#yesallwomen

If you aren’t on Twitter, or if you were off of Twitter over the weekend, you missed an incredibly important conversation. In the aftermath of the killing spree at UCSB, thousands of women (and some men) took to the social media platform to talk about misogyny, using the hashtag #yesallwomen.

I’m not usually one to get involved in these Twitter hashtag trends. I will read through ones I feel are interesting or thought provoking. Yet, #yesallwomen felt different for me.

It felt personal.

Tweet after tweet from women across the world described what life is like to grow up a woman, to be treated differently from a man, and to raise young women. These messages were absolutely mind blowing. If words can be heartbreaking and inspiring at one time, that’s what these were.

I read horror stories about women who were assaulted, attacked, and/or demeaned. I read about women who were reprimanded or fired at school or their workplaces for the way they dressed. I read the fears of mothers and fathers who are raising young girls in a world where we teach them not to get raped, instead of teaching young boys to respect women. I read about women who don’t receive adequate healthcare, women who aren’t paid as equals, and women who still aren’t entitled to an education simply because they are women.

I also read the responses — some of which only served to enforce the original message. Most of these came from men who felt it was okay to hide behind their anonymous handles and bully women who were so willing and vulnerable in sharing their stories. However, I don’t want to focus on these people. I want to write about the women, instead — these brave, strong females who put themselves out there on behalf of a greater cause. That is what’s most important.

We hear a lot about how damaging social media can be. We talk about the negativity it brings out in some and the harm that it can cause. What we don’t talk about are movements like this: how social media can bring us together in ways we never dreamed were possible. How many of us felt comfortable talking about our experiences with sexual assault before now? Probably not many. I know I certainly didn’t. Yet, seeing other women speak up and share their experiences made me that much more willing to share mine.

I also know that there are still thousands of women out there who didn’t speak out about their experiences as a woman. They can’t because they are being abused or living in a culture or community of oppression. They can’t because they simply don’t feel comfortable. Whatever the case, you are strong, too, and your voice (though silenced) does not go unheard.

It made my stomach turn to read many of the tweets, but it also made me realize: none of us are alone. I think this is why a number of us felt called to share our experiences and to validate the ones of others. Each of these stories, while painful, reminded us of something in our past or something we worry about for the future. Each tweet felt as if we were looking in a mirror or reading a diary of our lives. It was terrifying and awe inspiring to see the experiences we share.

It’s clear that there is so much work left to be done, and I think this was a fantastic way to start it. For every one, nasty response to the hashtag, I saw at least two responses from men who were appreciative and understanding of the conversation. I saw women reach out to one another in hopes of connecting over their grief. This is why, ultimately, reading these stores left me feeling proud to be a woman. At the end of the day, I didn’t go to bed afraid for my future or the future of my daughter. Instead, I fell asleep feeling grateful for each and every one of you — whether you spoke or stayed silent. Your strength is not lost on me, and I certainly hope that it isn’t lost on the men who needed to hear the message.

six

Six years ago today, I said “I do” to the love of my life. We stood up in a church, in front of about 80 family members, friends, and loved ones, and we made promises to one another. Promises to have and to hold. Promises to love and cherish. Promises to “accept children lovingly from God.”

Much has changed since then. I think if you’d told either of us back then where we would be in our lives now, we would have laughed and told you that you were certifiably insane.

Most of our relationship has been like this, though, so it should come as no surprise. At the age of sixteen, I walked into a Pacific Sunwear on my first day of work. I had no idea that my manager — the man who stood there and told me to fold jeans for four hours — would eventually be my husband. I had no idea that he would, two years later, visit me with a mutual friend at college and I would (in a drunken pile of tears, at a bar) confess that I had feelings for him. I had no idea that he would propose to me almost four years later in front of Cinderella’s Castle.

And I certainly had no idea that when we stood on that altar six years ago today, we would go down the wild path we’ve been on since that point in time: various moves, infertility treatments, adoption, and parenting.

It hasn’t been easy. Far from it. Sometimes, I look back and wonder how we ever survived some of what we’ve been through. Yet, this is how it was (or is) supposed to be. I don’t know why so much of what experience is a struggle. People would probably use phrases like “everything happens for a reason” or “you’re stronger for it.” Maybe, but that doesn’t make me love either of those sayings any more. Things happened because they happened — and I can’t imagine having them happen with anyone else but Joey.

We hit speed bumps, and we keep going. This is what we do together. Hand in hand, we walk through all of the messes that come our way, and we always manage to make it out on the other side — our spirits (relatively) intact.

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There is no one in the world I would rather have by my side through all of this than him. He keeps me moving forward. He keeps me balanced. He is more than just my husband. He’s the best dad. He’s the best friend. He’s the anchor that holds this family down. Happy anniversary, Joey. Thank you for all that you do and for all that you will do as we move ahead and face more crazy adventures together.

when i look at you

Sometimes, when I look at you, I can hardly remember what it was like to hold you in my arms. Not hold you in the way that I do today, with your arms wrapped around my neck and your legs around my waist — struggling at some points to keep you hoisted up. Instead, it’s hard for me to remember the way that it used to be, where I could hold you with one arm against my body and rock you effortlessly.

Sometimes, when I look at you, I forget what those moments in the NICU were like. The ones where I constantly Googled what diseases or ailments you could end up with several years down the road. The ones where I wondered and worried about your future. Now that we’re here, it feels like a lifetime ago you were screaming in your incubator while I stood on the other side of the glass, helpless.

Sometimes, when I look at you, I can’t see how little you still are compared to your big personality — until I see other kids your age at the park or at school. I realize in those moment that you are still tiny in size despite the boldness you show with every personal interaction.

Sometimes, when I look at you, I forget that I didn’t carry you. That you are not my blood. Not out of disrespect for your birth mother (whom we love dearly and who is always on our minds), but out of simple realization that you are very much like us. That you were made for this family, and that I can’t imagine having another child — a different child — who isn’t you.

But every time, when I look at you, I feel alive. It doesn’t matter what’s happened that day or that week. Nothing else matters but you. Nothing else matters but being your mom and loving you with all of my heart.

There is never a moment where I forget this.

oh, Shutterfly

I woke up this morning to this:

shutterfly

Thankfully, it wasn’t in my email inbox. However, it was in the email inbox of a number of women I know who are not expecting. In fact, many of them are infertile and some are living child free by choice. A few have experienced miscarriage.

Not a great way to start the day.

Agitated, I ventured briefly onto Shutterfly’s Facebook page to see if they’d apologized for the error. They hadn’t. Instead, I found a few more complaints from women who were hurt by the message, and — unfortunately, but not surprising — messages from a number of women telling the offended group to “relax.” And, “it’s not a big deal.” “I’m sure they didn’t mean it.”

Of course they didn’t mean it. People (companies) make mistakes. They couldn’t possibly have known that Sally from Indiana had just experienced a miscarriage, or whatever the case might be. That’s not the point. The point is that they owe the group of women who were hurt a sincere apology. They can’t undo the action. Accidentally sending that email? It’s done. They can’t take it back. They can, however, try to empathize with the women it so deeply affected.

The organization I work for holds a number of workshops that discuss different aspects of inclusion. I enjoy attending these, and should probably write about them in-depth at some point. However, right now, I am reminded of the last couple of sessions that focused on implicit bias. We all know there are crazy people in this world who are outwardly discriminatory toward others; yet, I’ve learned that these individuals are actually the “minority” when we talk about those who exhibit bias. The truth is, most people don’t even realize that they are treating certain groups differently, and they often deny it when it’s pointed out — because it’s simply hard to see.

I think you could apply this point to a number of traits that people portray, and we did during our workshops (because bias isn’t just about race). In many cases, individuals aren’t intending to insult others or make them feel like lesser citizens due to one difference or another. They simply aren’t educated, and education is the most important gateway to understanding these differences and becoming aware of how you may be unintentionally treating someone whose experience you don’t share.

This is my number one issue with those who offend the ALI community. Most of the offenses are not done on purpose. I realize this. Very few people maliciously set out to attack women who can’t have or who have lost children. However, they don’t take the time to empathize with them or to look at the situation from a different angle. They simply take their experiences and they apply it across the board. “Oh, I wasn’t offended; therefore, that person shouldn’t be, either.”

Each of us has a unique journey. That journey is both based on who we are (our race, culture, gender, religious upbringing, etc.) and what we have experienced in our lives. Today, Shutterfly was insensitive to some of these journeys, as were those who responded in their defense.

Someday, I would love to see a world where we truly understand and embrace the meaning of empathy. I would love to see us grasp the idea that, although we never can truly relate to other’s life journeys, we can certainly do our best to make them feel as if they, and their feelings, are as valid as our own. I don’t know that this will ever happen in my lifetime. It certainly won’t happen today. So, perhaps for now, I just would like Shutterfly to issue an apology. I want them to apologize with the realization that, while they didn’t intend to hurt anyone with their message, they did. I want them to own it, and then I want them to use this as an opportunity to educate both themselves and others on the importance of respecting everyone’s unique journey.

spring in seattle

We are now in the middle of May and the temperature is still inconsistent in Seattle. For example, we spent the weekend in the 50s with little sunshine. This week, it will be close to 80 degrees and sunny every day. And then, we repeat the cool, cloudy weather over the weekend. Regardless, we are still getting out of the house and exploring almost every weekend. The thing I’ve learned about living here is that if you let the clouds or rain keep you indoors, you may never go outside.

Aside from the cherry blossoms, we’ve done a couple of other “iconic Seattle” things this spring. One was the Skagit Tulip Festival about one hour north of the city, in a town called Mt. Vernon. I love tulips, and I insisted we go and check it out. Joey wasn’t too sure about driving all that way to see tulips, but I think he agrees now that it was worth the adventure.

tulips

tulips 2

I also had a chance to visit Alki Beach that same day, my first venture to West Seattle and to a west coast beach. Talk about some amazing views of the Olympics and the city skyline.

Olympics

seattle

We’ve yet to take a ferry ride or spot an Orca, but both are on our “to do” list. (I did spot a sea lion on our beach trip, though, which was amazing!)

Last, but certainly not least, we took K to see her first baseball game. I like baseball. I don’t typically watch it on TV because it puts me to sleep, but I love going to a game and experiencing a day at the ballpark. I was nervous how a toddler who has little to no patience would deal with a game that can last for hours, but she handled it well. We arrived at the park about 30 minutes before the game started and we made it through the 7th inning. The weather was beautiful, to boot.

safeco

Our only foul? Taking K to meet the mascot.

moose

Not. a. fan.

Next time, we’ll save her from the trauma of interacting with the Mariner Moose.