Beginning the holidays

It's December 1st, the first day of Holidailies, and the day after the first Sunday of Advent.  While I don't consider myself Christian anymore, I am the Parish Administrator for an Episcopal church and the rhythm of the Church year is becoming part of my rhythm, too.  All of these things came together as I was driving home from work today, and it hit me like a fist in my stomach and left me just as breathless.  The holidays are coming - Christmas is coming.  And it's going to be my first one without Tom.

Even though I'd admitted to him that I was pretty sure I was gay by this time a year ago, neither one of us had decided what to do about it.  Separate?  Stay together and try to create a different sort of family?  Each have our own lovers outside the marriage but stay together for the kids?  We also hadn't talked to many people about it.  I'd talked to my Mom, and a couple of friends, but that was it.  Tom had a trip planned out of the country and his mom, Judy, was coming to spend a week with the kids and me.  I was worried about how it would feel, knowing Tom's and my relationship was so shaky... and I was worried about how introvert-me would deal with living with Judy for a whole week.

It turned out to be amazing.  Judy was fabulous.  She played with the kids, helped around the house, helped me decorate for Christmas, babysat the kids so I could go to see the Desolation of Smaug... and when I came down with Strep just a few days before she was leaving, she made me dinner and took care of Tai and Miriam and let me rest.  All without even needing to be asked.  She was a partner, in a way I'd never been partnered.

This afternoon, in the car, I wished it was last year again, for a second.  Last year, when I had hope that something different could happen.  That we could still be a family.  Instead I'm trying to figure out how to drag a big tree into the house by myself, thinking of dropping off Tom's ornaments, wondering what to do with the train his family had gotten Tai that goes under the tree, what I should do with the tree-skirt Judy made.

Tonight, as I was giving the kidlets a bath, I showed them a short video I'd taken of them in the bath together two years ago.  They fit a lot better when Tai was four and Miriam wasn't even a year old.  They've both become tall and lanky.  But after laughing at his own silliness, Tai said, "That was when you and Daddy lived together, right?"  And I said yes, because we did.  I heard the wistfulness in his voice, felt it in my own heart.  I've gone over this and over it - I don't miss Tom.  I miss what I wish we could have had.  I miss that family that I thought we could be, but that we never were.


Miss M cracks me up

This morning we were awoken early - some craziness at a neighbor's house that left my heart pounding.  I got up to use the bathroom and Miriam, of course, followed me.  We washed our hands together and went back to bed.  She started nursing, then popped off to say, "I need twil."

I frowned.  "Towel?"

She repeated herself.  "I need twil."

"Twill?" I echoed, confused.  "Towel?"

She frowned too.  "I don't know what I talking about."

Ha!  Me either, baby, me either.

In unrelated news: Her current favorite song is "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" and before she goes to sleep she likes to watch a video of it on my phone.  (Did everyone else know there's more than one verse to that song?  I didn't...)  She knows the words to the first verse and likes to sing it in the car.   It's also helped her learn directions.

Later this morning we were drawing on my white board.  She wanted me to draw a 'pink Miyam'... and then a 'blue Miyam up above a'.

I had to write these down before I forgot them.


Keep on keeping on

My mom's birthday was in November and to celebrate we went to hear Anne Lamott read from her newest book, and then we got dinner.  The night took an unexpected turn when I had an IBS attack at dinner and ended up blurting out to Mom, "I think I'm a lesbian."  She was surprisingly supportive and we had a very long talk and she didn't feel like I destroyed her birthday or anything.

Both of us were glad I hadn't felt sick during Anne's reading.  We even stayed long enough to get books signed, and I got to say hello to her.  I've loved her writing ever since I read "bird by bird" (one of the best books on writing, in my opinion), and even more so when I read "Operating Instructions" about her pregnancy and her son's first year.  As I said to her, "I felt so relieved when I read [it].  I thought, if she can do it, so can I."  Meaning having kids.  Anne laughed kindly and said, "Yeah, if I could do it anyone can."

As it was just a signing, not a whole coffee talk, I kept it short and didn't explain but if I had had the time I would have told her this:  when I first got pregnant with Tai I spent most of the first trimester both nauseated and nervous.  Also neurotic.  I wondered what the hell I'd gotten myself into, and more importantly, what I had gotten Tai into.  I have struggled so long with anxiety and depression, starting in preschool and through grade school and into middle school.  It wasn't necessarily every day, but almost.  There were better times and worse times, but it was like a low-grade sickness, always there and annoying.  It wasn't until moving to San Francisco that I went to a psychiatrist and got on medication.  It's made the difference between hiding and living my life.

I know there is often a genetic component to mental illness.  I didn't (and don't) want to pass this on.  I know what to look for, though, and I have more coping skills than I had.  I have come to believe that I can do this - I am doing it.  I am a mom, I am raising kids.  I hope I can do it with some amount of Anne's grace and humor.

But when the anxiety hits, I find little of either.  Such little things can trigger it.  Tonight Miriam nursed, then was being silly and laughing and got the hiccups and then spit up a little milk.  And suddenly my heart started racing, and my stomach clenched and my hands shook.  The fear broke over me like a wave.  I was so afraid she was getting the stomach flu.  That Tai would and I would and I would have to be here through it, and not freak out because I don't want to freak them out.  I have been shaky the rest of the night.  Both kids played well, ate fine, went to sleep.  Judy babysat while I went to see the Desolation of Smaug.  Even through the movie, a little piece of anxiety nibbled at my brain.  It's still nibbling.  I'm trying to breathe, trying to relax, trying to remember that everything passes, both health and illness.  But it's hard.

Hard day's night

Holidailies has been difficult for me so far, as might be surmised from my loose interpretation of 'daily'.  My brain has been overly busy, and I'm struggling with how much to say here and how much to just hold back, and that doesn't make for very open journaling.  Even though I've been shy through most of my life, especially in person, I am much more open in writing - and also when I get to know people.  I am horrible about keeping anything about myself secret.  I'm pretty much happy to talk about anything, even if it's hard to get started.  I've talked about my difficulties with alcohol, about my sexuality, about fanfiction/fandom, about spirituality and politics, insecurities and strengths (though I have a harder time with that).  For me, connecting with people and trying to figure out how we all tick is of utmost importance.  I love hearing others' stories, and sharing mine.  As I'm sure I've said before, one of the things about AA that I found most helpful was the sharing of stories, because I found that I was not alone in so much.  So, feeling so full of complications, but unsure how much I can share has been complicated.

But I feel I can share what is my own, about myself.  I've been working through my sexuality lately.  For years I have considered myself bisexual.  Every time I started to think differently, every time a part of myself whispered "you are a lesbian', I stuffed that voice down and away.  I drank.  I ate.  I watched TV and read and ran as far as I could.  Because I couldn't imagine a life on my own, a life without Tom.  We've been together for 20 years, more than half our lives.  I was with him before I even really conceived of myself as a sexual being.  Slowly (very slowly) I've grown into myself.  I'm in therapy, I'm on meds for anxiety and depression, I've had kids... I've grown in the past twenty years.  And I'm discovering myself and feeling less willing to hide from myself.

I don't know what this means going forward, and neither does Tom.  I know sexuality can be fluid, and maybe it is for me.  Or maybe I'm just tired of being afraid and am finally ready to figure out who I am.

To add extra fun to the mix, I ended up having to tell Tom that I think I'm gay just a few days before he went to the Philippines and Indonesia for two weeks.  And his mom is in town to help out with the kids and keep us company and I can't talk about any of this with her, because I don't know what Tom would think about that.  I've talked to my mom and my friends.... but involving his mom is a whole other thing.  And it's the holidays.

I keep hoping that one day I'll get there - I'll know who I am and where I'm going, and I'll do 'it' right - live my life right and make the right decisions.  I know there's no 'right', but I wish there were.


Remember to breathe

Whew - it was one of those days I needed to remind myself to breathe as I helped Tai fall asleep (after a short tantrum about not getting dessert at 9pm, and while Miriam yowled upstairs because I'd only nursed her for 45 minutes and she wanted more) and then went back up stairs to help Miriam again.  (Also two more times with her, because... I have no idea - she doesn't want to sleep alone tonight.)

It's been unusually cold in San Francisco for the past few days.  I don't think it broke 50 during the day, and it's been down at freezing and below during the nights.  I shouldn't complain - it's much colder in Michigan and Maryland (where I grew up) but we're not used to it here!  It feels like winter, suddenly, which I like when I'm decorating for Christmas, but do not like when I'm trying to keep the kids busy.  Yesterday we went to the Academy of Science, but today Miriam was sleepy, Tai wanted to play on his iPad and with his Legos and I just couldn't get up the motivation to do something interesting.  It felt too cold to go outside, even just to another indoor event.

Staying inside, though, meant we were all stir-crazy by mid-afternoon.  Miriam took a long nap, though she kept waking up and needing me to nurse her, rock her, or lay down with her.  Both kids were grumpy, the dogs were antsy and I had that annoying foggy-head feeling from being in the house for too long.  It took some convincing, but I got the kids in their coats, shoved the dogs in the car and we took a brief trip to the park nearby.  We all felt better after that, fresh air frisked all of us up, even Luna who is having more trouble getting around in the cold than she had been.  I can't believe she's going to be 14... and that she's still trucking along, even after last January, when she couldn't walk at all.

Then neither kid was very hungry at dinner, and I started to get nervous that one or both of them was getting stomach flu.  Not a good thing with Tom away for two weeks.  But I reminded myself to breathe and just kept going.  This too shall pass, all the hard stuff as well as all the good stuff.  It's 11:30 and Miriam seems to be staying asleep, Luna and Foxy are asleep next to me on the couch and I'm about to nod off, too.  The days are short, but there's still light in the darkness. I just need to remember that.


Doctor Who?

In further efforts to completely ignore the drama going on in my personal life, I've been mainlining Doctor Who episodes.  I started with the Ninth Doctor, even though I'd seen those episodes before.  I loved Christopher Eccleston as the Doctor.  He felt dark, with these glints of manic joy.  When David Tennant became the Tenth Doctor, I'd taken a hiatus in watching, and ended up years behind.  I was annoyed because he felt much more childish, and his relationship with Rose irritated me because Rose irritated me.  But this time I stuck with it.  I fell in love with Martha Jones, who had agency and strength.  Donna Noble cracked me up.  And slowly I grew to like the Tenth Doctor, too.  I understood more about him, what he wrestled with.  Oddly enough, when it came time for that Doctor to regenerate, I found myself tearing up.  I hadn't expected to like, or miss, him.

Now I'm only a few episodes into the Eleventh Doctor.  I loved Matt Smith right away.  His total 'madman with a box' thing.  Of course, it helps that Amy Pond is incredibly attractive.  Damn.  Even though this Doctor feels giddy and manic, there's a darkness just barely under the surface.  I like a darkness in my Doctor.

I can't believe I'm so late to the party, but I have finally gotten the Doctor Who love.  It's cheesy at times, especially visually - but underneath there's a lot going on.  And I'm looking forward to catching up to reality, and meeting the next Doctor.

Oh Xmas Tree

980651_10100333848910911_1683633519_oTom came home from work 'early' tonight, which meant he arrived at 7, instead of after 8.  Fortunately the kids were still awake (even though Miriam decided her nap would best be taken from 8:30-10:30 this morning.  We both napped and were so much happier for it) so we headed down the hill to the Christmas tree lot on the corner.  I would have preferred to go to a farm, now that our fake tree is gone and we are getting real ones.

One of my favorite parts of Christmas when I was a kid was going to the Christmas tree farm with my grandparents.  We lived in Michigan so it was invariably cold, and usually snowy.  It always felt like a long drive, though I don't know that it was actually that far away.  We'd end up taking a hay ride out to find the perfect tree.  I always wanted to hold the saw, and even thought Grandpa cut down the tree, I always got to slice a disk off from the stump.  The lot smelled like pine and sawdust and snow.

After we got a tree (Blue Spruce, which I wish we could get out here - the branches were stiff enough to hold the heaviest ornaments), we'd head to the barn and drink hot cider, eat fresh, hot donuts (plain, the only time I liked plain donuts) and then we'd explore the toys.  They had wooden toys - Jacob's Ladders, pop-guns, trains, doll beds... One year I fell in love with a porcelain doll, and was so excited when I got it for Christmas that year.

I'd like to give Tai and Miriam those memories, and maybe I will, next year.  This year our decorating and Christmas preparations are squeezed in between Tom's travel schedule.  He leaves this Saturday morning for Indonesia and the Philippines, and won't be back until the 22nd.  (Why did I think it would be a good time for him to go on a two week vacation, just before Christmas and Miriam's birthday?  I have no idea.)  At first Tai wasn't into the whole idea - it's cold tonight, 47 or so, which is unlike San Francisco, and he wanted to just play around on the iPad.  Miriam was tired and wanted to be carried the whole time, but once we got to the lot, Tai ran around, checking all of the trees to pick the very best one.

When we got home, I wanted a picture in front of the tree, to remember this moment.  Tai wanted to do a serious one, and a silly one.  I like the silly one best.  It makes me smile, and again - give thanks.  The whole house smells like pine, and I am content.

Favorite time of day

We're all still working through re-entry.  Miriam woke up at 4 and nursed for about two hours straight until she finally went downstairs with Tom to have breakfast.  I was feeling depressed for much of the morning, trying to sort things through in my brain - where I'm going next, what I'm doing... and then Miriam didn't nap.  But I picked Tai up early and we had a good evening together.

No matter how crazy of a day I've had, how many tantrums Miriam has thrown, how many times Tai has whined when I asked him to turn off the iPad *Now, Please!*, how many times I had someone join me in the bathroom when I'd just like a tiny moment of privacy, there's one time of every day where I feel relaxed and purely present.

IMG_6485 It's this moment, every night.  I put them to bed one at a time - Miriam first, Tai second.  I get to hold them close, cradle them to me.  Miriam is still nursing, so we have that - but even without it, just having her warm weight on me, holding her close on my shoulder or my chest or my lap.  There's nothing like it.

Tai doesn't nurse anymore and while I miss it, we've stayed close.  He likes me to cuddle him, to face him as he falls asleep.  Sometimes he likes to talk right up until he dozes off.

I didn't do a month of gratitude in November, but every night as they fall asleep I give my thanks.  I am beyond blessed to have them in my life.


Welcome home

(Welcome, also, Holidailies folks! If you want an intro, head over to my user page.  I've got a little tiny summary there.)

For the second year in a row, Tom took Miriam and Tai back East to visit his family over Thanksgiving, while I got to stay here with the dogs and take a break.  It's pretty perfect all the way around - he gets to save money on a plane ticket and dog boarding and I get to indulge my introverted side to my heart's content - although I did miss the kidlets a bit.  I caught up on sleep, reading, cleaning, organizing, socializing and even managed to squeeze in some work on my second draft.

Today everyone came back and the house is noisy and full again.  Miriam spent about 2 hours total nursing... Tai wanted me to do everything with him.  It was good to read him a story and curl up next to him for a few minutes as he fell asleep.  

But it's also been a little difficult, as re-entry always is.  Both kids were exhausted by 6, and Miriam had a tantrum for about the last 45 minutes before she went to bed.  Tai didn't want to go out to pick out a Christmas tree, and we didn't feel like arguing with him.  Tom was grumpy and checked out most of the time - on his phone and then watching TV.

I spent so much time mulling over who I want to be when I grow up (while they were gone and I actually had a chance to complete a whole thought at once) that it was hard coming back to who I have been... taking up that costume again.  I feel off balance, a little strange.  I find myself escaping after everyone else has gone to sleep - continuing my Doctor Who marathon.  Whenever I'm overwhelmed I like to slip into another world for a little while.  Heros, warriors, fighters.  Going up against evil.  Triumph of love.  Then it'll be time to sleep and by the time I wake up tomorrow, I'll be ready to be who I'm supposed to be again.  To welcome them home, again.

Ten Songs

Ten songs I love right now:

1.  After the Storm - Mumford and Sons
2.  Given to Fly - Pearl Jam
3.  Just Breathe - Pearl Jam
4.  Unthought known - Pearl Jam
5.  Better Days - Eddie Vedder
6.  Hard Son - Eddie Vedder
7.  Rabbit will Run - Iron and Wine
8.  Kingdom Come - Coldplay
9.  Amazing Grace - Ani DiFranco
10.  Let it Be - the Beatles