25. Exercise every bit of patience I can muster

I am an impatient person. This, along with my excessive potty mouth rank right up there with my least flattering qualities (don't worry, I'm aware that those qualities have company - I am certain I have many unflattering qualities, but these are always among the first that spring to mind). My impatience is rooted in a perceived need for control. My life path has taught me intellectually that control is an illusion, but the maintenance of the illusion of control is still a facet of my personality that I manage daily.

I have gotten a lot better about managing this illusion. I cannot believe that I am about to share this because I have never admitted this aloud to anyone. ANYONE. Most importantly, my dear mother, who is discovering this as she reads it for the first time... and I am afraid... very afraid. Growing up, we had a cool "secret room" in our house that was always referred to as "The Surprise Room." It was a closet behind a closet, and it was wall to wall shelves filled with gifts. Gifts for friend's birthdays, housewarming gifts, hostess gifts, shower gifts, lots of gifts... like our own little Patina right in the walls of our house. You can guess that around holidays and our own birthdays (I have an older brother who has a birthday the day before mine), shelves of that room became stocked with gifts that would be given to US (you know where this is going - but stick with me). Yes, I did it. I snooped. I have heard people say that you only snoop once because once you ruin a holiday... you learn your lesson. This was not the case for me. The gift snooping occurred in my teenage years, when I was old enough to be left home alone. I would have long, intense conversations with myself about how this was wrong... and then I'd promise myself I'd never do it again... and then I'd do it. I'd sneak into the surprise room taking careful note of where everything was so that I would not leave evidence of my presence. I'd take mental note of anything that looked like it would end up with my name on it, and then leave satisfied. Like I had just licked up the last crumbs of Duncan Hines brownies. Then I'd practice my surprised face for when I had occasion to open up the gifts I knew were coming to me. I did this for about three or four years, consistently.

I feel so guilty sharing this. Partly because I am ashamed, but mostly because I am imagining my amazing mom and how it feels to her right now to know that she worked so hard each holiday to surprise me - and how disrespectful I was to her all to satisfy my impatience and need for control (and now I'm thinking that I better give her a heads up about this blog before I publish it - so that she's not feeling EVEN MORE disrespected). I will confess also that it is so much more exciting now to receive gifts because of the genuine surprise. My mom is an AWESOME gift giver (in addition to being a wonderful and supportive mother), and I appreciate that so much more than I could ever express.

So, I'm having twins (if this is news to you - check out this post). Basically, it's like this, the twins are in the Surprise Room, and I can't get in... yet. I want to express that a parent's choice to find out the sex of their baby or not find out the sex of their baby is their own personal choice. I respect each individual's feelings around this, and I want to be clear that because I have made different decisions, it in no way means that I think our way is the "best" or the "right" way. It is just the way that worked for us. We have always found out the sex of our babies. For us, it was a way to build the relationship early on. We wanted to name our children and know what we could about them from the earliest possible time because, to us, it enhanced our own relationship to them. In hindsight, I am so glad that we did this with our first daughter, Brady, because when she died at 3 1/2 months of age, I felt like we had known her so much longer. With Brady, we found out at 16 weeks of pregnancy that she was a girl. With our son, Ollie, we found out at a similar stage (that he is a boy, of course). With our second daughter, Parker, who we lost during pregnancy, we had the opportunity to find out at 16 weeks, but she was shy.

As far as these two babies are concerned, we have not yet had the opportunity to peek into the Surprise Room... and I am ANXIOUS. My anxiety is not entirely centered around the discovery of their sex, it is also centered around my need to know that they are "okay." You see, it was at the 20 week ultrasound that we found out about my daughter Parker was very much not "okay." So while I have excitement about my journey into the Surprise Room that is my uterus, I also feel trepidation, because right now, I live in a world where everything is fine. Intellectually, I know that knowing is not the same as controlling. I have learned that the hard way. My intention is to focus on the positive and look forward to the day that we will find out exactly what flavor these babies are.

So, if you've been following along, you may have guessed that I am beyond that 16 week mark which is when I found out the sex of my other babies (or at least had the opportunity to). In fact, I am fast approaching the 20 week mark... which is when people normally get the opportunity to learn the sex if they so choose. So, it's on the calendar... this Friday to be exact. It has been all I can do to not come up with multiple excuses to deliver to my OB with reasons that I think we should move the ultrasound date up. I have purposely resisted every urge to do just that, and have been practicing patience. Patience that I don't believe I have (BTW, who ever said practice makes perfect was crazy). In my mind I honestly feel like I'm treading water. I am reluctant to start any preparations for the babies until this ultrasound is over and I know that they are "okay." I can't start moving stuff into the nursery until we know which clothes to unpack from the Sterlite containers and wash in copious amounts of Dreft. I literally feel like I'm at the top of the big hill on the roller coaster, and come Friday... down we go (and I'm hoping that the plunge will be forgiving this time).

Sometimes you face life's challenges again and again, and continue to be offered the same lesson. The lesson that life keeps presenting me is that I am not in charge around here. I can make good decisions, I can prepare for multiple outcomes, but at the end of the day, I am not in charge. I happen to believe that God is in charge, and my whole life has been a lesson in trusting that whatever does happen, God will give me the tools to deal with whatever I am facing. So far, it's worked out that way. Even though I am a total impatient control freak, there are always more surprises waiting for me in the Surprise Room, and if I wait for them to reveal themselves in divine time, it makes the surprise that much more worthwhile. I am certain that Friday will yield at least two surprises, both of them good... at least that's my prayer.

P.S. I had a nice conversation with my mom immediately before publishing this post. I confessed about my snooping. She let me know that she guessed that I had snooped at some point in my life. She was not at all surprised. She asked me if snooping ruined the surprise, and after careful thought, I told her that it just made me that much more excited for the holidays so that I could get my hands on what I'd been coveting in the Surprise Room. It's kind of like these babies. I can't wait to peek at them... and then I'll be as antsy as can be to get my hands and lips all over them. Babies are pretty sweet that way.

Also, for the record, she asked if I felt better having confessed. I said, "no." It's true. I still feel so ashamed, greedy, and disrespectful. Just wanted to let you know that I'm engaging in appropriate self loathing - it seems to be appropriate punishment for my actions.

Next week, I'm thinking of joining a Mother's Group. You won't want to miss this... so far, this will easily be the biggest challenge for me (and remember, I've pole danced).


24. See My City Like a Tourist

I am a proud lifelong resident of the 612. South Minneapolis to be exact. I have always been passionate about Minnesota (I cry at the State of Hockey song played at MN Wild games), and am particularly passionate about the area of Minneapolis that I have called home for 32 years. To be fair, I spent college sporting a 507 area code (Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter, MN), but always knew that I would return to my beloved home near the chain of lakes. Deep in my heart, I have always loved this area, but you grow used to your surroundings and sadly become blind to them... until the opportunity to introduce your haunts to people who are experiencing them with new eyes presents itself.

One of my very dearest friends is not from Minnesota. In fact, we have never lived in the same state. We have never even lived in the same area of the country. Helen is from New Jersey, went to college in Washington, D.C., and has landed in the suburbs of Boston. She has made only a couple of trips to Minnesota in her life, once for my bachelorette party, and once for my wedding. She was a bridesmaid. That was over 7 years ago. The last time I saw Helen was at her bachelorette party in Las Vegas. I was not able to make it to her wedding because I was weeks from delivering my first child (apparently the airlines discourage air travel at that stage of the game). So that was the last time I had seen her, I hadn't even met her husband! Despite the geographic distance, Helen is one of my most treasured friends. Perhaps because we have remained so close having never spent more than a week in each other's physical presence. We are kindred spirits, and have offered incomparable support to each other across the miles in some dark times.

Helen and her husband Mike were planning a trip, and the stars aligned such that they made Minnesota their vacation destination. Keeping in mind that Mike, a native Bostonian, had never been to Minnesota (he'd barely set foot in the midwest), Matt and I were determined to show them a good time, Minneapolis style. Thankfully we had time to prepare, because we really needed some time to get into tourist mode.

Asking ourselves the question, "what is most beautiful about the place where we live?" and "what are we most proud of?" Matt and I engaged in a powerful brainstorm. We began to fret that the 36 hours of time we had to spend with Helen and Mike would not be nearly enough for them to experience the beauty of this place we call home. Letting that fear go, we prioritized the list.

In the interest of full disclosure, I began to share the list here, but deleted it for a very specific reason, our list was OUR list. Rather than give you, the reader, OUR list, I want to encourage you to make your own list of things you would show someone who had never seen the beauty of your surroundings. Whether or not you actually have a visitor coming, I encourage you to take your own tour considering the following:

Where do you LOVE to go? Where do you find yourself so engrossed with the culture and surroundings that you actually lose track of time? Who of your friends would you introduce your out of town friends to? Who helps create your experience of "home"? If your were seeing your city with fresh eyes, what would you find particularly beautiful, unique or exciting?

I have a new pride in my home. Not just the city I live in, but the home I live in. We have a beautiful view from the window of our house of Lake Nokomis. We are so used to this view that perhaps it has become like a piece of art that you adore, but begin to ignore. It is in seeing it through the eyes of our friends, that we gained a new appreciation and gratitude for the beauty that surrounds us each day. We are fortunate to live in the midst of this beauty, and I intend to remind myself to see this beauty with fresh eyes more often than not.

I have been changed by this experience in many ways. The past few years, I have become more thoughtful about the choices that I make in my life. The places I spend my time, the kind of food I eat, the people I surround myself with, and showing it to my friends has become an affirmation of those choices. Helen and Mike enjoyed themselves enough that they are already talking about their return trip. Matt and I are anxious to visit them in their hometown to give them the same experience that we had, the experience of pride and beauty in their surroundings, and the opportunity to see what is commonplace through fresh eyes.

The weekend was not only a celebration of our city, but a celebration of a friendship that has spanned the miles over years (almost 14 to be exact). When counting blessings on this particular weekend, I almost ran out of numbers. What a wonderful problem to have!

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