Thursday, December 8, 2016

to my sweet girls.

Dear T and NL,

At this very moment it is flurrying outside. Your mom just sent me a video of the two of you in your big ol' puffer coats, playing in your backyard. Never mind that it's actually FREEZING outside, you don't care one bit. I hope you never lose that adventurous spirit. I have a feeling you won't: you are part of a family that lives for the everyday adventure.

When your mom and dad told me that your mom was pregnant, I screamed louder than I have in years (I used to use my high-pitched scream to my advantage — remember this when you need a secret weapon of some kind), and then when we found out you were twins?! Suffice it to say we were surprised and absolutely joyful that you were coming in a pair.

You're lucky because you have the most incredible parents, the very best grandparents, and I'd like to think your aunts and uncles are pretty fabulous, too. But what's best is that you are going to carve your very own space for yourself in this big, beautiful world. And you'll light it up with your essence because that's what you already do.

And I hope you always, always remember to look to that light within when you need a little boost or peace of mind or bravery or courage or confidence to get a job done. See, in this world, as a girl or woman, it is a radical act to love yourself unapologetically. And I hope you'll always choose to be radical. I hope you'll always remember that your light within is literally inextinguishable. You'll use it to guide yourself and sometimes you'll use it to guide your sister and sometimes you'll even use it to guide people you hardly know. It's the most powerful tool you possess. And it's been yours from the very beginning.

I love you so much more than I could ever possibly say. I cannot wait to see where your light will take you — to incredible, beautiful, unimaginable heights, of that I am sure.

Love forever and even after that,
Aunt RaRa

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

giving a face to obamacare.

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Today, I want to give a face to the Affordable Care Act. As a teacher, I was always pretty well taken care of when it came to health insurance and we were fortunate enough to use my coverage for both myself and for Jeffrey.

At the end of last school year, I decided not to return to my teaching career for the 2016-2017 school year. This is something that I haven’t really mentioned here, mostly because it was an incredibly difficult decision — one that was ultimately the right choice for my mental health and well being, but still broke my heart.

Because Jeffrey is self-employed, we didn’t have his benefits to fall back on. I soon became self-employed as well and so we had to enroll in ObamaCare. The ACA is an imperfect system with many kinks that need to be worked out and changes that need to be made — I am not disputing that — but Jeffrey and I rely on this system in order to ensure that we have the health coverage that we need and deserve as hardworking Americans.

Our insurance isn’t cheap. We pay a monthly premium based on our income bracket and we chose from lots of different plans, many of which offered coverages that were actually sadly laughable.

I can’t pretend to understand why so many Americans would actively fight to dismantle this act. It allows millions of people to feel safe and secure and confident that, should something tragic or devastating (or otherwise health-related) happen to themselves or a loved one, they won’t be left high and dry. Jeffrey and I work hard and we pay a steep premium to make sure we have decent care.

(As a disclaimer, this post is written with nothing but love and also concern for my little family and other friends I hold dear who rely on the ACA. My intention isn’t to start a battle, but rather to share my experience and hopefully shed light on why the ACA  is, in my opinion, an essential piece of American legislation that deserves to stay put.)

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

sundays (6 days of giving).

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The last time I posted, I wrote a letter to my parents. It felt like the best thing to do in the wake of a scary, confusing, and disappointing election. Every time I go on the Internet, I discover another depressing (and terrifying) article. It can feel overwhelming and helpless and sometimes I don't even know where to begin to try and make a positive difference. And in a space like this one, I don't know what to write.

So here I am on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving with little more to say than this: just hug the people you love and promise that you won't become complacent even if that feels like the relieving option. And to really drive that point home, I've decided that for the week of Thanksgiving I will give to causes that are already hurting very deeply and need support.

Here's my timeline. Let me know what you plan to do to shed some light.

TuesdayEarthJustice || The nation's original and largest nonprofit environmental law organization.
WednesdayCamp of the Sacred Stones || Needed supplies (or donations!) for those protecting sacred lands and water supplies in North Dakota.
ThursdayACLU || For almost 100 years, the ACLU has worked to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed by the Constitution and laws of the United States.
FridayAnti-Defamation League || Founded in 1913 to “stop the defamation of the Jewish people and to secure justice and fair treatment to all.” Today, it fights against anti-semitism and bigotry as one of the largest civil rights organizations in the country.
SaturdayBorder Angels || Border Angels is an all volunteer, non profit organization that advocates for human rights, humane immigration reform, and social justice with a special focus on issues related to the US-Mexican border.
MondayBoys & Girls Clubs of America || Every day in America, over 15 million kids (1 out of 4) are left unsupervised after school. In the summer, 43 million kids (3 out of 4) don't have access to critical summer learning programs. Boys & Girls Clubs of America believes that every kid deserves a Great Future.

Find some small way to pay it forward, friends! Find a cause that makes your heart sing and find some way to support it. Every gesture counts. Love to you all. xo

Thursday, November 10, 2016

for the ones who raised me.

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Dear Mom & Dad,

I remember how we sat at the dinner table together every single night. I remember playing in the front yard. Filling a big Rubbermaid container with water for our toys' community pool. Playing baseball. Playing basketball. The time we put all our Furry Families on the van and Dad accidentally drove off, they all fell off, and we scoured his entire driving path until we found nearly every last one.

I remember conversations about being kind. Sticking by your friends. Sitting next to someone who might be alone at school. I remember the times we talked about respecting everyone. I remember dancing to this song on birthday mornings.  Eskimo kisses. Ice cream sundaes with peanuts. Singing prayers together at the dinner table. I remember Sanibel Island and the Smoky Mountains. I remember Maine and New York City. I remember camping in the middle of Point Reyes and hearing coyotes cackling to one another. I remember learning about acceptance and empathy.

And what I mostly remember is you leading by example. Living out the example you hoped we would someday carry on. Laughing in darkness. Standing brave during hard times. Tucking us in at night. Telling us you love us after every single phone call. I remember the love radiating from our home. Palpable.

Thank you.

Thank you for giving me the courage to find beauty in the many rich differences of the human experience. You are the hope and the fire and the light that I carry in my heart every single day. You are why I believe that people are mostly good and could always use a little bit more love. My gratitude to you is endless. It goes on forever and ever.

Love,
Rox

Friday, November 4, 2016

an election post (the final plea).

Photograph of First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton with Socks the Cat and Buddy the Dog: 04/07/1999

I have been asked why I support Hillary Clinton about a million times during this election season, especially because I was also a Hillary supporter in the primaries.

How on earth could I support a candidate who housed a private email server and has engaged in "shady acts" throughout her entire political career?!

I have been catcalled more times than I care to remember. I have been terrified to walk my dog just after sunset. I have been followed home. Numerous (unspeakable) words have been shouted at me and I have called my dad as I ran home in fear. I have been told that I'm too flat chested. That I "could be pretty if my boobs were bigger and I had a few more curves." I have been told that I was wearing too much makeup. Or not enough. I have been told to sit down. Back up. Know my limits. Know my place. Speak softly. Be less vocal. I have been told to be flattered by exploitative comments. I have been told to soften my edges. To take up less space in this world.

And I am a privileged white woman who grew up in an environment with nearly every resource at my fingertips and I was instilled with the belief that my dreams didn't have a ceiling. I have lived a blessed existence. For many women it has been so much worse.

There is a man running for president who literally personifies all the most terrifying experiences I (and countless other women) have endured simply because I AM A WOMAN. He is unqualified and, quite frankly, out of control.

There is also a woman named Hillary Clinton who is running for president. She is strong and fierce and brave and level headed. She is also messy and imperfect. She is human. She has done and said regrettable things and she has sincerely apologized for them. She has made a promise to try harder and better. She has consistently fought for children and families. She has made mistakes and learned from them. She has championed progress for everyone, from all walks of life. And she has done so under a microscope of public opinion and scrutiny (much of that scrutiny tied directly to her womanhood). She has shown grace and class in circumstances where many might unravel or fail. That sounds like a president to me. That's why #ImWithHer.

(Photo via The U.S. National Archives)

Monday, October 31, 2016

when the colors change.

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The other morning I was driving to work. It was overcast, as it usually is this time of year in Portland. I drive through the heart of the city on my commute and am met with many, many shades of gray. This song was playing. I had just enough time to swing by a drive-thru and get a cup of coffee. The best part of my commute is that I can see the southwest hills in a sweeping landscape as I cross over the Ross Island Bridge. Jeffrey is constantly telling me to look at the hills, to take it all in.

It was the sort of morning where I was just feeling thankful for so many things. It was a welcome feeling after what has been many, many mornings of feeling pretty lost, confused, and uncertain about many, many things. But on this particular morning, I could recognize the beauty and fullness of my life so clearly and so perfectly that I almost could've cried.

As I crossed over the bridge and wondered — audibly — at my great fortune, I noticed (reallllllly noticed) the southwest hills. It would have been impossible to miss them. The trees were bursting with autumnal colors. The gray Portland sky was the perfect backdrop for really capturing and amplifying the bright, vivid colors of the leaves. And I couldn't believe it.

I thought of all the times Jeffrey has told me to look at the hills, to take them in, to immerse myself in the beauty of the city where we live and I have been stubborn. I haven't done it. I've pretended not to care or not to be in awe of it or to find more beauty and joy elsewhere. And it's because I've stiff armed Portland for so long. Moving here brought all my insecurities right to the surface and I was forced to acknowledge them and challenge my best self to do the work of walking through the dark parts to get to where the light is.

There are still so many moments when I feel lost or question my purpose or wonder what I'm doing in this rainy city or feel thoroughly confused and uncertain and foggy, but those moments make way for the moments when I see everything clearly and can glimpse the light and recognize the sheer beauty that is the life I'm building. And a life needs the dark and the light. The confusion and the clarity. That's what makes it whole and rich and vibrant and beautiful.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

sundays.

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In an effort to document more of my daily life, here's a new series all about Sundays. I'll never forget a conversation I had with a colleague of mine where we basically trashed Sundays (sorry, Sunday). If you are someone who has a Monday through Friday work week, you can probably relate to the Sunday blues, which for me would typically begin at around 4 PM. The thought of an impending work week and what that encompasses, was often enough to send me into an anxious tailspin.

It wasn't until recently that I really came around to appreciating Sundays. We typically like to try and do something a little more ambitious on Saturdays, so Sundays became the low key, relaxed, cozier day of the week. And at exactly the same time on a recent Sunday afternoon, Jeffrey and I both remarked on what a perfect day we were having.

So thanks, Sunday (and sorry for taking awhile to warm up to you). xo
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