it out of the library.)

It’s not just a question of age, though. It’s more than that. There are other factors, including economic and social ones. I think that economic independence is a huge factor in whether or not a parent will decide to raise a child. In fact, now that I’m on the fence about having children of my own, I think that my decision will ultimately come down to whether or not I’ll be able to afford them.

(They’re hell on the pocketbook, in case you weren’t aware. They also make you statistically less happy, but contribute to a more meaningful life. Ugh, I’ll save weighing this decision until my biological clock is screaming at me to procreate. For now, it’s all conjecture. Besides, little kids are the cutest things. Until they get weird and hormonal and teenager-y.)

I’m going to throw this thought out there:

I believe that if we make abortion illegal, we will not be stopping abortions at all, but rather driving terrified pregnant women into a very dangerous underground. I don’t think that most people would describe themselves as “all for abortion,” even the most pro-life among us. I think that most people believe that an early abortion is best, if abortion is the choice.

I think that by attempting to seriously limit access to abortions (and birth control, too), an upsurge of which we’ve seen on the political stage in recent years, we’re doing ourselves a huge disservice. Huge.

It’s easy to protect life during gestation, but it’s a lot harder to do that once the child is born. I think that people who are so vehemently pro-choice ought to do some looking into how they can help the children of this earth who have been born into situations that they cannot control, but situations that no child should ever be in. It’s one thing to support the birth of a fetus, but it’s another to support a child until he or she turns 18. I think we as a society should start looking into how we can help the children that are already on this planet.

It’s hard, because for me this discussion always takes so many turns. Abortion as birth control? Not okay. Abortion as a life-saving measure? Totally okay. What about welfare for mothers who can’t afford the babies they’re going to be forced to have? What about the strain on the system – that most pro-lifers don’t even want to pay for? We’re not creating a better society by limiting access to reproductive services, up to and including abortion.

My ending argument is this: if a child that is not wanted is born into a family, is life going to be any better for them? Are they going to end up neglected, unloved, and potentially abused? Will they have access to education and friends and the things that they need? Will they have clothes on their backs and food on the table?

I was adopted. I was (am) loved. But that doesn’t mean that life is perfect or easy. Nothing is simple. There are complications from being adopted that I will have to live with for the rest of my life. There are complications that my birth mother has and will live with, and the same goes for my parents. Being adopted is a beautiful thing, but it doesn’t make everything magically better. The same goes for having and raising a child. It doesn’t end at birth – that’s when it truly begins. (Oh man, I meant for that to sound ominous and heavy. That’s totally not me claiming that life begins at birth. Don’t think that.)

One of the most beautiful things about living in the United States is our freedoms. Freedom of expression, of speech, of religion: freedom to make the choices that will carry you through life. I love that we have the choice about what to do with a pregnancy, and I respect that so many women (and men) fought so hard to make sure that we would always have that choice.

 

 

On Home Ownership, Sulkily

[We hosted our first sleepover for our little cousins on Friday night. They were so excited to be over at our house, and we were excited to have them. We made cookies (oh god, so much cookie dough) and watched Home Alone 3, which is always a hit. (I laughed.) Also, it’s very hard to explain to an eleven-year old why Macaully Culkin looks the way he does now without mentioning his probable intravenous drug use.

The sleepover was so much fun and I hope we can have them back soon.]

The cards we got when we moved in were adorned with flowers and kind sentiments, probably to build us up before the inevitable letdown that comes with “maintenance” and “ownership” and “responsibility.” I am still beyond thrilled to own land, but as time passes (mind you, the time that has passed thus far is shortly over a month), I am becoming aware of the reasons for that endless list of things to do in and around the house.

The first problem is hilarious. It really is. Our front door won’t open. It’s always been difficult, but a little bit of body-slamming (for me, gentle push in for Mike), plus a swift pull used to make it open. Now, that process no longer works. The door remains shut. We had a party on Saturday night, and people who came to the front door were quickly alerted by the guests in the living room that they had to go to the side door. (Thank goodness for the side door, right?) A friend of mine who came to the house ended up going in the side door and then straight down the stairs into the basement – where I most certainly was not – because he didn’t see the kitchen entryway.

Anyway, we will dismantle the lock and replace it and then we will have a working front door. And on the plus side, no one will be able to burgle us through the front door unless they’ve got serious B&E skills (I mean, if your chosen profession is burglar, hopefully you have better sense than to rob us – you’ll end up with some lawn chairs, IKEA tupperware, and romance novels – not exactly the haul of a legend).

The second problem is less than hilarious. The garbage disposal has ceased to function. (It was already sort of limping through the food mangling process, so this wasn’t unexpected.) Mike took it apart, and then neglected to inform me that the dishwasher drains through the garbage disposal (you learn something new every day), so I ran it and then there was a slight flood. I put the drain pipe into a bucket, so the dishwasher could continue and our floors would be saved. I made him put the garbage disposal back on at least until we can get a new one so that flood situations can be avoided.

Last night, Mike put in a new garbage disposal. It was quite the involved process, but I’m glad to have a brother who’s patient enough to read the directions and determined enough to get it done. Thus, we began the project list.

(Note: I’m not actually complaining about being a homeowner. I mean, I am, but I still like it. But I like complaining just as much, if not more.)

On Teenage Tattoos, Children, and Ice Cream, Tangentially

Oh my goodness, children are the most beautiful thing in the entire world. They’re such adorable little tiny chickens full of love. Little eyes, and toes, and fingers, and noses. Granted, they’re totally going to grow up and go through that weird decade where they’re hormonal and gross and emotional.

But I’m definitely maternal. Little kids love me. Last night at work, my 16-year old coworker was hurting after basketball practice, so I made her chocolate milk (it’s a great option after a workout for recovery), and made her drink it. She told me that I’m like her work-mother. I laughed. I get mom-ish, I can’t help it.

Yesterday, I tried to talk a 16-year old out of getting a tattoo on her wrist of something her girlfriend likes. I never thought the words would come out of my mouth, but there they were: “I know adults always say things like this, but you’re not going to feel the way you do now in five or ten years.” Here’s hoping she doesn’t get a tattoo she’ll regret. I told her friend that she should start putting $20/month into a bank account earmarked for future tattoo removal.

I am not wrong. I love my nautical star tattoo – on my hip like every other person on this planet, of course – because it means nothing. Literally nothing. It represents my enjoyment of stars as shapes, and black as a color, and lines. It represents my desperately wanting a tattoo but not wanting to get something I’d eventually regret or hate. So, I printed an image of a nautical star. I kept it in my giant pink wallet (best wallet ever) for three years – I was fifteen when I decided, and I was eighteen when I finally went through with it. I figured that was enough time to ruminate on my choice.

My ohm was the same. It’s mine. I made it. I love it. I did get it too high on my ribs, though, but that may have been for the best, since lately, I’ve been considering getting a crow on top of it. Thus making it a “chrome.” I giggle every time I think about it, but no one else seems to think it’s a good idea. Psssh, it’s not my fault everyone has no sense of humor.

(This is what it looked like when I got it in 2010 – it could use a touch up now since it’s less black.)

ohm symbol tattoo

But that’s not the point at all. (And granted, some people may look at my tattoos and be like, Ew, gross, you’re uninspired. Maybe that’s true. I don’t care.)

Lately, I’ve been really thinking about whether or not I want children. Don’t get me wrong, I love them. But they’re expensive, and they cry a lot, and then they’re teenagers. And that’s terrifying. (I was a teenager not long ago. I was terrifying.)

But then there are those moments that remind you why children are the most precious gift:

Last night, at Dairy Queen, this adorable family came in: grandparents and two little kids. The little girl wanted red ice cream, so I bent down (closer to her level) and we talked options. She decided to with white ice cream with red on top (a cherry dipped cone). She was so sweet, after I gave it to her, she asked me if she could get something to take to her mom, at which point the grandparents explained that they were having a “date” night (sleepover) with the grandkids. I went, “Ohh, I’m so jealous! Sleepovers are the best!” It was adorable. But even better? As they were leaving, the little kids came back up to the counter to say thank you and goodnight to me. My heart cracked open. Adorable.

I know they cry and get messy, but they’re so cute. So maybe someday, I’ll have a couple. And they’ll cry and be weird and I’ll love them even more than I love Carlos (if that’s possible). (But what if they get my nose?!? Ah, well, it’ll build character.)

On Rage and Authenticity, Quite Happily

As much as I dread the thirteen-and-a-half-hour workday, I find that it is a reminder of many things, including strength, dedication, commitment, and so on. Mostly, it’s a reminder of the lengths that I’m willing to go to ensure myself a solid, stable future and to keep Carlos in the style to which he’s become accustomed (which is basically just fat. Wet cat food is not cheap, but since it delights him so much, it’s worth it – and I benefit indirectly because the amount of snuggling I receive correlates to his enjoyment of his wet food).

Lately, as I struggle yet again with a lingering resentment for a part of my extended family, and as I work long days, I am reminded of the opportunities for gratitude in everything that I do. Today at my real job, I had the opportunity to have a wonderful conversation with my lady boss, a woman I’ve come to respect and admire for both her spirit but also her ability to keep everything together in the face of immense pressure. She’s funny, strong, and intelligent: all things that I aspire to be.

After that, at my night gig shelling out ice cream, I was grumpy because a couple came in and made fun of the way I said “food laws” by way of an attempt to explain why we no longer offer a certain product. Excuse me if I get offended because you find my use of “food laws” so immensely entertaining that you need to say it eighteen times. I’m exhausted, annoyed, and perfectly capable of using correct language, but sometimes it doesn’t happen. “I misspoke,” I said simply, glaring at them, hurt and embarrassed. I swear, “cross-contamination” and “regulations” are words that do exist in my vocabulary, even if I’m not always capable of injecting them into conversation. I was determined to let it bother me all night, holding onto my repressed rage at the indignation I felt.

But of course, life had other plans and I was treated to some of my absolute favorite customers. A mother and her son came in and told me that they were delighted to see my face behind the counter. A father and his son came in – they were in for ice cream last night so I made a quip and we discussed our own personal limits for enduring Journey songs on the radio. Another guy came in who knows my boss, and so we talked about the neighborhood and the church and parking tickets. Yesterday, I had a conversation about the American habit of rushing through eating, and the idea of savoring a meal and appreciating the experience. These are all totally strange conversations, but they’re the kind of conversations that I want to be having. They show me so much about people.

These are the moments when I’m reminded why it’s so important to forge wonderful bonds with people, even if those interactions are infrequent, or based solely on introduction to free Blizzard punch cards. The people who may have the most profound impact on you are the people you may know the least, and that’s why it’s so important to present your best self at all times – not your best fake self, but you, entirely. The people who came in tonight revived my spirit and my mood. They have no idea they had that affect, of course, but I can only hope that I did something similar for them.

As I think about the version of myself that I put forward, I think back to a conversation I had with my mother this week about my frustration with an issue that I’ve done everything in my power to resolve, but to no avail. She told me that no matter where I go in life, and no matter what tax bracket I find myself in, I’ll never lose my grit. (I immediately saw myself wearing dusty cowboy boots and clenching my teeth while smoking a Marlboro.) But she must not be wrong, because the sentiment was echoed by someone who means very much to me who told me that my authenticity shows in everything that I do.

And the more I think about it, the more it’s true. Living my life guided by three simple principles – “don’t lie, don’t cheat, don’t steal” – has allowed me to be my most authentic self at all times. I’m not always right, but at least I’m always me. And leaving out all deception, theft, and malicious intent has allowed so much love and happiness to grow inside of me.

Consistency and adherence to my core values allows me to experience so much that others can’t, and I’m immensely grateful for it. I’ve found myself in many situations this year that have tested me in ways that I never imagined – both professionally and personally – and yet they’ve allowed me to flex my honesty, my drive, and my intuition.

Things are going swimmingly – I’m happy. I’m happy discussing conspiracy theories with my Dairy Queen co-workers; I’m happy writing press releases at my real job; I’m happy in my new relationship; I’m just really happy.

Of course, I’m overworked, exhausted, and prone to bouts of melancholy. Of course I’m panicked and stressed and overwhelmed, but even through all of that, I’m happy with myself and with the person that I’m becoming, which is far more important than anything else.

I’m so grateful for everything that I’ve experienced in life, because it’s made me so much stronger. I’m no wilting wallflower. I believe it was Courtney Love who said, “I’m not a woman; I’m a force of nature.” I aim to embody that. And as my mother said during our conversation, no matter where I end up, I’ll never forget where I came from. I’ll never forget the hard work I’ve had to put in to get here, because in the end it’s all worth it. Along the way, there are little bits of encouragement, reminding me that the path I’ve chosen is the right path.

When I wonder why I’ve been rejected by an entire section of my extended family, I can’t help but take into consideration the fact that perfect strangers are excited to see me. I can’t help but think about how much I care about the people I love, and the things that I’d do to help my friends. I can’t help but think about how much of my personality gets to shine through at all of my jobs, at family events, on dates and adventures and through literally everything that I do. I can’t help but think about the person that I am today, and the person that I was yesterday, and I realize I’m still exactly me; I always have been.

What was my advice to adolescent girls dealing with people who are assholes? Oh yeah, “fuck ’em.” Here’s another piece of advice: if all of the evidence points to you being an authentic, awesome (oh, totally modest right now, too) human being, fuck the people who can’t wrap their heads around that. Fuck the people who don’t respect you, or value you, or care. You can find new family; you can make you own – and you can find the respect and value in tiny places like a pair of customers at Dairy Queen who express joy at your presence. That’s enough to remind you that who you are can’t be all bad.

Everything is going to be all right. Everything is all right. Everything is better than all right. Everything is amazing. Life is beautiful. It’s complexity and it’s pain, but it’s insanely worth the journey.

My authentic self, chilling on a rock in the desert:

He does take the best pictures, doesn’t he? (He’s editing, more soon.)

On Love, and Fall, and Family, Certainly

“The love of family and the admiration of friends is much more important than wealth and privilege.” – Charles Kuralt

Thank you, Charles.

***

Lame family-centric quotes aside, I’ve been feeling immensely grateful these past few weeks. Family is one of those things that can either be frustrating or wonderful, and I’m lucky enough to have a family that falls on the side of wonderful.

When we have dinner, we linger. We sit at the table long after the meal has ended, and I’m usually reprimanded for playing with my silverware, since I’m not one who’s mastered the concept of “still”.

My aunt from Vermont, who’s an awesome photographer – I thought her yearly Christmas book was awesome, but the facebook has allowed me to see pictures of adventures, gardening, sunsets, etc. – took pictures at the dinner we had a few weeks ago. (The one where Matt met the ENTIRE family.)

Here’s me, Matt, and my little neighbor:

This picture of my mom and brother stops me in my tracks, cracks my heart open, and makes love pour out of it. My mother and brother are not known for their willingness to engage in patient sitting for pictures, so this semi-candid shot blows my mind. My aunt has managed to capture them exactly as I see them in my mind when I imagine them. These are the faces they make during those moments when we are teasing each other about being “the worst guy” or pretending to be exasperated (sometimes it’s actual exasperation) and saying “You’re killing me, Smalls.” I am going to frame this picture.

***

Life seems to be increasingly hectic. In between all the working is the life part, and then the house-buying procedural part. This weekend was wonderful – Friday night, Matt came down to Denver and we went out to dinner, then walked and got dessert. He got to meet Jacob since we walked past the restaurant where he works. I like dinner dates with him. Somehow, it’s like we’re the only two people in the world. Interestingly enough, I’m becoming more and more self-conscious as time goes on, worried that I’m repeating myself too often, or talking too much (what’s new?), but at the same time, I’m more comfortable. It’s like we’ve been dating for years and dinners are merely a formality.

On Saturday, I worked at Dairy Queen then went to babysit, then found myself exhausted and went home. On Sunday, I worked, missed the home inspection, then drove to see Matt. He made me caprese lasagna (oh man, so good), we decorated an awesome Halloween gingerbread house, and then watched Moonrise Kingdom. 

I asked him to rub off on me with his healthy eating, so he made the lasagna with whole wheat noodles. I told him I was glad for that, and he seemed surprised. It’s not that I’m not a healthy eater, it’s just that lately, I’ve fallen into a bit of a rut as far as food goes. I’m definitely not making the healthiest choices; I can’t tell you the last time I went grocery shopping; I’m not watching my figure or anything. But I do enjoy healthy food. I don’t want to give him the impression that I’m someone who lives on McGriddles and Mountain Dew, even though right now, I totally am that guy.

Here’s the front of our house.

Halloween Haunted Gingerbread House

And here’s the back:

Spooky Haunted Gingerbread House Halloween

He got the kit at Target. I am very much enjoying his appreciation of all things Halloween. It was a nice Sunday night activity. But by far the best part of Sunday was Moonrise Kingdom.

I love Wes Anderson – he did Rushmore, The Darjeeling Limited, etc. – so when Matt suggested it, I was thrilled. It’s the story of young love – the two kids are about 12 – and the consequences of running away to be together. It is, for lack of better descriptive words, precious. The kids retain their innocence through their adventure, which begins with a courtship conducted entirely via letters.

They make an inventory of what she’s brought on their escape. (He’s some sort of scout, so he’s armed with all the necessary provisions.) She brings books, a record player, and a various amount of other things. It’s a very Katie Barry packing style.

When I was that age – twelve and up – I carried around everything I cared about. It was at twelve that we began taking vacations, and it was at twelve that I did not learn that you will eventually return home, and therefore don’t need to bring everything with you. I would pack two huge suitcases (this was back when you didn’t have to pay baggage fees), and I would fill them with everything, especially books.

I think I fell in love with Suzy when I saw her unpack a suitcase full of books. But I loved the purity of their young love and their determination and their struggles. You should go watch it. It will fill your soul with happiness and remind you of young love, which is something we too often neglect.

On Falling Apart, Rapidly

It’s late and I’m sick, so of course, I’m beyond the point of exhaustion but at that point where the emotional mind is too active to let sleep settle on the body it inhabits. I was puffy before, the combination of tired and sick doesn’t wear well on me, but the sobbing has made me even puffier. It’s attractive, really.

I knew it was going to happen this week. I knew it. I felt the sore throat last night and I drank a glass of water, foolishly believing that would be enough to stem the coming sickness. It wasn’t. When I woke up this morning, I was sick. It was settling into my throat, my head was starting the heavy ache behind my ears. I knew it. And yet, I thought that if I could just get to work, I could push it off.

I couldn’t. Now, many hours later, I’m unable to sleep and feeling worse than I have at any point today.

2:30 found me strep testing at Kaiser (god, what another lovely experience to add to my glorious review of segmented care and its effects on sanity – the woman on the phone sighed, loudly, as I asked her how to obtain a strep test and then asked me if I thought it was really necessary. Generally people don’t pick up the phone and say, I’d love for unnecessary tests, please! But wait, regular Kaiser doesn’t offer rapid strep tests. Their after-hours clinic does. So even though I was swabbed at 2:30 and dropped it at the lab some time around 2:45, I won’t know if I have strep or not until after 1pm tomorrow.)

Of course, the consensus at work was that I’ve been stretching myself too thin and that I need to cut back. Which is horrible to hear. I’ve been busting my ass lately, trying to cover all the bases and exceed expectations at all of my jobs. I’ve halted work on my freelancing gig, so technically, I’m down to three.

Last week when one of my co-workers at my real job told me that I should really take stock of my own performance because I could be fired at any time, I didn’t blink or feel a flutter of panic in my stomach. All I could think about was what it would be like to sleep. Or what it would be like to see my friends. Or clean my house. Or have 2 days off. I really don’t want to be fired; I love my job. You have to understand that. I really love my job.

[You’re all welcome to cross-reference my social calendar, too, just in case you’re curious. I’m defensive, yes, but I’m getting sick of fielding bullshit statements like, “But oh my god, you do all this stuff.” I’m 24. I’m trying to build a life. I can’t help that I want to do stuff. It’s not like I’m buying Lanvin left and right. A girl that I went to high school with started blogging and was discussing the fact that she has champagne taste and a beer budget. Her beer budget was J.Crew. My beer budget is Wal-Mart runs for cosmetics when funds and supplies run low simultaneously. My beer budget is that I love Nordstrom Rack and am willing to comb through rack and rack to find something that will fit well, wear well, and is also like 75% off. Yeah, I buy shit. And it’s none of your business. And yes, it’s always on sale. I grew up on all things “SALE,” I’m well-versed in playing pretend with economic status instead of doll-inspired dream houses. Trust me.]

“Your dreams are not what you thought they’d be.”

Trying not to feel like a failure is harder than it looks. I think that the harder you try to convince yourself that there’s still hope and that positivity is key, the harder you fall when the pieces you’re so carefully holding on to start to slip. That’s where I’m at right now: wrung out and exhausted, hopeless, crying, inconsolable. I have no idea where I went wrong. The truth is, I have none of it together. It’s full-time panic and there’s no way out. So honestly, I don’t give a shit if anyone thinks I’m spread too thin. Right now, that’s all I’ve got. It’s do or die and there’s no going back.

Sleep. For now, I will let sleep do some healing and let’s hope for sunshine tomorrow. The best piece of advice I ever got was, “When you’re upset, just go to sleep. It will pass.” The advice-giver was not wrong.

Because illness causes me to revert to childhood, this song will take you to my freshman year of high school. 

On Change, Seasonally

I feel fall coming. I’ve been smelling it on the morning air since early August, but now I’m really feeling it. The morning air is crisp, a reminder of the cold bite that I’ll be complaining about in a few months. For now, it’s refreshing. I roll down the windows and feel the warm sunshine and the cool air and I am content. I drive, watching the rolling ribbons of brown leaves part to let me through, and I know that the time for warm summer nights and sunshine will soon be a thing of past and something to look forward to.

I think of the changes of this summer – the adventures, the love, the friends, work – and I can’t believe it’s gone so fast. Did I take advantage of it as I used to? No. I used to relish summer, staying up all through the night and watching dawn break over the sleeping city. Now I count late hours as borrowed from the next day, and wake to rejoin the rush. Swim attire has been replaced by business casual, the need for adventure replaced by a longing for a comfortable couch.

Growing up is a strange process since it doesn’t happen all at once. It’s the small changes that happen season by season, so subtly that you don’t notice them until you look back to see where you’ve come. Not that I’m grown up, by any means, or that relishing late nights is an activity left only to the young. Just that there are little bits of my maturity that seem to be slowly falling into place. Or perhaps I’m just spreading myself too thin and the lack of time stretching in front of me to be filled with adventure is shrinking as a result of obligations that I never imagined I’d have rather than the reality of adulthood.

I know that it is my responsibility to make sure that I maintain the work-life-me balance. And in that precarious juggling act is time. I need to carve out time for me to do nothing. Perhaps I need to be more strict about that, reminding myself that the busy everything can wait. But the busy everything is so pressing, so nagging, and at times, so incredibly fun. The busy everything doesn’t wait.

I long for hours – I wish I could waste them again, the way we used to. We’d lay around the apartment, we’d take walks, we’d adventure. What’s an afternoon drive to Wisconsin when you’ve got nothing else to do? Now, I have to schedule laundry strictly in order to ensure it will get done.

I wish for evenings. For weekends. For unplanned, unscheduled, unmarked time. And when I have it, I will do nothing. I will not do the things I’ve been meaning to. I will not clean, or cross things off my to-do list. I will draw a bubble bath and grab a novel and sit for hours, until the water is cold and my toes resemble shrunken heads. I will watch endless episodes of everything on Netflix. I will become bored. I will relish that boredom by painting my toes and face-masking. I will spend a long afternoon napping with Carlos curled around my feet. Ah, that would be lovely.

On the Weekend Full of Children, Not as Creepily as that Sounds

None of my friends want children. I want them. At least I did, until I spent the last three days herding twenty-one three and four-year olds around. They’re adorable, I swear, but oh my goodness, so many tears. So many bathroom breaks. Such a challenge to keep them happy, make sure they all have their stuff, and then on top of that, try to keep them entertained.

I don’t know how parents are able to work eight hours (or more) a day and then go home and be rockstar parents. I have enough trouble trying to manage the work-life balance myself (apparently a glass of wine does not count as dinner and cleaning is something you have to do 24/7).

But they’re so cute. During the nap time that wasn’t, I was playing with a little boy who had a stuffed zebra. I would make kissing sounds and “kiss” him with the zebra on his face and arms. He took the zebra and did the same thing to me, laughing. Zebra kisses are the best kind.

Another little boy was telling me all about his family. “Mommy said that some daddies don’t want to be daddies and that some mommies don’t want to be mommies,” he said, so matter-of-factly. I hope that his mom also explained that being adopted means that your biological parents wanted the absolute best for you and made a brave and beautiful choice to give you to another family. (Or as Avery, my neighbor would say, traded you in.)

My brother is a fascinating human being. Very wise and observant. The most kind-hearted individual you will ever meet. The kids in South Africa loved him and I have no doubt that his group of middle-schoolers loved him just as much. Mike was thrilled at the prospect of being able to do some field research. Both of us were adopted, and Mike is studying sociology and biology in college. He wants to focus on the nature vs. nurture question that plagues us all. (Does it plague you? Perhaps not. But I see so many similarities between myself and my birth mother, but also a great many similarities between myself and my mother.) He was excited to see how adoption has played a role in the lives of these children, particularly because of the race difference between them and their parents.

Camp was great. I hope that the parents got a lot out of the sessions, and I hope that all of the kids had enough fun that they’ll be willing to come back next year.

After camp, I babysat. (Child overload, mind you.) We went to Chuck E. Cheese. (Ha, the middle child used to call it “Yucky Cheese” before she could pronounce it. I find her description to be rather accurate.) Flashing lights, colors, the smell of pizza, the terrifying guy in a Chuck E. suit (mascots are one of my biggest fears – no idea why). The girls were thrilled to go home with tiny prizes – a ring for the baby, a magic trick for the middle one, and a bracelet for the eldest.

The mom and dad are some of my favorite parents. They’re always asking me about my life, and have been so incredibly supportive (and curious about) my ADHD diagnosis and the ways in which I’ve chosen to address it. (They’re dealing with it too.)

The mom was like, “What’s your boyfriend’s name again?” I started laughing. “I guess [her husband] didn’t fill you in….” I said, and proceeded to give her the quick update. Unlike a lot of people who give me endless amounts of crap about my dating habits, they’re fully supportive of them. She’s always reminding me that this is exactly what I’m supposed to be doing at this point in my life. I love it because instead of feeling that what I am doing is a negative thing, they totally see that you date, you change your mind, and you find something else more exciting, challenging, and fun. It’s so good to have people in a happy marriage who support me so much.

She also said some things that made me glow inside. She told me that they think I’m adorable (surprising, considering that I show up at their house on a weekly basis with no makeup on and generally disheveled), and she pointed out that she sees me as being more mature than my peers, and said that she absolutely understands the frustration that comes with trying to date within my age group.

Agreed. But all the old ones are a touch crazy: a 43-year old once asked me to dinner – which I was totally down for – but then told me that his wife left him for the tennis instructor (note to self: never let my husband get a tennis instructor) and texted before our dinner to tell me that he had some weird “viral rash” and that he was fine, but uncomfortable. First of all – what’s a “viral rash”? and second, this is a statement that falls under the “way too much information before the first date” category. Obviously, you can imagine my reaction: there was no first date.

That was a terrible story to end such a happy, rambling blog post.

So here’s this:  My first task upon returning to my desk: looking into buying 500 units of logo-branded silly putty. I love my job.

On Volunteering, Excitedly

Exhaustion to end the week, but the exhaustion is the best kind.

Mike and I have volunteered to be counselors at an adoption camp this weekend. We started today, and will go until Sunday. Mike will be working with middle and high schoolers, and I’ve been assigned to Pre-K. (I can’t even tell you how excited I am! Pre-K is the best time. They’re still so cute and baby-ish, but you can see their future grown-up selves starting to shine through.)

The camp is an African Caribbean Heritage Camp – it’s been held in Denver for 14 years now. Most of the counselors are of African or Caribbean descent, but since Mike and I were both adopted, we fit the counselor profile as well. This year’s theme is: The Colors of Us: Celebrating Transracial Adoption.

We meet the kids tomorrow morning, and Mike will be up early to go on a day-long white water rafting trip. (White-water? Not so much. We had terrible snow this winter, and it’s already August, so I feel like it’ll be more like a float trip with some bumps along the way that will stand in for rapids.)

While the counselors are keeping the kids entertained, the parents are attending different sessions and workshops all centering on adoption, race, and culture. One of the sessions held on Saturday will be discussing white privilege through the lens of transracial adoption. The high school kids will be attending the session with their parents and the counselors, and I think that’s an awesome opportunity for discussion and reflection. I’ll be curious to hear what Mike has to say about it.

Mike and I haven’t gotten to do anything like this since we were in South Africa, and I know that we’re both really looking forward to this weekend.

Cute stories, quickly, before I fall asleep on my keyboard:

My mom’s little neighbor, who’s still working through adoption in her mind, asked me how old I was when I was “traded in” the other day.  Hah, I had such a good laugh about that. Traded in, like they just wanted a newer model or something.

AND…..

Guess what I got at Costco today? (Besides a Polish sausage covered in spicy mustard.) Both seasons of Party Down for $11.99. Life is beautiful (and so is Adam Scott).

Going to be a hectic – but very fun – weekend!