Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Someone Else's Tomorrow

Have you ever been baptized in the cool winter water
On a Sunday morning when the sky was gray?
You filed out of the churchyard, so cold it was silver
To gold, tan, and blue cars, and the cars drove away
All the memories fade, send the ghosts on their way
Tell them they've had their day, it's someone else's tomorrow

The tall and the tiny ships on the water
Farther and farther, floating away
Will never return now, all wooden and burned out
They echo and groan now in their salty graves
All the memories fade, send the the ghosts on their way
Tell them they've had their day, it's someone else's tomorrow
Someone else's tomorrow

Someone Else's Tomorrow - Patty Griffin

Haunting, ethereal song in my head. It speaks of death and renewal and moving on, allowing the past to slip away gracefully in honor of what the future may hold.

There are so many things in my past that I should let slip. And yet, there are so many things that I deal with on a daily basis that require dredging up the past in order to understand.

One of my solutions to the drama surrounding my family of origin is to simply concentrate on the here and now, and on the family the boy and I have created. I will always honor my parents for giving me life and education and as much as they did. But it's now my job to make sure they don't interfere with what we are trying so hard to build together. I am forever grateful to have had my mother by my side when I was pregnant with the girl. Now that I'm six hours away from her, and on my second pregnancy, and am older and (theoretically) wiser, I feel so much more capable regarding my decisions and my approach to pregnancy and the birth of the bean.

My dad wrote me an email today. More drama is afoot, and I wrote him back with what I considered to be a straightforward answer, a little common sense advice, and a whole lot of honesty. He replied that I was "a helluva lot stronger" than he ever knew. The trick of it is that I have had to learn how to be strong and how to fight for what is best for me, rather than trying to appease everyone, or be everything to everyone.

I have as big a selfish streak as anyone - but all of the labels I carry with me (up there in the corner - take a peek) - are just little parts of me. Without them I wouldn't be myself, but I don't have hats and aprons to take off and put on as the situation requires. I have one great big patchwork quilt, and it goes everywhere with me. I sleep with it wrapped round me at night. It lays on the ground in transition during a race, and it becomes my coat of many colors when life gets cold and lonely. Sometimes it needs to be repaired, sometimes it needs a spin through the wash.

I think my greatest hope right now is that my children grow up with love and without baggage. I want nothing more than to give them the strength to leave for college, the willingness to call home every now and again, and the idea that home is a place of unconditional acceptance and love.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

OMG Triathlon!

Congratulations to Sooz, for finishing her first triathlon in 1:53:39, kicking my own course PR all to hell and smashing her personal goal of 2:00:00. You rock!!

The title of this post comes from an email that Sooz sent me last Thursday - right before we took off for the Danskin Triathlon.

Due to the impending Bean, I was not comfortable competing this year - it was truly a personal decision, as I saw at least two visibly pregnant women in the field, and congratulated them on being braver than I. Instead of pushing myself through my training, or doing what I would consider a half-assed job at training and competing, or putting myself into an unknown, uncomfortable position (i.e., a race where I could get kicked or run over or injured) I chose to involve myself as a race volunteer this year, and accompany Sooz to the tri as we planned before the Bean decided to appear. I also have a tendency to turn into a rather competitive animal when I race - and I didn't think the adrenaline surge would be the best thing for the Bean at this stage.

I spent Saturday at the info booth, lining about 300 early birds up into orderly queues for registration entry (they started showing up at 8:30am for a 10AM opening), then repeating the parking/shuttle/bike racking directions ad nauseum to many athletes and friends who did not bother to read the website. Fortunately, being a two year vet, as well as a (former) local yokel helped matters a lot - I was able to give what I thought was good advice. It was a lot of fun - and the bonus for the info booth was CHAIRS! I got to sit down and rest my legs a bit during intervals on my 8-2 shift.

This morning, we were up BEFORE dawn (3:30AM!) because I had an event pass where I was allowed to park inside the event venue - but I had to report for my volunteer shift at 4:30am. Sooz went with me so she didn't have to freak out about catching a shuttle. The excitement of the day ended up occurring about 10 minutes after we arrived, when Sooz discovered she'd forgotten the key to her bike lock. This necessitated me making a quick run home and retrieving the keys, then racing back to the race site without arising the concern of the local constabulary. All was well after my mission of mercy, and I continued to work the transition area. My duties mostly included asking anyone if they had questions or needed help, running around with Coach Ken's bike pump and pumping tires, directing human traffic, and kicking everyone out at 6:30am. (Not as easy at it may seem.)

My next job involved traffic control at the swim out - we had to keep the crosswalk clear of spectators whilst the athletes were crossing over the walk path. (Again, not easy. Try herding cats. Possibly easier than telling insistent husbands and boyfriends that the crosswalk was not an appropriate place to stand and wait 10 minutes to take a photo of their athlete coming out of the water.)

Once most of the mixed agers were out of the water, I wandered over to the finish line to watch Sooz run in. I found Steven and Jeremy - her two boyz - and we waited about 15 minutes until she came round the bend, running in and finishing strong.

We found her right after the finish, bawling and with her medal around her neck. I choked up and cried myself at the sight - I can pretend to blame the pregnancy hormones for turning me into a squooshy mess, but in truth, I remember doing the exact same thing two years ago - collapsing in sobs and tears in the boy's arms right after I finished my first triathlon. I just remember telling her how proud I was of her, and how amazing she is as a person and an athlete. We all got pix with the new triathlete, and then I headed back to transition to finish my shift by checking athletes and bikes out after transition was opened to be cleared. Thanks to the trusty parking pass, we cleared out of the venue post-haste, got back to the house to shower, change and pack up, and then headed home to the TC - but not before a post-race celebratory burger-and-custard at the legendary Kopp's in Milwaukee.

Today was a great day - I am so incredibly proud of my friend, at what she's accomplished and what she has the strength to do. She's strong and beautiful, and now I have a training buddy in the T.C.!! She's thoroughly addicted to tri and is already talking about more races, offseason training, and next year's tri schedule. (As if I needed another reason to *heart* Sooz.) We're both toying with the idea of the Duluth Olympic next August - and I would love nothing more than to take this year's goal and move it to next year.

For a few moments, I was insanely jealous that I wasn't out there, bodygliding my thighs and racking up my Trek with the rest of the gang - but in the end, volunteering reminded me of how much I truly love triathlon, and how much I have to work for and look forward to next year. Once this Bean is a reality, training will be that much harder, but I want to be one of those moms that grabs their kids on their way into the finish line. I met breastfeeding moms and new moms and pregnant moms and mothers and daughters and grandmothers and 4000 amazing women, each with a story to tell and each with their own reason for being out there today. The girl and the Bean are my reasons every single year I tri.

As much as I would have given my eyeteeth to have been in the lake, on the bike, and on my toes today, I'm grateful for the time I did have to help out 4000 other women accomplish their dreams and goals.

And I'm grateful for friends like Sooz, who inspire me.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Knocked Up, Out of My Mind

Apologies to Messrs. Hancock and Mayer for ruthlessly ganking the title of their lovely collaboration. Which by the way, sounded FAN-TASTIC in Milwaukee and St. Louis.

We now interrupt the Summer of Awesome and its regularly scheduled blogging to bring you the following PSA:

I have oft been asked "why don't you like being pregnant?" As ridiculous as that question may be alone, it is often asked by people who have either never been pregnant, or were pregnant over 30 years ago. In other words, they don't know, or they don't remember.

My feelings toward pregnancy are...complex. (Gee, me? Complex? Naaaaaaaaaaaaah.)

When I was growing up, I was fairly ambivalent about having kids. I didn't know if I wanted them - I didn't know if I was cut out for motherhood. I think I figured I'd probably have them eventually. If I did, I did. If I didn't, well then.

Then I met the boy. The boy had always dreamed of fatherhood. He knew he wanted kids. When we got married, having a kid or two was non-negotiable in his book. Theoretically I had no objections, I had no reason to think I was unable to get pregnant, I knew the mechanics, and I figured we'd have them at some point. Cue three years into our marriage, and the girl was born. We never had to "try" to get pregnant, we never struggled with infertility or conception issues. So many of my friends who desperately wanted kids had issues getting pregnant and when they did, it seemed practically unfair that someone like me (the ambivalent, reluctant, sarcastic one) would be a Fertile Myrtle.

During my pregnancy with the girl, I feel like I did pretty well - I gained a good amount of weight for someone my size, didn't have any serious issues or complications, suffered a garden-variety of maladies (nausea and a bad nose in the first trimester, car/motion sickness in the second and third, general exhaustion, misery and snoring throughout) took my prenatal vitamins, ate pretty much what I wanted, staunchly avoided "What To Expect When You Are Expecting", tried to avoid caffeine (sorry kid, sometimes a fountain diet Coke is a must), craved french fries from McD's, and in keeping with my rebel streak, took Bradley classes from a home instructor rather than the three sessions of hospital-instructed Lamaze (what I affectionately termed "What To Do Until The Epidural Arrives").

I intended to give birth commando - no drugs, no monitor. Old school style - which meant if I needed to scream my head off and birth squatting, so be it. Lithotomy position be damned. Gravity would not work against me. I will never forget the look on the tour guide's face when we went to the hospital tour - she proudly pointed out the mirror on the ceiling "so we could watch the baby being born!" The pride quickly melted into a shade of horror when I told her it was ridiculous to put a mirror on the ceiling, because if you are squatting, you can see for yourself what is going on down there.

I don't know if she knew that stirrups were optional in childbirth. (They are.)

Of course, our well-intentioned plans were shot all to hell because the girl refused to cooperate. For two weeks past my "due date" I squatted. I took castor oil. I took evening primrose. I drank gallons of red raspberry leaf tea with a tincture of blue cohosh. We had sex. (Seriously - not the fun kind, the put me in labor, damnit, kind.) I walked. I ate Mexican food.

Nothing happened.

Bottom line, the kid was happy and wasn't coming out the way God and Mother Nature intended, and we ended up scheduling a c-section about 12 hours ahead of time. I was both devastated and relieved - I really did not want to have a c-section, but I wanted to be done being pregnant and meet our daughter.

And in a matter of 35 minutes in the OR, I was, and we did. And it's all good. Over the last six years, I've managed to figure out being a mom - not without a fair share of bumps and bruises along the way. I truly dig my kid - she's just the right blend of the two of us, and I'm hoping the bean is going to be equally as cool. "We make great kids," the two of us have said to each other repeatedly over the last few months.

It's that thought that will get me through the next five/six months or so. At the end of the bloating and edema and cravings and weird vision and placenta brain and all that stuff, will be a kid who hopefully will fit right into our little tribe - and I'll have to relearn how to be that kid's mother. I’m cool with that.

Now, on to the point of this post: pregnancy, to me, feels like the invasion of the body snatchers. You gain weight. You have uncontrollable urges, cravings and mood swings. Your core temperature rises on a whim and you go from incredibly horny to don’t effing touch me, I swear you will be banished to the sofa! in 3.2 seconds or less. I am less weepy than others but I am weepy (for me.) You have to go to the doctor and pee in a cup on a regular basis, and they weigh you, and they take your blood pressure, and every damn time I go in for a prenatal appointment I feel like they are passing judgment on me. I swear, I had a 15 minute discussion in the exam room with the NP at my first appointment wherein I had to defend my lifestyle and my weight to a woman who barely knew my name. I truly had to convince her that my life and my choices are fundamentally healthy ones – I just happen to like carbs and sugar, I don’t have much portion control, and truly the only thing “wrong” with me is that I am, by some random governmentally approved standard, overweight. Yes, I know, I know. This is neither the time nor the place, children. Close your email clients. Now.

I tend to look on pregnancy as a necessary biological process. It’s something you live with, is temporary and hopefully has a pretty cool permanent effect. It’s no miracle how pregnancy occurs – it’s actually quite fun if done properly. It’s also no miracle that women give birth every day – yes, each pregnancy and each mother and each child are different, but fundamentally, the process remains the same, no matter what type of birth one experiences.

I think the other thing that bugs me about pregnancy is the whole societal “thing” with pregnancy. How many times have I heard sickly sweet platitudes about pregnancy, and how wonderful it is that we’re giving our daughter a sibling, and how nobody wants you to lift anything, and how any kind of chemical at all, ever, is bad bad bad, and somehow when you become a pregnant woman you are identified merely by the swell of your abdomen. There is a definite loss of self, of identity. I worked for 31 years to become the person I am, and just because I have a kid on the way is no reason for you to treat me any differently than you would if I didn’t. Yes, I know how to ask for help, and sure, I get tired more easily, but for God’s sake, I am not made of glass, nor must I be treated as such. If I’m tired, I’ll sit down. If I’m hungry, I’ll eat. If I need to go to the grocery store a week past my due date and push a cart with $300 of groceries in it, I will. I never take kindly to unsolicited advice, and pregnancy is surely no exception. Part of the reason I don’t have a separate pregnancy blog, or a counter or anything cutesy like that, is because I view this pregnancy as part of my life. There’s no reason to compartmentalize – if anyone wants to skip over the pregnancy bits, I have no problem with that.

In the end, I’m generally laid back about the pregnancy – yes I do wonder what kind of kid our DNA will bring forth this time, if this one will be male or female, if this kid will have the same black stripe of hair amongst the blonde that the girl has had since her first breath. I worry about breastfeeding (sometimes) and I worry about remembering everything that goes with a new baby (seriously – amnesia sets in after awhile).

But I also don’t worry too terribly much about it. If I seem laid back and nonchalant about pregnancy, it’s because I’m lucky enough not to have to think about it much, and also because I know that however faint, there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. Without pregnancy I wouldn’t have the girl or the bean. And those two things are worth the aggravation and body-snatching.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Meet and Greet: Milwaukee

This is the true story of the first two John Mayer concerts of the season. Well, we'll get to the shows later. This is the true story of how I met John Mayer.

A round trip of about 1300 miles from the TC to the hometown to St Louis and back. The equipment: one Audi A6, one booster seat, my entire collection of John Mayer CDs (with some Colbie Caillat, Sara Bareilles, October Project, Vertical Horizon and Matty Nay thrown in for variety), two suitcases, a scooter and helmet for the girl, and a backpack with my laptop and class stuff. Even on summer break, law school waits for no woman.

The girl and I headed out the afternoon of the 2nd - about six hours behind schedule. This didn't bother me so much - I wanted to have some stuff ready for the boy when I left and didn't have enough time to run all my errands and stuff the day before. I will say that I had time to run to Target and buy the special edition of Where The Light Is, and it kept me thoroughly entertained for about half the drive.

Upon arrival at the mom's, I saw that two very important packages arrived: Jen's Minolta camera, and a copy of Continuum on vinyl. Both items went to the concert with me the next day, for a very important purpose:

As the lucky winner of an L-83 meet and greet, I was thrilled and overwhelmed to meet John Mayer. For about a week beforehand, I kept telling myself "he's just a guy." Just a regular guy who happens to be an amazing musician and is beyond gorgeous and... yeah. Right. The only thing I was determined NOT to do was to break down in tears, all NKOTB fanstyle.

Apparently I did a good job - my friends have remarked that I look very chill and also that I am "glowing." (It might be the pregnant. I don't know.) It was incredibly cool to meet John - he was gracious, shook everyone's hand and asked our names, and signed autographs for everyone, as well as posed for pictures with each of us. We were together for a good 20 minutes before the door to the green room opened. The first person to walk in was Ken Helie, John's tour manager, and right on his heels was John himself. I'll never forget the first thoughts that ran through my mind: wow, he's a lot more tan in person, he's got bedhead and his voice is a little raspy, wonder if he just got up from a nap, cool shoes, niiiice eyes and tattoos... I've read recounts of prior meet and greets, and a few things came to mind to check out for myself:

1. Yes, he is tall. However, I was not surprised - I would say he's about the same height as my husband, maybe slightly taller. Living with someone who is 6'3 gives you perspective on height, I think.

2. He is NOT rail skinny as most people think. Definitely lithe and healthy, but there is some lovely, muscular meat on that frame. When we posed for the picture, I think my arm went roughly around his waist - his went round my shoulders. I was too busy trying to a)smile nicely, b) not touch his ass, and c) get close but not too close as to inappropriately invade his personal space to really get a good feel...but his arms were very, very nice.

3. His tattoos are beautiful. The tattoo sleeve on his left arm is not nearly as dark as it shows in pictures, and the color work he's had done definitely helps it. The tattoo on his forearm (three squares) struck me as a bit faded - but then again, it's however old (at least six years if not a bit older) and like I said before - boy is much tanner than I thought - so that probably contributes.

4. I can confirm that he smells LOVELY. His shoes and watch were both immaculately cared for. He's got a great smile and overall, he seems like a very busy, but genuine guy.

The show itself was fantastic - more later on that. The autographed album is currently sitting in protective cover, awaiting a frame and a place of honor in my study space. And I think it will remain there when the guest room becomes the bean's room - in all honestly, the Bean was there with me, you can totally tell I'm seriously knocked up in the picture, and it will be a cool story to tell him/her when she/he's older. I joked with my buddies that since I'm going to five Mayer shows this summer, this kid better come out knowing six chords and the correct way to hold a Strat.

Nice to meet you, John. Hope we can do it again sometime.