Friday, May 27, 2016

On This Day, Even More So

Memorial Day is gut wrenching, sometimes. Below is a repost of why.

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Serve (Jan 14, 2013)

I was four when my brother went off to the United States Air Force Academy. Although I don’t remember much about his decision to go there, I do know that one of his biggest concerns that he expressed to my parents was that I would grow up not knowing him. He and I wouldn’t have a relationship. The logistics were just against it; he would have very little vacation time while in school, and then he would be deployed, frequently, for long periods of time. 

He was right.


For years, my brother was the one that would swoop in at holiday times, and I was thrilled to see him, as a little kid. We would travel to the Academy, and then we would travel to where he was stationed. Eventually, I got older, and while I am always his kid sister, I was not his baby sister. It’s harder to know and love and have things in common that way—at least, it was for us. The distance didn’t help, and neither did the fact that we are both phone call avoiders. 


That doesn’t mean my heart wasn’t in my throat every time he was deployed to either a war zone, or an undisclosed location. When he was going on a dangerous mission (it sounds all spy like, but it’s an accurate description), we would get a very specific phone call. My younger self did not translate the situation into meaning very well, but I know now that those phone calls were goodbyes, in advance, just in case.


There have been lots of dangerous deployments and close calls over the years, and there have been great moments, moments of real triumph and joy, and thankfully, since he has advanced in rank, he’s had mostly stateside stations, with a “quick” trip here and there to Afghanistan, etc. I know that’s coming to an end. I know he is going to be deployed soon.


It’s much harder now than it was then. I’m older, I know better. We’re both older, and we have a great relationship now. We’re much closer. I understand more. I worry more. I’ve had many friends and classmates go over and come back fine; go over and come back…not quite the same; go over, and never come back. It’s not going to be for at least 6 months yet, I think, but it’s already following me around, like a shadow, where I can see it, out of the corner of my eye. 


**********


My nephew, for as long as I can remember, has been fascinated by his uncle (“unk-knu”). When my brother sent him a bomber jacket and “pilot” sunglasses, my nephew wore them until they practically corroded off him. He’s always wanted to be military. He’s always wanted to go an academy. 


He did. He’s at Annapolis. At his graduation, they did this thing where each student stood and they announced either what college they were going to, or where they had been accepted. When his was called, and they announced the naval academy, the entire school, all the present parents, everyone in the massive commencement hall stood up for him.


I know, someday, he’ll be deployed and we’ll go through this all over again. 


**********


My dad spent 30 years in the Army. He retired at the very end of August 2001. Just a few week later, when September 11 happened, he was agonized that he had gotten out. I know he tried to re-up. I overheard him and my mom discussing it: "This is what I trained for! This is what I was supposed to do! I left two weeks too early."      "I know, J. But we have our son out there, and I don’t think I could handle it nearly as well if you were still out there, too."


**********


Given my family background (there are even more in the military), I suppose it’s only natural that in college and law school, I tended to gravitate towards the military people. The way one of my military friends (actually, one from grade school) put it was that I’m a civilian, so I am a nice break from military life, but I’m also military, so I always get it. You’re the best of both worlds, he told me when he came home from the Air Force Academy one summer. Everyone at the academy needs a friend like you. I told that to one of my ROTC friends in college. He laughed, and said you are easy to be around.


That was in 2004. It’s 2013, and he died this past week, in the sand.


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See also here and here and here.
You know how I said above that my nephew would someday do this, too? He graduated today from the US Naval Academy as a brand spanking new Marine. And so we continue, on and on. 

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Back To Ashes

Some days, I just want to burn it all down.

I've never edited this blog. If I made a typo while writing, and I didn't catch it before posting. I've left it. I sometimes cringe when I read them, but there it is. Life is imperfect and messy and we make mistakes that we can't undo. Sometimes I think I deleting all the past entries, except for the craniosynostosis entires. People still come in startling amounts to read those, so those will always stay, but the rest? I think about taking out my magic wand and pulling it all back.

But I won't.

Some days, I put my hands on the walls of my house and I can feel them towering over me, pulling me, sucking me down, keeping me grounded here. There's a part of me--a part a hate, a part I've learned to control through years of tedious effort--that feels the need to run. Oh, my life as it was--defined by a sheer phobia of commitment--is over. Although I feel the panic sometime, and tension, I've got too many years of therapy under belt. I know that's my irrational side calling.

I won't do it.

And yet.

There are things I could burn. I could, if I was brave enough to take the steps. A good burn, a cleansing one, burning part of the forest of my life to ashes, letting what used to be, letting the new, the creative, the things hiding beneath that I know are still there, somewhere--oh yes, letting all those things loose. Let them rise, reborn from the ashes.

I want to. Oh, I want to so badly that my eyes sting. I want to burn all the work I've done. I want to set fire to my career and all the education it took me to get there. I want to stand there and watch the flames and feel them warm my face and hold my arms up to the stars and scream with joy and freedom.

The rational side of me--that would be the dominant side of me--checks me so hard, and yanks me back with that chain called panic. I've got a good job. It pays. It's worthwhile. I help people. I've gotten good at it. I can move up in it, I can advance. But, oh, I do not love it. It's soul crushing; it's weeks of tedium interspersed with days of hot sheer panic, sprinkled with hours of conflict. But it's a job that's flexible, and it gives me purpose, and the people are wonderful.

There is no joy.

I've felt, for years now, this strange burning and bubbling. I can feel the old me there, the one with all the ideas, the one that wrote and read from dusk until dawn and dawn until dusk. The one that churned out piece after piece because she could not stop. I can feel it all there, like a well that's suddenly found its source again; it's deep, it's ignored, but it's there.

This is just one of those days. I just want to burn it all down and start anew. I suppose I'm too much of a coward to ever do it, and so I creep on, seeing flames only in my dreams.

Monday, December 21, 2015

A Rey of Light

SPOILERS: Caution! Here be (mild) Star Wars: The Force Awakens spoilers! But’s its only kind of about the movie.

I’ve talked about it before—I love science fiction. For many years, if you had asked me what first touched my interest, I would have answered Star Wars. I would have told you about how I walked into the television room at age 9, and saw my mom watching a movie, eating popcorn; how I asked her what it was, because I didn’t understand what I was seeing on the screen. I would have told you how she was surprised that she had never shown me Star Wars IV, and how she had me sit and finish watching the movie with her, and how I loved even the last 20 minutes. I would have told you how I came back the next night to watch Empire Strikes Back, and the next night to watch Return of the Jedi, and how it was all over after that—I watched and rewatched the movies, bought books, imagined myself as an x-wing pilot or a Jedi or a general with the Rebels. 

That’s all true, except I’ve realized over the years that I was well and truly primed to love science fiction by reading and loving Madeline L’Engle books. I just never identified them as such, but, oh, did they ever capture my imagination. I was ready to be captivated by Star Wars, and so I was. 

My fierce (and at times, rather desperate) love of these movies often made things a bit difficult for me. I was already an odd duck in school. I was smart, but I was also athletic; I loved weird things that only boys, if they knew about them at all, should love; I was awkward looking; I was too comfortable with adults, and too uncomfortable with my peers. I was That Kid, and I was harassed, verbally and physically, accordingly. Girls ridiculed my love of science fiction; boys got especially hostile that a girl was trying to invade “their” stuff. I ended up loving science fiction and Star Wars even more because I saw in it worlds where me being a smart girl who liked different things just didn’t matter.

It still left me with the definite notion though that I was a girl who was playing in a boy’s world. I was pretending to be an x-wing pilot, but there were no female pilots in the movie; I was pretending to be a Jedi, but there were no female Jedi. I was trying to be confident and badass, and at least I had Princess Leia, but hell, I knew I wasn’t beautiful like that, and I certainly didn’t have that kind of charisma at that age.

Obviously, I’ve grown as a person and as a lover of science fiction in all its genres. I can see now the racism and sexism problems in some science fiction, Star Wars included, that I didn’t see or understand when I was younger. But loving something, understanding its flaws, and despite those flaws is more sincere than the childish devotion I had, and so I do. I love it because it opened up worlds and possibilities to me, and I love it because sometimes it’s wrong, and I learned how to see and reject what was wrong.

So, when Vor asked if I wanted to play hooky and go see The Force Awakens, there was no question. We had both been getting more and more excited about the movie. I’ve had doubts about J.J. Abrams; I was really unhappy with his treatment of the basic building blocks of the Star Trek Universe, but I knew he had a deeper love of and reverence for Star Wars than he ever had for Star Trek. I was determined to avoid any spoilers; I only watched the trailers, I stayed away from social media, I avoided my usual internet sci-fi haunts, and so on. I went into this almost blind. I had a decent guess about the plot—that it would be a search for Luke Skywalker—but other than that, I was in the dark.

It became quickly apparent that Rey, the young woman, was going to be the new Force user, and presumably, the new Jedi. They called Leia “General.” There was a female pilot in an x-wing.

I was completely engrossed in the movie, in a way that I haven’t been in years. When it ended, I was surprised to discover a lump in my throat, and while I was excited, I also felt quiet. We got into the car to head home, and Vor enthused all the way. As we got close to home, he looked at me, questioning why I was so quiet. 

“I don’t think you can understand what it means to me—what it means to many women my age and older who love science fiction and Star Wars… Vor, that was my childhood dream and my childhood play, on the screen. I pretended to be a Jedi and an x-wing pilot, but there were no women in the movie doing that. And now there is! They’re right there! Just like I dreamt as a little kid!” I was almost crying, which might sound ridiculous to you, but imagine it in the light of all the shit I put up with as a kid, constantly defending my imagination, and now… it’s there, for everyone to see and love and do.

Vor smiled and reached over to hold my hand. “I know, because I know how happy I am for Lis, and for you. I think it means everything.”


And so it does.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Capital T, Rhymes with P, Stands For Partner

Yesterday was Vor's Christmas party.

I rented a very sparkly dress from Rent The Runway (fabulous, fabulous job. I'll review that later), and we stayed downtown, and we drank and danced and had fun. We actually saw each about not at all, because it was a big night for Vor and I, so we were constantly pulled in different directions, which is to say--

Vor made partner.

I... well. I don't know how we got here. I mean, I know. But he started there as a summer associated 9 years ago, before we were married, and here we are, both lawyers with a kid, and he's a partner, and his associates are like my baby chicks that I take in at Thanksgiving and other holidays, soothe when they need it, and try to generally to be kind and thoughtful. You know, like the other partners' spouses did for me and Vor.

It was a good party. It's a good thing. I'm just still processing it, but above all, I am proud of him, and I know how much we both did to get here.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Yule Be Jealous

Every year, the symphony orchestra in our town puts on a Yuletide show. It's definitely geared towards making children happy and entertained, but there's plenty to keep adults entranced as well.

Last year, it was--of course--a Frozen theme, with plenty of other Christmas carols and fun thrown in. At one point, Santa and his reindeer showed up. After Santa did his literal song and dance, he existed stage left. The audience was quiet as they watched Santa parade off the stage up through the aisle, enjoying the spectacle. As the music faded to a hush, Lis, then 2.75 years old, stood up on her seat and yelled at the top of her lungs: BYE SANTA! SEE YOU TOMORROW! BYE SANTA!!!!!!!!!

Well over half the symphony audience--and a large amount of the actually orchestra, burst out into laugher. I admit, it was rather hilarious.

Today, we get to go again. First we head to a dinner at A Very Exclusive Club (TM), a place that's normally a bit snooty, so I take particular joy in letting Lis press her nose to their windows which overlook the beautiful city center. I do try to wipe off the nose prints, though. I have a kid, not a puppy. Well, I have a puppy, but he's not coming to the Yuletide Celebration--

--speaking of which, have I mentioned that that selfsame dog ate three dozen gingernsnap cookies this week? Yes, indeed--

Ahem. Where was I? Yes, dinner, then over to theater for holiday activities (a live reindeer for children; spiked egg nog for parents), then the show.

I can only hope that Lis repeats her performance from last year.

I'm glad we are having this chill, fun weekend, because Vor leaves on a work trip bright and early on Monday, so I am flying solo for the rest of the week. Of course, it just happens to be a crazy week for me, running an all day CLE, then presenting at a conference in another county then next day, then a full day trial, and so on.

But it is indeed the Yuletide.

Friday, December 4, 2015

A Reckoning

I’m thinking about starting either a written fitness journal, or a fitness blog, to keep track of myself and keep myself accountable. Okay, less thinking, and more trying it out.

In October, I started feeling run down. I had actually been doing well up until then—steadily losing some weight, working out, eating well. Then I felt crappy and ate nothing but pasta and mashed potatoes. I stopped working out because I couldn’t breathe and I was so damn tired. I finally went to the doctor, and lo! I had gained more than ten pounds, and I had pneumonia. So, I haven’t been able to work out for more than two months. I ate like crap. I still struggle to get in a workout because I wheeze and cough and get so tired, but it’s getting better, slow but sure.

While I was at the doctor’s office, she raised her eyebrows at me, and I thought uh oh. Here it comes. The weight shaming. She gently reminded me that I had gestational diabetes, and that diabetes runs in my family. I need to lose weight. I need to have my sugar levels checked. I need to be better about going to the doctor. 

Truth be told, I have been deliberately avoiding seeing my GP because I didn’t want to have this conversation, have a blood draw, and have them tell me that I have issues. But maybe that’s what I need.

So, starting today, I am bringing myself to a reckoning.  It’s all being recorded. I’ll try both, online and written, and see which works better for me. I know I have to be gentle right now—it turns out that pneumonia is no joke—but I can get a start. I am giving myself three months, and then I am scheduling a doctor appointment for the inevitable blood draw. If I have an issue, I need to know. I need to give myself a chance to correct it, hopefully on my own, or with better living through chemistry. 


If you want to play along, I’m at https://gracebecomingfit.wordpress.com/ . I’ve got  a plan and goals.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

That Was Then

There are times when the girl I was is almost unrecognizable to the woman I am now.

Did I really stay with and plan to marry a man who asked me why I defied him when I cut my hair, or when I bought a pink pea coat? Did it really take until he threw me up against a wall as hard as he could until I saw what was happening? How did I not see how he had isolated me from everyone who cared about me, and everything I cared about?

Was I really a person who only thought what my parents told me to think? Did I really not have any independent beliefs of my own? Was I really such a parrot for all their beliefs, both religious and political? Did I really repeat all those unkind things they taught me? And if I did—and I did—can those people I hurt by saying all that ever forgive me?

I can’t help but believe—no, I know—that these two sets of questions are incredibly intertwined. I was taught that certain types of people—women, gay people, for example—were less than others. Even when that applied to me, I acted accordingly. 

Ironically, my parents, being educators, were very intent on giving me an education, despite everything else. True it was an isolated education—I went to Catholic grade school, and Catholic high school, and then a Catholic college—but it was an education. You can’t help but be exposed to different people and ideas, no matter how controlled the environment. High school was the first time I had ever even met anyone who had different skin color than me, and it was certainly the fist time I ever made such friends. It was certainly the first time I ever made friends with an out gay person. Then came college, where I learned about social issues, injustice, and real history, not whitewashed history; where I had professors who asked questions with no good answer, no get to answer, but get us to think for ourselves. 

It meant I started to consider becoming something other than a woman who would marry the first man who would ask, so that I could have lots of children and stay home with them. If that’s the life you want, then that’s the life you should pursue, with all your heart; but if it isn’t, then don’t. I began to realize I was in the “don’t” category. God forbid, I took on a women’s studies minor, and wrote a thesis on the evolution of creation myths to eliminate women, or at least, rewrite their roles. My parents shook their heads. I went to law school, which was fine, since I wasn’t married. I got married and became a lawyer, which was fine, since I didn’t have children. Then I had a child, and nothing was fine—why wasn’t I at home with me child, in my God-given role?

Education taught me that I could be more than what I was told I would be. If you think, for a moment, that your children don’t hear your voice ringing in their ears even years later, you are kidding yourself. I can still hear my parents telling me that women had to stay home and run the house and take care of the children, because that was the way God wanted it, and that was what worked best for everyone. But education showed me otherwise; that it was not true for all.

Education taught me that perhaps it wasn’t God that wanted women to be submissive, even in the face of physical abuse; maybe it was a male centric system. Education showed me that hating people for a skin color or a sexual orientation wasn’t what God wanted, but rather, what a particular subset of society wanted.

I told me parents recently that my political beliefs, my career, my life—it was all a logical consequence of how they raised me. I think it says a lot on how they’ve mellowed that it didn’t immediately make them sad or angry, but rather, reflective. Sure, they wish I was still Catholic, and they wish I stayed home with Lis. But they’ve also seen the good I do, both with my family, and in the community, and they are proud of that. I don’t think they would change anything, even the education they gave to me.

But, oh. Looking back at the girl I was is so painful. I want to tell her that she is worth more. I want to tell her not to hate blindly. I want to go back and apologize; I’ve been able to do that for some, but for others, I can’t. I can only try to pay it forward. 


I would never go back, and I would never change a thing, even the parts that cause me pain now.  I seek to grow outward, to encompass and learn, while still knowing myself. Through pain, struggle, joy and education we grow, and I would be afraid of making myself smaller.  Never again.