Friday, January 26, 2018

Top Ten Cranberries' Songs.

I am still processing the sudden death of Dolores O'Riordan this month.

The Cranberries, and in particular the entirety of the No Need to Argue album, compose so much of my childhood psyche that listening through all these songs on the list I'm about to make transported me immediately back to my bedroom with my navy walls and my sunflower bedspread. I had the first two albums on cassette, and To the Faithful Departed was the first CD I ever owned. I think my sister bought it for me for Christmas. I'm sure all three were adorned with a square navy and white lifetime guarantee sticker from The Wall at the Viewmont Mall. O'Riordan's voice was so haunting and Irish and weird and from a world so different from my own, but it struck right into my soul anyway.

Here are ten songs that I knew by heart when I brought them up on Spotify, even if I hadn't listened to them in years.

10. Free to Decide

I'll live as I choose
Or I will not live at all 

This is the most vanilla of all the songs on my list. But you can't help but root for a catchy pop song that has And I'm not so suicidal after all as one of its main refrains.

9. I Just Shot John Lennon

He should have stayed at home
He should have never cared
And the man who took his life declared
He said, I just shot John Lennon

I love all the fast, punchy, bizarre songs that dotted To the Faithful Departed. This one was on my work-out mixes for years. In so many Cranberries' songs, it's impossible to decipher what O'Riordan is actually singing about, but this one is about exactly what the title says. Which makes it even more perfect and weird.

8. Dreaming My Dreams

All the things you said to me today
Changed my perspective in every way

Everyone's favorite gauzy 1990s teenage dream of a hymn.

7. I Can't Be With You

I wanted to be the mother of your child
And now it's just farewell

One of the happiest sounding songs on one of the best breakup albums of all time. Even though it's not happy at all. Of course.

6. Empty

Didn't you see me?
Didn't you hear me?
Didn't you see me standing there?
Why did you turn out the lights?
Did you know that I was sleeping?

The piano notes at the beginning of this song are etched into my memory, along with the way she stretches and repeats the long vowel at the end of "empty," the inverse of those eh, eh, ehs in the chorus of "Zombie." This is one of those songs I would listen to on repeat (get up, press pause, rewind) while laying on my bed and staring into space, practicing my best Angela Chase.

5. Salvation

To all those people doing lines
Don't do it
Don't do it
Inject your soul with liberty
It's free
It's free

The ridiculousness of this song. It is so good.

4. Daffodil Lament

I have decided to leave you forever
I have decided to start things from here
Thunder and lightning won't change what I feel
And the daffodils look lovely today
And the daffodils look lovely today
Look lovely today

This weird ass song begins dark and dreary and foreboding, a continuation of the previous track, the most bleakly named "Yeats' Grave," and seemingly ends with O'Riordan's desperate plea of "I can't sleep here." But then! It bursts into a weightless feeling light, and she launches into the verse above. And my melodramatic self loved this transition so much that I created my "daffodilly" moniker from it that I then used on all my Angelfire and Geocities websites and AIM and ICQ screen names. It is, only semi-embarrassingly, still my Twitter handle.

3. Linger

But it's just your attitude
It's tearing me apart
It's ruining everything

Sometimes I feel like "Dreams" steals all the air of our '90s Cranberries nostalgia, and we all forget about this first single from Everybody Else Is Doing It, So Why Can't We? And it is SO. DAMN. GOOD. 

2. Ode to My Family

Unhappiness, where's when I was young 
And we didn't give a damn
'Cause we were raised to see life as fun
And take it if we can

The opener of No Need to Argue, those first do-do-dos bring me actual chills. GAHHHHH DOES ANYONE CARE? Her father. He liked her. :(

1. Dreams

Oh my life
Is changing every day
Every possible way

Yeah, it deserves to be number one, now and always. It steals our nostalgia air for a reason. It is four minutes of perfection. I will love it forever.

Rest well, Dolores. And thank you.

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Goals, 2018 Style.

While I fully understand why some people swear off new year's resolutions, I've always been aight with them. I mean, they're pretty much just goals, and I like goals. Goals are generally good, unless they are focused on weight or food in an unhealthy way, and unless you are really mean to yourself about them. Goals are there to give you purpose, not to torture yourself over.

2018 is going to be a big year. There are a lot of things I'm excited for, but the following are five of the most personal. Here are the things I am going to not-torture myself over! 

5. Run Five 5Ks.

Fury & me after the Run to Resist 5K to benefit the Immigrant &
Refugee Community Organization (IRCO) in Portland last spring.

I know I said goals shouldn't be about weight or food, but they can be about things that make you feel good. Running a 5K isn't easy for me, but it makes me feel good. 

4. Finish reading The Warmth of Other Suns.

This book is a mammoth one, and it's been sitting on my side table forever, my bookmark stuck at 150 pages in or so. It is going to take some serious time commitment, but I swear, I will finish it this year! I CAN DO IT.

3. Join a local hiking community.

Last year, I got super into watching hiking videos on YouTube, which made me feel like a real millennial because previously I never watched much of anything on YouTube. Finally, I can relate to my students! Anyway, I also started following the Instagram Unlikely Hikers, and other Instagrams/online communities like it. And from the moment I found them, I thought: my people! Because those YouTube hikers I follow, while I love watching their videos, are skinny and fit AF. And that's just never going to be me, y'all. And who you are and what your body is really does affect your hiking experience, just like who you are and what your body is affects everything you do in the world.

The girl who runs Unlikely Hikers, Jenny Bruso, is based out of Portland, and often leads group hikes where anyone who feels like they are unlikely to be seen in the outdoor world--people of color, queer people, fat people, disabled people--are welcome. I've never gone on a group hike full of strangers before, and honestly the idea freaks me out a bit. Part of the reason I like hiking is the solitary nature of it. BUT, I'm going to do it this year, and hopefully make some connections and friendships. 

My long-term goal with this is that I'll find some other fat people that I can eventually plan some more backpacking trips with, and maybe even some trips on the PCT with. Cliff, who has slogged through 200 miles of the PCT with me, is a great hiking partner for me emotionally and socially, but physically I will never be on his level, even though he is supremely patient with me. He is also dealing with some injuries of his own this year. Either way, finding more hiking friends is a goal because I want to continue doing long distance hiking. And I do believe doing it solo just isn't safe, even though I'm all about the female empowerment. I've just been out there, man. Anything can happen.

Going out and meeting brand new people, while doing a vulnerable thing like exercising, is definitely outside of my comfort zone, so we'll see how this one goes.

2. Work Stuff: New Libraries! ALA!

My work life is undergoing some big changes in the next two years. Sorry not sorry to talk about work! It's a big chunk of my life. Both of the libraries where I currently work will be going byebye at the end of this school year. One will be transitioning to a brand new library; the other will be transitioning to a much smaller space while another new library is under construction. This transition will include a lot of physical moving and change, but also involve me teaching two new grades in addition to the six grades I currently oversee. It will also involve even more decision making on my part about where I'm going in the future. It is...a lot! In an exciting but also bittersweet way. It will require a lot of leadership on my part to make sure the direction of my libraries and my job stays on the course I want them to go.

Also on a professional note, I'll be attending an American Library Association conference for the first time ever this year, for four days in February in Denver! Supreme nerd alert! I have an Airbnb booked and a lineup of authors and events I want to see, and I am PUMPED. Hopefully this experience will be fun and rewarding and not stressful and overwhelming! 

1. Welcome a foster child into our life.

I wrote a blog post in October called Starting a Family: Take One. Applying to be foster parents is Kathy and my Take Two. While I was able to be as graphic as I wanted in that Take One blog post because it was about my own body, I'm honestly not sure how much I'll be able to write on here about this fostering journey, because of privacy and safety concerns for any children we get to meet and love. 

But undoubtedly, it's the biggest journey we'll take this year. It may be the biggest journey we've taken together, ever. And with each step, I feel more rooted to our decision, more sure that it's the right one for us. But there are a lot more steps for us to take. 

And unlike having a biological kid, or even taking a more traditional adoption route, where this journey ends up is completely uncertain. I mean, there are uncertainties with any child, but with fostering, we honestly have no idea what kind of child, or children, we'll be entrusted to take care of: what age, what gender, what background, what level of trauma. But I'm open and optimistic. I have so much to say about this whole thing but don't know how to say it! The gif wraps it up, pretty much. But hopefully at some point this year, after all our classes and interviews and paperwork, we'll be as ready as we can be.

Come at me, 2018! Hopefully you don't end in nuclear war. If you don't, I'll do my best to make you awesome.

Favorite Books 2017: Second Half.

See my fave books from the first half of the year here! I'm glad I was able to split it up this way this year because remembering what you read months ago is hard. Hopefully next year, I'll be able to give my thoughts every quarter, because then I'll REALLY (kind of) know what I'm talking about. 

10. The Mothers, Brit Bennett
Realistic Fiction; Adult
Riverhead 2016

The Mothers deals with secrets, abortion, families, and the complexities of female relationships in a small town. Like a lot of adult "literary fiction" I read, I found this supremely depressing. But it was so well written and well done, and full of enough compassion and heart, that in the end I was still able to enjoy it. (When literary fiction lacks the compassion and heart part, I often want to scream WHAT IS THE POINT.) The chorus of the elder women in the town that helps structure this story was one of my favorite parts.

9. Lock and Key, Sarah Dessen
Realistic Fiction; Young Adult
Viking 2008

I read three Sarah Dessen books this year, and this was my favorite. (Although Along for the Ride, on my first list this year, is a close second. Her newest release, Once and for All, was the third, and I sadly wasn't as big a fan.) I still have a full Sarah Dessen blog post in me where I'll get to the particulars about why I enjoy her books. But I will say that like almost ALL of her book covers, I think this one is awful and totally unrepresentative of this book.

8. Badass Ladies Books
Non-Fiction; Middle Grade/Young Adult

Bad Girls Throughout History, Ann Shen
Chronicle Books 2016
Rad Women Worldwide, Kate Schatz & Miriam Klein Stahl
Ten Speed Press 2016
Women in Science: 50 Fearless Pioneers Who Changed the World, Rachel Ignotofsky
Ten Speed Press 2016

The last few years have brought a plethora of kick-ass collective biographies about kick-ass ladies, all done with distinctive, fascinating, most excellent artwork. Some of the ladies included in the collections I read this year overlapped between books, but all of the books included women I had never heard of before, all of whom had done interesting, important things. 

I savored each of these a page or two at a time, interspersed throughout all the other books I was reading. (I did a lot of reading-multiple-books-at-once this year, a practice I don't necessarily condone, but it worked great for these.) I can't wait to read Rachel Ignotofsky's new release about women in sports, and Ann Shen's upcoming 2018 release about 100 goddesses. I also got to meet Ann Shen in 2017, which was neat! Meeting talented, inspiring people is my favorite.

7. Hunger, Roxane Gay
Memoir; Adult
HarperCollins 2017

I got to see Roxane speak at Powell's this year while she was promoting Hunger, an event which I enjoyed as much as actually reading this book. Dealing with rape and body image and mental health, this memoir is brutal and raw and real. And enraging and heartbreaking. But in the midst of all the hard stuff, she's still able to infuse this book with her dry wit and humor that makes everyone, including me, love her so much. Her writing is always succinct and straightforward, and it's particularly unrelenting here, which makes it both easy and hard to read all at once.

6. The Blackthorn Key, Kevin Sands
Mystery; Middle Grade
Aladdin 2015

The Blackthorn Key is an old time-y London mystery full of apothecaries and secret codes and murder and running through dark cobble-stoned streets. And honestly, I didn't think I would enjoy it as much as I did. I have to be in a particular mood for old time-y London stories. But this one was so fun and well-done. And when the action really started twisting and turning about halfway through, I couldn't put it down. Upper elementary and middle school kids should LOVE this. I know high schoolers who have loved it, too! Really, whatever middle school kids love, high schoolers will love, too. High school kiddos ask me for stuff like Fablehaven all the dang time. We should stop underestimating teens' capacity for fun and imagination.

5. Illuminae, Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff
Science Fiction; Young Adult
Knopf 2015

This was one of the weirdest, most interesting books I've ever read, not necessarily for the plot alone, but how it was all told. If you have kids who are into science fiction, or technology related fiction, or artificial intelligence, or space, they will love this book. There's a lot of action and a lot of moving parts. But those moving parts are literally moving parts: this story is told as if it's a big case file that future historians are studying. Pieces of the case file include texts, testimonies, emails, programming, transmissions, just...all kinds of stuff. This is cool, but also very confusing at first, so it takes a while to start putting all the pieces together. And even then, there are a lot of questions. But after I got used to it, I was hooked.

4. All Rise for the Honorable Perry T. Cook, Leslie Connor
Realistic Fiction; Middle Grade
Katherine Tegen Books 2016

Perry T. Cook is a boy who has spent his entire life (outside of school) growing up inside a prison. He's not a prisoner himself, but his mom is, and a special warden has made the special arrangement so that mother and child can grow up together. That is, until a new district attorney gets wind of the story and takes Perry away. This was a storyline I had never read before, and I loved every charming minute of it. You grow quickly attached to both Perry and all the unique personalities and stories that exist within the prison, turning the question of who the "good guys" are on its head. Which is the kind of thing I always love.

3. Red Queen, Victoria Aveyard
Fantasy; Young Adult
HarperTeen 2015

This has been a big YA release for a while, but I never had much interest in it because I feel like it got some weird reviews when it was released, and honestly, I only have so much room in my brain for so many bloody, royalty themed YA fantasy series. But! Alas, this is a Young Readers' Choice Award nominee this year, an award I promote heavily at my libraries, so I had to give it a shot. And I got totally sucked into it. In fact, I even picked up the sequel immediately after finishing it, and loved that, too. I'm even going to read the third book next! This is shocking because I am supremely bad at following through with series. If I actually make it past the first book of your series, you should feel special.

Even though this one is pretty violent, and even though you sometimes question the choices and morality of the protagonist, I still find it engaging enough to enjoy, as opposed to a book like The Young Elites, which I also read this year, and which was just way too much for me. (Not too much for teens, though. They can always take more dark stuff than I can.)

2. Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, Gail Honeyman
Realistic Fiction/Romance; Adult
Pamela Dorman Books 2017

This book, on the other hand, is not violent at all. Okay, well, no, maybe that's not true. There is violence in this story. But everything about this book made me feel warm and happy-sad and sad-happy and good. This is also the rare book written for adults that I didn't find overwhelmingly depressing, probably because it's a love story. But the love story is secondary, I think, to the story of Eleanor Oliphant herself. And Eleanor is one of my favorite characters I've met in a long time. And I'll keep her with me for a long time, too.

1. Evicted, Matthew Desmond
Non-Fiction; Adult
Crown 2016

The best non-fiction book I read this year, Evicted is a gut punch. It is depressing and enraging and frustrating. It is also so amazingly well crafted. Like all of the best non-fiction, it takes a larger issue and tells it through the story of relate-able, exceedingly human people. The financial stress of living in an ever popular, ever gentrifying Portland is a big part of my life. I'm at the point in my life where I vault between reveling in the fantasy of owning a house someday and the reality of knowing it won't be able to happen for us, barring a financial miracle, for at least twenty years, or maybe, never. But reading this book wiped away any sorry-for-myself feelings I've had, and made abundantly clear that there are even more ruthless and unfair cycles of debt that I could be entrapped in than the ones I already am, cycles of debt and poverty that so many Americans are living in every day. Not even living, really. Surviving. Somehow. And as housing prices continue to soar all across the country, ever more disproportionate to incomes, I don't know if there will be a breaking point the nation has to reckon with. Because as the stories in Evicted show, I feel like we've already reached one, or multiple ones, and no one seems to care.

What a cheery note to end this list on! But seriously, Matthew Desmond's book is both exceedingly well reported and well written. I was blown away.

Taking into account the 10 books I mentioned from the first six months of the year in addition to these 12 (since I squeezed in two extra with the badass lady books), here's the breakdown of these 22 best reads from 2017:

Type of books:
Non-Fiction (Adult): 3
Non-Fiction (Young Adult): 3
Graphic Novel (Fiction): 1
Fiction: 15
Middle Grade: 9
Young Adult: 8
Adult: 5
I'm pretty happy with this breakdown. It's a good mix of what I should be reading for my job and my kiddos, as well as a decent amount of books I read just for me.

Book diversity:
POC (person of color) Main Character/Subject: 10
POC Author: 6
This is not bad, but could obviously be better. The author one is always a tough, imprecise data point for me, because I don't always know the exact background of all the authors I read. But I do think keeping track of it as best I can is worthwhile, as is keeping track of all this stuff. If you don't think so, spend some more time following the work of We Need Diverse Books.
Female Main Character/Subject: 14
Female Author: 16 
LGBTQ Main Character/Subject: 2
LGBTQ Author: 2
Clearly, I have fallen WAY behind in my queer reading, especially since a few years ago, that was the majority of what I read. And especially because there have been so many stellar queer and trans YA releases over the last few years. I'll up my game in 2018, I promise.

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Fave Seven: Fall 2017.

Christmas is two days away. It's in the 30s outside, and has been for weeks. I'm plotting my resolutions for 2018. But for just a hot second, I'm going to take a step back and remember Fall 2017. Because while I'm okay (sometimes) at documenting summer, I'm especially bad at documenting everything that happens in my life during the school year. 

And while this school year has been pretty epic so far, regular life has been, too. And even though our political world is a fiery hellscape, it's okay to still enjoy the moments of your life that are good. And there was a lot of good in my world this year. Here are the top moments of the last few months, that I couldn't narrow down to just five.

7. Camping Trip at the Coast

While this summer was excellent, one of the things we felt it lacked was adequate trips to the coast. So we took a trip in September, for a night of camping at Cape Lookout. This weekend was particularly memorable because it was the first time Kathy and I felt brave enough to let Fury off leash at the beach. She was a notorious escape artist in our early days of owning her, and she is a fast little bugger, three legs and all. Plus, in the past we've never had dogs friendly enough to be let off leash, so the concept is new to us. Also, we are generally rule abiding, nervous people. But especially with her best friend Tegan at her side, she was perfect. We sat on the beach long enough to watch the sun set and these two had the time of their lives.

It was also the first time we had gone tent camping with the dogs, and the first time I attempted to do some fancier camp cooking than hot dogs and s'mores. The dogs did great, my camp cooking skills, not so much. But it's fine, because hot dogs and s'mores are awesome and will continue to be so on all future camping trips!

The second day of this trip was marred a bit by Tegan rolling herself in a decaying seal carcass on the beach in the morning, making everything that she touched, like us and our belongings and the car, smell like decaying seal carcass for the rest of the day. It wasn't great. But that first day on the beach was!

6. Hanson

If you had told me twenty years ago that I'd still be seeing Hanson in concert today and still having a blast at said concerts....yeah, I probably would have believed you.

In addition to this concert, Hanson came out with a new Christmas album this year. What a world!

5. Fun Home

Manda scored us tickets this fall to Fun Home at the Armory. The Armory is one of my favorite places in Portland. Just being there makes me feel so fancy and cultured. We had all already spent hours of our lives listening to "Ring of Keys" and crying in our cars, but we had never seen the production in person. I was blown away by all the actors, but especially the kids, one of whom we saw getting dropped off by his mom on the sidewalk outside the theater before the show. Like he was just getting dropped off for a friend's sleepover. Totally normal kid thing to do.

We are so lucky to have Alison Bechdel, and I am so lucky to have seen this.

4. YQY Tour

We saw Phoebe Robinson & Ilana Glazer at Revolution Hall, one of the hippest places I have ever been, on a Friday night. While I love my job, like most people at their jobs, I have to be a somewhat restrained version of myself there. Sitting high up in the balcony of Revolution Hall with a drink in my hand, laughing my ass off to these two badass feminist babes, was one of the most freeing Friday nights I've ever had. I felt happy, blissfully in the moment, and just truly myself. It is so comforting to be surrounded by a crowd of people who share the same vision of the world as you do. 

I didn't get any good shots of the show, but I did take the above photo in the bathroom afterwards, which is just as good.

3. Vancouver Trip

I am always up for a trip to Vancouver, a city that actually feels diverse and cosmopolitan in comparison to its two biggest American neighbor cities to the south (that's us, Portland and Seattle). I am also always up for a trip to Canada in general, where things are in meters and liters and there's a lot of French and you can get British candy bars in the grocery stores, and you can comfort yourself knowing you're in the land of Trudeau! Listen, progressive Canadians, I know you have some problems with Trudeau, but as a citizen currently being led by that other guy I refuse to name on here who is leading the entire world toward its downfall, I legit do not care.

Anyway, this trip was especially fun because we were going to see an international lady soccer game for the first time ever! A friendly between USA and Canada at BC Place. Of course, we almost didn't get there because I didn't realize my passport was expired until the morning we were leaving. Whoooops! But luckily, the people who work at the Seattle Passport Agency are in fact SAINTS. Even the security guards were nice. Not everything in the USA is awful!

My verdict about the game was that Thorns games are way more fun. #ClubOverCountry, but, would do again. We also got to walk over a new (to us) suspension bridge, visit a sweet 1970s style conservatory, go to a fancy hibachi restaurant for the first time, drink the worst iced tea of my life at the weirdest Dutch restaurant, and play board games with Ash and Ilea at our odd yet enjoyable Airbnb. All in all, not a shabby way to spend a weekend.

2. Ash & Kelly Gettin' Hitched

I have never been to a wedding where the toasts went on SO LONG. I have also never been to a wedding where I loved EVERY SINGLE SECOND OF THEM more. The outpouring of love for these two broads was just so palpable and 100% relate-able. I felt honored to be a part of this goddamn beautiful wedding. And getting to see friends like Meredith and Zoe whom we hadn't seen in too long was so fantastic and just necessary. 

I had never hung out much in the Georgetown area of Seattle where the wedding was held, and I loved it. I loved our hotel and laughing way too hard with the entire Moran family the night before. The whole wedding felt close to the epic-ness of my own family weddings. Because these people are family. Also, HAM SALAD. 

1. Thorns.

I don't know if you know, but the Portland Thorns won the NWSL Championship this year. Hahaha, it's funny because anyone who knows me at all would know this because I COULDN'T SHUT UP ABOUT IT. The Thorns were so much of my 2017. They deserve their own blog entry, an entry I've been writing in my head for a few years now, but to accurately capture what they mean to me feels daunting at this point. 

We watched the championship game at the official viewing party at Punch Bowl Social, and it was a mess because they were so unprepared for how many people showed up. When will people stop underestimating women's soccer? But by the end of the game I didn't care. I was so full of happiness I could burst. We welcomed the team at the airport the next day. We went to the official celebration at Providence Park the next night, even if it was appropriated by Timbers fans. But the best moment was the moment when they won, when everyone in the bar screamed, and little boys and old ladies alike all danced and high fived.

This year was special, and it's heartbreaking knowing it was the last with Nadim and Henry, and that it was the season we said goodbye to Shim. Hopefully, as next season gets closer, we won't lose anyone else. But the future players who are inspired by this team, and the future of a league that's inspired by our attendance numbers and loyalty, that's only going to get better and better. I can't wait for it. PTFC, BAON, RCTID.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Starting a Family: Take One.

Earlier this year, my wife Kathy and I decided to finally embark on the quest of starting a family. (Beyond the one we already have, of course, full of animals and friends and loved ones.) While we are still just scraping by financially, as we probably always will be, we both have steady jobs and an extra bedroom in our apartment. We love where we live. The there is never a perfect time to start a family advice friends had given us was starting to feel legit. 

(Although I will say that while this statement is true on the surface, for some people there are definitely bad times to start a family. An experience that ended up working out for you won't necessarily work for everyone. If we weren't privileged, we wouldn't even be able to think about this process, or see truth in that statement.)

We decided to give a biological baby a go, for a few different reasons. The trouble is, though, as a queer woman, I felt like I had absolutely no idea where to start. Some Google searches helped me figure out the differences between IUI and IVF. Cool. But as a librarian, I really wanted a book. I wanted to be able to walk into Powell's and pick up a manual for queer ladies who want babies. But as far as I know, such a book doesn't exist. I grew extremely jealous that some people can just sex it up and POOF get a baby for free.

After a few months of attempts at IUI, though, we have learned some things, and I wanted to document some of the steps we've gone through on here. First, because maybe describing it can help someone else looking for either advice or solace. Secondly, because Kathy and I have actually decided to start a new route towards a family, one that we are very excited about. But I don't want to discount the last few months of our lives. This process is weird. Life is weird. It's important to talk about it.

So here we go! Steps to make a baby if you are a lady who loves ladies:
1. This is boring, but important. If you have health insurance, find out if your provider covers fertility services. SHOCKER, most of them don't. This is part of the cold calculus that goes into so much of our health care system. In a sense, yes, fertility services are a choice, or "voluntary" care, even for hetero couples who can't conceive naturally. Because we could all just choose to...not conceive, right? In a calculus where the only thing that matters is money, sure. But from an empathetic, human perspective, it's pretty messed up that only people who were born with the natural ability to get knocked up, who then couple with someone with the ability to do the knocking up, are the only ones who can have families. That was a long and awkward sentence, but you get it. There are a lot of children born to parents who don't really want them. It seems fair that the people who really do want them should be able to have them without the prerequisite of being billionaires.
We have Kaiser-Permanente insurance, one of the few companies who offer 50% coverage for most fertility services. This was a big reason we were able to start trying. But even then, 50% didn't end up meaning 50% for everything. 
2. You then have to actually get hooked up with a fertility nurse. The way I did this was scheduling a regular pap appointment with an OB-GYN, who then got me a referral to the fertility department. This "Uh, so if I wanted to make a baby with my lady, how would I go about that" conversation with my OB-GYN was super awkward, but I got through it, and you can, too. And hey, even if you don't want a baby, make an appointment for a pap with your OB-GYN! They are important!
3. Meeting with our fertility nurse, and afterwards our fertility doctor, was super great and one of the most positive parts of our personal experience. They never once made us feel weird for being queer, and were supportive and helpful whenever I had questions. I am very aware that this is probably not true in every clinic everywhere in America, so I am very grateful. If you are going all in on this thing with a partner, make sure you show up to at least the first appointment together. You'll both be signing some paperwork. It will feel like the first official step and it'll be pretty exciting. 
4. Once you have some blood work done to ensure you are healthy and producing progesterone (a magic word you will become very acquainted with; it just means you are ovulating), you have to get the sperm. And this is the frustrating, expensive, and gross part. In our experience, we had to procure the sperm on our own, and there are only two sperm banks in the vicinity of the Pacific Northwest that they recommend: the Seattle Sperm Bank, and one in California. Seattle is closer and cheaper, so, obvs we went with them. They give you this catalog where you see donors' baby pictures and what they majored in in college. It all feels very creepy. 
5. Once you decide on a donor, you have to figure out when you are going to ovulate, which you can do in a number of ways, but the most surefire way is by peeing on a ClearBlue ovulation test stick every morning. Peeing on a stick: not as easy as it sounds! My biggest piece of advice would be to track your cycle for AT LEAST a few months before you're going to try so that you really know what's going on with yourself. 
Because listen, the sperm ordering time window is stressful. You have to order it before you ovulate, obvs, but you don't want to get it TOO early so that your frozen sperm die before you can put them inside you. But if you order too late, your sperm could still be in transit somewhere while your egg is making its way downtown and you have like, as little as 12 hours to get that stuff in there. This is the worst because sperm are fucking expensive and if you blow it, you've wasted a bunch of money AND you have to wait at least four more weeks to go through this nightmare again. Oh, and guess what. Sometimes you don't ovulate at all! Yeah, I know! What kind of a cruel joke is that! 
6. Once you get the sperm, you or your partner can put it inside you yourselves, but one, ew, and two, how do you know you did that shit right?! So make an appointment with your doctor. It's simple and painless. HOWEVER, if you make a Jane the Virgin joke when your doctor is confirming that all your info is correct, your doctor might make a kind but slightly annoyed comment insinuating everyone makes that joke, and you will feel unoriginal and like you've totally blown the opportunity to impress your super cool and funny doctor. So. DON'T MAKE THAT JOKE. 
7. Then. The worst part. You wait. This part is the same for everyone who's trying to get pregnant, queer or not, but it really is awful. You tell yourself, it's fine! It's cool! Whatever happens happens! You know the odds aren't that good (because they really aren't, at least with IUI). But on the inside, of course, you hope the odds will be on your side. You can't stop yourself from watching creepy ass videos online about what could or could not be happening inside your body AT THAT EXACT MOMENT and reading message boards full of baby crazed ladies who use a million weird acronyms for LITERALLY EVERYTHING. It is the weirdest feeling, knowing this incredible thing could be happening. Or it could totally not be. And the only thing you can do is wait.  
8. The most fucked up thing? If you get your period, not only are you really sad that you're not pregnant, but you also HAVE YOUR PERIOD. It is the worst kind of double whammy. Plus, all the symptoms of being pregnant are the same as getting your period. You are already hyper aware of everything happening to your body. Sore boobs? General achey-ness? Overly emotional? Guess what! Could be pregnant! Could just be getting your stupid period!
And that, essentially, is how far we ever got.

Before we started this journey, I was always frustrated at the societal norm of having to stay silent about getting pregnant until you're however many weeks into it. I understand this, of course. So many women have miscarriages or other complications early on, so you want to "make sure" before making any big announcements. But those miscarriages and complications are painful and traumatic. The whole process of even trying can be exhausting and frustrating and take up all your mental space. Why can't we talk about it? Why are we always silencing women's experiences?

After going through some of it, though, I don't necessarily think it's always women censoring themselves. Sometimes the process really does just feel special and private, and something you want to keep to yourselves. Sometimes you just don't want to have to answer questions, especially when you're queer. 

I'm also hyper aware of how much talk about babies can consume women at a certain point in our lives, and how boring and irritating that can be to friends and family who are, in fact, not interested in babies at all. Honestly, most of the time I had a mash-up of all those feelings at once. I couldn't tell if I didn't talk about it with everyone I knew because I didn't want to or because I felt like I shouldn't. 

But if you want to talk about it. You can. If you want to take a day or two off of work because you got your period when you really didn't want to and you are super bummed, that is okay, too. 

I also felt slightly selfish throughout this process for wanting to attempt a biological baby at all. Why add another human to the world when there are so many kiddos out there already who need someone to love them? Why spend so much money on sperm when I owe Navient and the state of Oregon and all my credit card companies so much money? But even though we are moving on from the idea for now, I don't regret it. And I do feel sorrow at letting go of the idea, sorrow that I am attempting to honor by writing about it here.

One positive of trying to get pregnant is that you learn a lot about your body. I had never even really kept track of my cycles before, and learning more about how my body worked in that way felt cool and empowering. It gave me the same feelings that training for the PCT gave me. Knowing your body, feeling in control of it, feels so powerful. I feel like I've only started to truly know my body in my 30s, and it is work, work that I'm definitely not always good at. But it's important work. I wish we taught people to do it earlier.

I also have a renewed respect for women who not only get pregnant--because researching it more thoroughly and imagining it all happening to me was, frankly, terrifying--but who try for months and months or years and years to do so. It is a time consuming, anxiety inducing experience, and to keep going through it shows such incredible strength and resiliency.

And if you're someone who struggles with feelings of selfishness, too, about wanting to have a biological baby, don't. It's not stupid. It makes as much sense to never want to give birth as it makes sense to want to. These decisions are big deals, whether you're queer, straight, or single. Everyone's feelings are valid. You can do what you want.

As we navigate more avenues of building a family, I'll continue to document what I want to on here. Because I still haven't found any manuals but maybe one day we'll build one together. Because it's weird and important and it's okay to talk about it. Even when you don't know the ending.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Fave Five: Parents' Visits, Summer 2017.

We are almost fully a month into the new school year, which means life is starting to feel all too real and all too busy to me again. It's a good kind of real and busy, but simultaneously makes me wistful about the summer that's just gone by. And there's still a lot that happened this summer that I haven't talked about, like when both my dad and Kathy's parents visited in August. So allow me to indulge in summer nostalgia by talking about it!

Some of the things we did were the same things I did with my mom and Richard back in February, but they were just as fun this time so I'll write about them again. We are so grateful for our family members who take such long plane rides to see us and who are always open to being dragged along to wherever we want to drag them.

5. Picnic at Wildwood

I had visited the Wildwood Recreation Site near Mt. Hood earlier in the summer, and found it to be such a lovely, peaceful, and accessible spot. Most of the trails are paved and relatively flat, making it easy for anyone of almost any ability level to be submerged in the beauty of the Salmon River area. It's also full of picnic tables in idyllic settings. So I got it in my head that taking our parents and our dogs on a picnic there would be an amazing idea.

I persisted in this idea even when the area was beset by record setting, 100+ degree temperatures on the day we had planned to go, because I am a stubborn person who has a hard time letting go of ideas. Accordingly, I spent most of the morning stressing about whether all six people and two dogs plus coolers of food would get to Wildwood in one piece and actually enjoy themselves. But in the end, while it was a briefer visit than planned so none of us would die of heat stroke, I think it went pretty well. 

4. Ping Pong at Pips & Bounce

Pips & Bounce, man, it's just so fun every time. I learned this go 'round that both of our dads are surprisingly baller at ping pong, and that it makes Kathy's mom laugh hysterically. And I love anything that makes Kathy's mom laugh hysterically.

3. Perfect afternoons in the Willamette Valley

With the help of our good friend and McMinnville local Katie, we now know how to enjoy ourselves in wine country, an area that always intimidated us before. While there are too many wineries to even comprehend in the Willamette Valley, one of the most scenic is Brooks in Amity. The vibe at the tasting room, and the open, sweeping views of the vineyards and the hills beyond bring me to a deeply peaceful, happy place, a place where I am richer and fancier than I am in real life. But it's fun to pretend.

The perfect thing to soak up wine consumed at Brooks is a sandwich from Red Hills Market in Dundee. These sandwiches are LE-GIT. I am obsessed with their tuna melt (above) but the salami and ham, which I've also tasted, are also crazy good. The traffic crawling through Dundee can be tough to suffer through, but a visit to this joint is completely worth it.

I actually took two different trips to enjoy both Brooks and Red Hills in as many weeks, once with Dad and once with Kathy's parents, and I'd take the same exact trip again right now.

2. Mt. Rainier with Dad

While I've visited Mt. Rainier National Park a few times now, I feel I have yet to really do it justice. All my trips have been simple day trips, and it always takes slightly longer than you think to get there from Portland, making the time spent in the car long and the time in actual nature too short. And there is so. much. nature to see here.

Still, I think the day trip I took with my dad this August was the best visit yet. Even though we were in the middle of the hazy, smoke filled heat wave, we were still able to get many gorgeous views of the ridiculous mountain (it is seriously ridiculous), as well as visiting the Grove of the Patriarchs, Myrtle Falls, and the lodge at Paradise. And maybe the drive there and back didn't feel as bad because I made us listen to the entirety of Hamilton along the way. All in all, a really good day.

1. Fancy Eatin'

Any family visit--or just any day in my life, really--involves a lot of good eating. But during this trip in particular, we had a lot of fun revisiting some of our faves, as well as branching out and trying new (to us) restaurants while our parents were here. Some of our fave revisits included the likes of Podnah's Pit (the mouthwatering first picture above) and Tasty 'n Alder. As well, of course, as Pinolo Gelato.

But for a couple fancy nights out with Kathy's parents, we tried two other legendary and high class Portland eateries for the first time, The Country Cat and Laurelhurst Market. The middle photo above is from Laurelhurst, and my verdict is thus: fancy veggie salad thing, very, very good; mac n' cheese side, just okay. Our night here, a celebration of Kathy's mom's 70th birthday, was particularly fun, and followed up by a delicious trip to the new location of Fifty Licks across from the Laurelhurst Theater.

I have one more entry about the summer in mind that I'd like to write. And then, I swear, I'll be able to move on to all I love about the fall--the very bestest season of them all.

Monday, August 14, 2017

6 Songs of Summer, 2017.

I once read somewhere that by the time you reach your 30s, you lose the ability to enjoy new music. This is, of course, a broad statement that I have no data to back up, but I have to say, in general, it feels pretty true for me. This is enhanced by the fact that almost all my auditory timespace these days is taken up with podcast after podcast. (Which I also really need to write more about on here. I like them a lot!)

But for most of my formative years, music was everything to me. It shaped who I was and how I processed all of my experiences. As proof, the only tattoo I currently have is a treble clef, covering a big chunk of my lower back. This is thankfully covered most of the time because I took terrible care of it as a foolish teenager. If I ever come into extra cash, I will pay to touch it up and also get the twenty other tattoos I want. Everyone in Portland is so beautifully tattooed and I don't know how they all afford it. I am jealous at pretty much all times.

So! In an attempt to balance out my outward Ravenclaw self (nerdy podcasts) with my inner Gryffindor (music that makes me magic), I'm trying to listen to music more again, do a little less thinking and more feeling, remember who I am.

Here are the current results of my efforts: the top six songs that have been my soundtrack to the summer of 2017. I'm pretty committed to making lists of five on here, generally, BUT I really wanted to include every one of these. So self-imposed rules be damned, here are six.

6. Supercut, Lorde

I love this song because, like a lot of Lorde's songs, it's catchy and perfect for summer road trips. But also, the lyrics and the concept of the whole thing are so great. Whose memories don't condense into either a sentimental or fictionalized supercut? It's what our brains do, to either our benefit or detriment. As always, we feel you, Lorde.

5. A Sign of the Times, Harry Styles

As opposed to my respect for Lorde's honesty about memory and reflection, I don't really give a fig about the lyrics to this one. Like, what the hell is Harry talking about in this song? I have NO IDEA. I also DON'T CARE. Because hoo boy, is this song dreamy and insistent and strangely addicting. It is just a thing of beauty. I have listened to the whole Harry Styles album and sadly, I don't really love it, even though I totally get why so many people do. The whole thing strikes me as very Hanson-y so you would think I'd be down, but for some reason, I'm just not there. But this song! This song is in my head all the time. Related: I also adore Hanson's cover of it!

4. Castle on the Hill, Ed Sheeran

Listen, I've heard that Ed Sheeran might not be that A+ of a person, but I can't help myself from loving his songs. He crafts such solid pop music, and I always have and always will love pop music. "Shape of You" has also been my jam this summer, but when I hiked 50 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail last month, this song was in my head for a lot of it. This is probably just because it was likely one of the last songs I heard on the radio before we left, but I become emotionally attached to any song that gets stuck in my head while backpacking. Seriously, what you sing to yourself in your head out there can really help you put one foot in front of the other.

The lyrics to this one are not original in any way, but still relatable to anyone who has moved away from home and becomes too nostalgic about returning. I mean, nostalgic music about your teenage years is one of the essential things that moves the world, and I hope it always does.

3. Only the Wild Ones, Dispatch

Speaking of nostalgia about your teenage years! I know, I know. This whole list is super white and, with the addition of this one, super bro-y. But this new Dispatch tune, so very Dispatch-y, has dug its way into my veins this summer. I would have loved it when I was 16, and when I was an undergrad, and I love it now. I will always desire to be a wild one.

2. Old River, Middle Kids

This list so far doesn't actually dispute the notion of not listening to any new music past your 20s, because it has consisted of musicians I'm already familiar with. But THIS! This is the first brand spanking new-to-me band that I've gotten into for....years, maybe? Which makes me feel a little hope for myself. I'm 33 and I can still find hip music that I genuinely enjoy! 

If you're looking for a new First Aid Kit that rocks just a bit harder than First Aid Kit, Middle Kids are for you. Their whole EP is really, really good, and you should go listen to it on Spotify right now. The first track on the EP, "Edge of Town," is the one that's gotten the most attention, and it grows on me each time I listen to it. Talk about perfect summer road trip music. But the first song from the EP that really grabbed me was "Old River," and I still think it kicks the most ass. Seriously, good stuff.

1. I Was Born, Hanson

Did you think it'd be anything else? This song is cocky as hell, just like the Hanson brothers. And it is a damn good song. The video, full of their numerous spawn, is supposed to be sweet, I think, but just strikes me as creepy. And yet! I can't wait to see them on tour this fall and dance my ass off to this and everything else. Oh, Hanson. I sort of really dislike you as adult humans now, but every now and then you put out a gem like this one, and it makes me want to forgive you and fall in love all over again.