Sunday, December 31, 2006
Other New Year's Eve celebrations sort of blend together in my head until one when I was in college when I went out to dinner in San Francisco with a guy I had a huge crush on, and then met up with a group of his friends for one of the big hotel parties. I was pretty sure that was the best New Year's Eve ever.
After college, Brian and I were living together, and we invited friends over for New Year's Eve. We had a spaghetti dinner at our house, walked along West Cliff, then went down to First Night Santa Cruz to count down to midnight at the clock tower. In the morning, eating breakfast with Brian and our friends, I felt content, pretty sure it was the best New Year's eve ever.
In 2001, Brian and I decided to get married on New Year's Eve. We planned a small wedding at his parents' house, with just family and a few close friends. The ceremony began just after midnight. In the morning when I woke up beside him at a hotel in Marina del Rey, I knew I'd just had the best New Year's Eve ever.
When we told people our wedding plans, many warned us that we would never be able to celebrate our anniversary properly because of the New Year's celebrations. I informed them that our anniversary was actually going to be on January 1, so it wasn't really an issue. But for the most part we have spent New Year's Eve celebrating our anniversary. Neither one of us is a big partier, so we generally just fix a nice dinner at home and drink a bottle of champagne. Sometimes we don't even make it until midnight. Then, sometime in the days just after New Year's Eve, we go out to a fancy restaurant to celebrate again. It's exactly the way I enjoy spending New Year's Eve and my anniversary.
Today is my due date. The baby seems uninclined to make an appearance any time soon. I've done even less to plan out a nice dinner for tonight than usual. (We did go to Rasika last weekend to celebrate in advance, in case the baby did deign to grace us with her presence in a timely manner.) We don't have gifts to exchange--no wood, nor silverware, or anything else--because it didn't even really occur to us. The odds of me staying awake until midnight are slimmer than usual. All we care about is spending all the time we can together while we eagerly wait for our new family member.
I'm pretty sure this is going to be the best New Year's Eve ever. And an even better year lies ahead.
Saturday, December 16, 2006
"On your left," the first man called out, ringing his bell again. He glanced back as he passed me and then braked quickly. "Why, you're pregnant with expectation!" he exclaimed, as his companion coasted slowly past both of us.
"Yes, I am," I grinned back, as I approached him.
"You know what's the busiest day of the year in the maternity ward?" he asked. I stopped and asked him which day that would be. "Labor Day!"
He laughed at his own joke, informed me that he worked for Planned Parenthood, and pedaled away.
I should have started walking when I waited for the bus for 20 minutes and none came. But by then I'd waited 20 minutes, so one had to be coming soon. Right? Well, only if you count 25 minutes after that as soon.
I should have waited for the next bus when I saw how crowded the first one is. They usually come in packs when they're that far apart, so there was probably another not too far behind. But I couldn't see one coming, so I boarded the crowded one. I wasn't too offended when no one offered me a seat. I wish they would, especially on the bus where I feel less stable than on the train, but it's not the end of the world to have to stand. I'm just confused because people were offering me a seat when I was 5 months pregnant and I thought one might just think I had a bit of belly pudge. Now I'm quickly approaching my due date, and it's rare that I'm offered a seat. A seat on the bus did finally open up near me part way down Wisconsin Avenue and I grabbed it.
I started wishing I had walked (I would have been there so much faster!) as traffic crept along and the bus remained jammed full. A man who I would judge to be about in his 40s ended up standing near me as the bus made its way down M Street. He was casually dressed and carrying a heavy leather bag, sort of a cross between a brief case and a duffel bag, if that makes any sense, slung over his shoulder. I moved my head out of his way as he came by so it wouldn't hit me, just as I had avoided a college student's backpack earlier in the ride. But this man stopped right by me, and I had to keep my head out of the way. Not that that helped. As the man swayed with the turns of the bus, his bag kept hitting me in the shoulder. I tried to move out of the way, but unless I wanted to sit on the lap of the man beside me, I didn't have many options.
"Excuse me!" I finally exclaimed when the man turned for some reason and his bag hit me sharply in the ear. "Could you please be careful with your bag?"
"It's a crowded bus, lady. What do you want me to do?"
"I don't know. When I'm on a crowded bus with a big bag I usually hold it it's handle so it's down towards the floor, not whacking other passengers in the head."
"You wouldn't be having the problem if you would be respectful and give up your seat to someone older than you," he told me.
I thought about ignoring him, but I was cranky and annoyed. Plus, traffic was moving slowly enough with the lights approaching Washington Circle that I knew I could make it to the Metro faster than the bus by walking. So I stood up.
The man with the bag promptly sat down as a woman across the aisle protested that I was pregnant and shouldn't give up my seat.
"Ain't my problem," the man said. "Ain't my fault." The woman protested again and began to offer me her seat, but I shook my head and told her I was getting off soon, as the man muttered something about "Bitches always gettin' pregnant, wantin' special attention for it."
I got off the bus and walked toward the Metro feeling angry and overwhelmed, and wondering how much of it was just hormones. It was 7 pm and I had left work at 5:45, which was ridiculous, and I was exhausted. Nine minutes until the next train, I saw, once I was down on the platform. I sat down on a empty bench to wait, thinking that at least it was late enough that the train wouldn't be too crowded.
There were a few open seats on the car that I boarded. I was at the front of the car, and turned toward the very front of it, where I saw two open seats. A woman ahead of me took one. When I got to the other, I saw that the man sitting next to it had his bag there.
"Excuse me," I said, quietly, the way you do when you need someone to move their bag a little so you can sit down.
He just looked at me. "There are open seats over there," he said after a moment, nodding toward the center of the car. He was right, and as the train pulled out of the station, I turned and went to take one of them.
I don't know why people are suddenly so rude. Perhaps it's the stress of the holiday season? I am used to a certain amount of indifference among commuters here, but yesterday seemed exceptional. It was a relief to get on my last bus home, with the driver that a classmate and I nicknamed "Speedy" four years ago, because we knew if we didn't make it onto his bus at Braddock Road by 8:40 PM, we weren't going to make that bus at all because he is always so prompt and will drive faster than seems smart in order to stay on schedule. The bus driver smiled when he greeted me. When I sat down, a neighbor whose name I don't know asked me how I was feeling these days. Another man got on the bus, handing over his transfer and then putting two dollars in the fare box. When Speedy stopped him to ask him what he was doing, the man explained that in the past couple of weeks drivers had let him ride a few times when he didn't have the 35 cents with him to pay the transfer fare, so he was just trying to make up for that. It only took a few little things to improve my mood and make me start thinking that the Metrobus and Metro parts of my commute had been almost funny.
1. Egg nog or hot chocolate? Hot chocolate, especially if it has peppermint or cinnamon in it. And it should definitely have whipped cream on top.
2. Does Santa wrap presents or just sit them under the tree? He wraps them unless they are too big.
3. Colored lights or white lights on tree/house? Colored on the tree. But they can't blink or be those big bubble lights.
4. Do you hang mistletoe? No. I'm certain the cat would find some way to get a hold of it and poison herself.
5. When do you put up your decorations? First or second weekend in December.
6. What is your favorite holiday dish (excluding dessert)? Probably mashed sweet potatoes...which are suspiciously like dessert.
7. Favorite childhood holiday memory. Being up early with my brother and sister to check out the presents when it was still to early to get our parents out of bed.
8. When and how did you learn the truth about Santa? I was probably around 8, and I think I figured it out at Easter. The Easter Bunny seemed less realistic than Santa.
9. Do you open a gift on Christmas Eve? Yes.
10. How do you decorate your Christmas tree? We did the lights first starting at the bottom, then the ornaments.
11. Snow: love it or dread it? Love it. If it's going to be that cold, it damn well better be snowing.
12. Can you ice skate? Sort of. I don't fall over, but I don't think I look particularly graceful doing it.
13. Do you remember your favorite gift? Not one in particular.
14. What's the most important thing to you about the holidays? Getting to see family and friends.
15. What is your favorite holiday dessert? Anything with apples.
16. What is your favorite holiday tradition? Baking goodies while listening to Christmas music. I'd also like to start a tradition of doing a Christmas walk like last year . I'll have to work on Brian to go with me next weekend.
17. What tops your tree? Right now, a stuffed monkey named Weed.
18. Which do you prefer: giving or receiving gifts? Giving. I love picking out presents for people. Not that I have any complaints about receiving gifts.
19. What is your favorite Christmas song? I love "Silent Night." I think that's because just hearing it makes me think of the end of the Christmas Eve service with everyone singing by candlelight. Although I've also been enjoying the tunes on the Brian Setzer Orchestra's Christmas albums this year, especially their version of The Nutcracker.
Thursday, December 07, 2006
Maybe it's because most of the comments haven't seemed offensive at all. Some even make me smile:
"Lookin' good," my bus driver on my evening commute greeted me one day.
"Not much longer now, sister," said the Post Express man outside the Foggy Bottom metro as he handed me a paper.
"Looks like you're getting close," said my bus driver on my morning commute said, after lowering the bus to make it easier for me to get on.
"If I'm facing my door, I can tell it's you coming, because I see your belly first," a coworker teased me.
And my favorite, from a hobo on M Street last Friday night: "Jingle belly, jingle belly, baby's on the way!" (I actually laughed at that one, and then I gave him the change I had in my coat pocket.)
Monday, December 04, 2006
Now I can worry about people googling to find out how to get tickets and emailing me for information
It's been an ongoing issue, but one that hasn't bothered me particularly. Until a couple of weeks ago when I came in on a Monday morning to 14 messages on my voice mail requesting basketball tickets. I returned calls from people who had left messages that I could understand to give them the correct number.
I am amazed at how rude people are. I don't have to return calls when someone dials the wrong number, but I do it to be helpful (and because I'm afraid they'll call again). I explain who I am and why I'm calling and give them the correct number. Then they hang up on me. Either that or they just don't get it and can't figure out why I'm calling them back if I can't sell them basketball tickets.
The calls continue to come, and the callers always ask me "Is this Georgetown?" When I confirm that they've reached someone at Georgetown, they ask about basketball tickets. I give them the correct number, and then many of them hang up on me immediately without thanks. If I do catch them in time to ask where they got my number in the first place, they sound impatient as they tell me that they got it from Information. I'm not sure if they're bothered that Information gave them the wrong number, if they're annoyed that they have to take the time to answer my question, or if they think I ought to know where they got my number.
Others just seem amazingly dense. If they get my voice mail, which now explains that if they are trying to get basketball tickets they need to dial this other number, they leave a message anyhow. And if they reach me (or if I'm a sucker and call them back), they don't understand why I can't sell them basketball tickets. After all, I am at Georgetown, right? There must be something too complicated about dialing this other number I am trying to give them and something too complex about the idea that there are academic offices at a university that have absolutely nothing to do with the athletic teams. "I'm sorry, but I can't help you with getting tickets. You need to call this other number," I explain.
"But aren't you at Georgetown?"
"Yes, but I'm at a research institute. I have nothing to do with the athletic department."
"Well, who do I need to talk to?" I give them the number again.
I just had a new experience, which was more on the rude side of things than the dense side. I gave the correct number to someone who called. She hung up on me, and I guess called the correct number. I'm thinking she was told she had to mail something in, because she called me back a few minutes later. "Is this Georgetown?" she asked again. I confirmed that it was and started to explain again, but she interrupted me: "What's your zip code?" I gave it to her and she hung up on me again.
It would be wrong of me to try to sell tickets to the next caller, wouldn't it? I imagine taking their credit card info, telling them where their seats are, and giving them an imaginary confirmation number to take to the will-call office. I would only do it to the people who keep insisting that I help them after I give them the right number. I wish I could think of a way to do it to the people who hang up without saying thank you.
Wednesday, November 29, 2006
Brian and I spent a quiet Thanksgiving day at home together. When I was growing up, Thanksgiving dinner always took place at my family's house, and I loved it. I think mostly I loved that my cousins were coming over, and we could all sit at the kids' table and have a grand time. I remember the house being full and hectic and warm and happy, and I love that feeling and miss it. But I was also thankful to have this quiet holiday at home this year: to spend the morning lying in bed Brian and the cat, all snuggled up together, while the baby stirred and kicked inside me; to call a pregnant friend to see how she was doing and hear that she had given birth to a little girl the night before; to spend the day in the kitchen with Brian, cooking some of our favorite foods, listening to music (thanks, Lauren!), drinking sparkling pear cider, and just enjoying each others' company.
Friday was a beautiful day--sunny, with temperatures in the 60s--so we ventured out for a nature walk (well, waddle) from River Bend to Great Falls. I discovered that even an easy, 3.5-mile, mostly flat trail can be a bit much when you're eight months pregnant. But it felt so good to be outside in the fresh air, actually getting to move my body. The falls seemed full after the recent rain. I'll post pictures soon.
Saturday I think we were mostly pretty lazy. I don't remember Saturday, to be honest, which is actually a pretty good sign it was a pleasant, lazy day. We spent the evening at a leftovers party with friends, visiting with some people we hadn't seen in awhile, some we had, and some we'd never met before. We enjoyed ourselves immensely, and I managed to stay awake until midnight.
At the leftovers party, one of my friends mentioned wanting to go see "The Nutcracker" at the Kennedy Center. The Post had given the performance an excellent review earlier in the week and I was eager to see the Joffrey Ballet, but it was only in town through the weekend, which Brian and I wanted to take easy, and I knew Brian wouldn't be that into the idea of the ballet, so I hadn't said anything about it to him. Suddenly I had a date for the ballet. We bought tickets for the following night.
I think it may have been the most amazing performance of "The Nutcracker" I've ever seen (the only other two productions I've seen have been the Oakland and San Francisco Ballets'), although that could have been because it had been so long since I'd seen it. But everything about it seemed perfect, from the moment the orchestra began to play the familiar music and Dr.Drosselmeyer in his dark cape made his way across the stage, to the sparkling costume and exquisite dancing of the Snow Queen and the slow grace of the Coffee from Arabia.
It was hard to come back in to the office on Monday morning. I got out of bed at a reasonable hour and made it in by nine (and even settled straight into work, thanks to having made a list on Wednesday afternoon in order to avoid my usual post-vacation work routine--a morning spent puttering around the office wondering what on earth it is they pay me to do here), but I thought good thoughts about the time between my last day of work and the arrival of Sticky.
A nice little exercise
On Sunday, the Post ran an article about happiness. It began by describing an exercise in which you end each day by thinking of three good things that happened that day and why they happened. I've been trying to do that ever since.
Last night as I settled down to sleep I ran over the days' events in my head and quickly came up with three things to be happy about:
- I visited with a neighbor I hadn't seen in a while on the bus and train on the way to work.
- At work, I had to learn how to do something new in SAS, and I figured it out on my own and it actually worked.
- I got home from work to discover Brian in the kitchen preparing what turned out to be a fantastic minestrone.
All I've really done is think of the good things that happened--I haven't really bothered to worry about the why. I don't know if doing this will increase my overall happiness, but I think it will make me more conscious of the good things in my life and aware of little things that are pleasing, and that can't be a bad idea.
Wednesday, November 08, 2006
That may not seem like a big deal. Today it doesn't even seem like a big deal to me.* But yesterday as my mouse hovered over the button to submit my order, I worried: What if it wasn't the right car seat? What if buying the car seat now jinxes things? Then: What if the baby comes early** and I don't have a car seat? CLICK.
Hi, my name is Elizabeth and I am experiencing pregnancy-induced insanity.
I am finding that I am a strange mix of ready and not ready to have a baby. In spite of all the aches and pains I've complained of over the past seven months, I think this has been a pretty easy pregnancy, and I've truly enjoyed being pregnant. As recently as a few weeks ago I was saying to someone that I wouldn't mind being pregnant forever: I love my round belly; my skin is clearer than it has been in years; when the baby moves, it's like she and I have our own secret; everyone is nice to me; and I nearly always get a seat on the Metro. What's not to love? (I mean, besides the sciatica, the waking up to go to the bathroom every 3 hours, no wine with dinner, the fetal foot wedged uncomfortably against my liver***...) Over the past week or so, though, I've felt that begin to change. I still love being pregnant, but I no longer want to be this way forever. I want to meet this little girl. I'm ready to me a mom.
Except, oh. my. god. Me? A mom? What the hell was I thinking?
So in an attempt to control the uncontrollable, I am spending money (carseat, bassinet, wee clothing) and scheduling things (hospital tour, infant cpr class, breastfeeding class,**** the cat's checkup so I can talk to the vet about helping her adjust to the baby). I suppose it's a kind of "retail therapy." I have no idea whether any of these things will help. Well, I expect the things I'm buying will, as I'm told that I can't bring Sticky home without a carseat, and letting her go around in just a diaper in December and January would probably be frowned upon. I think all the classes are just the Type A side of my personality coming out. All of these things are things I planned to do awhile back, things that I've been researching for months. But now that it's time to put those plans into action, I'm suddenly anxious. Planning I like; decisions are still scary.
All I can say is that it's a good thing the baby will come when she's ready. If we had to wait for me to make up my mind, we'd all be in trouble.
*Okay, I might be lying about that a little. I still think it's a big deal. It's just that I've managed to lower my freak-out level to something more manageable.
**By the end of the week I will be 50 days from my due date. Not that I'm counting or anything. Or expecting her to show up promptly.
***Actually, that foot there is probably one of my favorite bits of this whole thing. The whole pregnancy thing, I mean. Not of the baby. I don't have any sort of weird attachments to particular parts of the baby. Although I would like her to have all of the required parts. Not that Sticky's feet aren't wonderful; I saw them in August on the ultrasound. Very wee and perfect.
****Dude, did you know there were entire classes on how to breastfeed? Or that anyone needed such a thing?
Tuesday, November 07, 2006
Brian and I just got back on Sunday from a week-long vacation in California where we visited our families. Since I'll be far enough along by Thanksgiving and Christmas that the airlines won't let me on the planes (and I suspect my midwife would also think it a bad idea), we thought we'd get a trip in now.
Our flights to California were smooth and uneventful. We flew through Dallas, and only had to move down a few gates to get our next plane. Our Christmas trip last year was much better: after landing in Dallas, we boarded the little train to go on to our next terminal. We were in the first car, by ourselves, and we stood up at the very front, watching out the windows, leaning into the turns to pretend we were driving, and making sound effects. When we finally got off the train at the gate that our next flight would be departing from, we realized that at some point a few other people had boarded that car--mostly men in business suits. Oops. We laughed and ran away. No, seriously, we're totally grown ups who are ready to have a child.
Town on a wide open shore
We spent a good portion of our first full day with friends in Playa del Rey. At first the plan had been for them to come out to brunch with us nearer where The In-laws live, but when we arrived last Saturday and to clear skies and temperatures in the 80s, I called my friend Aly and invited myself over to her house instead.
Sunday was a little cooler than Saturday, but I was actually glad of that. We walked from Aly's house through some wetlands (which were rather dry) down to a bistro near the beach for a big brunch, then went from there for a walk down along the beach.
The weather was great, the beach beautiful, and the opportunity to hang out with Aly was wonderful. But the best part was Brian getting a chance to talk with Aly's husband. The last time we'd seen Aly was at Christmas, a few weeks before the birth of her son. Aaron talked with Brian about fatherhood and babies, and I could see Brian's relief that Aly and Aaron were having a normal life with their baby.
SurgeryAwhile back I asked The Mother-in-law, a surgeon, if it would be possible for me to view an operation at her hospital. I've never had any desire to be a doctor, but I'm interested in health and health care and thought it would be interesting. Plus, ever since I met The Mother-in-law seven or eight years ago, I've been intrigued by surgeons: I mean, here is a normal person who opens up a living human body as part of her daily life; that's pretty impressive to me. I've seen a video of a breast lumpectomy without much squeamishness, so I thought I would be able to handle it, and she agreed to try to work something out.
When she first told me that she had arranged to take us with her to the hospital on this trip, though, I started to worry. I was worried that seeing an operation would make me even more afraid of having to have a c-section, or that I would become squeamish and faint (I've never fainted at the sight of blood before, and even watch the needle go in when I have to have blood drawn). By the time we were there, though I was looking forward to it.
At the hospital, Dr. Mother-in-law picked an operation that seemed to her like a good one to view: the removal of tumors from a bladder for biopsy. We put on scrubs and booties and caps over our hair, and were led into an operating room where the surgery was already in progress. The surgeon and resident showed us the endoscope they were using, and we watched on the television screen as one of them removed a piece of tissue and cauterized the place where it had been. They kindly explained to us what they were doing. I was absolutely fascinated.
As a bonus, we also got to go down to pathology, where they showed us how they made slides of the samples that were sent down, and sat with us at a microscope to show us the different layers of tissue and what they look for to determine theinvasiveness of the cancer. As the pathologist pointed to different parts of the cells we were looking at, I was surprised at how much I remembered from my high school biology class--it wasn't a lot, but I knew what he was talking about.
The trip was timed as it was so that we could spend Halloween in southern California with The In-laws. Halloween is a big deal in their neighborhood, and I'd never seen it for myself, and Brian hadn't been since 2000. (That year, when I told my mom that Brian was away to spend Halloween with his family, she asked, "What's his last name? Addams?")
I just don't get that excited about Halloween. I love Christmas and Thanksgiving and my birthday (what? It's like a holiday for me. And less than two weeks away now.), but Halloween just doesn't hold my interest, much to Brian's disappointment. After seeing a South Pasadena Halloween, though, I can see how one might be excited.
Nearly all the houses on the two blocks I saw were quite well decorated. Brian and his dad strung a dummy up through a tree, so that it could be dropped in front of people as they came up the driveway. A coffin that was lit up opened and closed as a mechanical skeleton hand pushed on it. Other families had put up orange lights on their houses and bushes the way some people put up Christmas lights. I saw one house that had the windows all glowing orange, which I thought was a nice effect. Another had a creepy looking monster in the window, and at one a woman dressed as a white witch sat beneath a spotlight on the walk up to the front door.
For me, the best part was accompanying my best friend and her son trick-or-treating up and down the street. James (aka Mr. Incredible, at least last Tuesday) is four now, and was shy at first, but opened up over the course of the evening. I guess sugar has the same effect on him that wine has on me. He was a little wary of some of the houses' creepier decorations, but he seemed to have fun. At most houses he would run eagerly up the walk to the front door (although he did take interesting routes to avoid monsters on lawns or bats hanging from trees) and join the other kids there in collecting some sugary loot. Whenever possible he would take the candy in his hand, rather than let the adult put it into his bag. If it did end up in his bag, he would crouch down and dig it out when he returned to where we were waiting, so he could hold it up and say "I got this kind!" and ask what it was called.
We went up two blocks, and as we worked our way back on the opposite side of the street, the crowds began to pick up. Swarms of parents waited at the foot of each driveway, and children lined up outside doors. When we returned to the In-laws' house, we had to wait in line in order to approach the front door.
By the end of the night, The Father-in-law and Brian had tallied over 1700 little beggars, and at one point they had been coming at a rate of 12 a minute.
A cloud shifts, the plane lifts
The next morning, Brian and I flew up to spend the rest of the week visiting family and friends in the Bay Area. We had planned on driving up the coast, but after I discovered the week before that just sitting in a movie theater for two hours left me stiff and in pain, I booked us on a cheap Southwest flight. I hadn't flown Southwest since Christmas, and I always forget that the whole thing is a little less formal than other airlines, what with the flight attendants singing over the speakers and all. This time we were also told that it was the pilot's last flight: after 32 years of flying, he had reached mandatory retirement age. The flight attendant asked us to wait around after we landed and give him a round of applause when he exited the cockpit, which seemed like a reasonable request to me.
As we were approaching Oakland, she came over the speakers again, reiterating her request and also informing us that Southwest likes to make a big deal of a pilot's retirement, so the airport fire department would be meeting our flight and spraying water over the plane from either side. I thought that was a nice touch, but mostly I was just glad we had been informed in advance. No matter how smooth the flight and gentle the landing, I would have freaked out a bit, I think, if I'd been surprised by firetrucks hosing down the plane.
Taking pregnancy brain to a whole new level
On Wednesday I meant to double check which company I'd ended up renting a car from, but when I logged into my email, I forgot. As we approached Burbank airport, The Father-in-law asked me about it again.
"I forgot to check, but I'm sure it was Enterprise," I said. I did remember being on the Enterprise website. And I remembered that it hadn't been Alamo or National that I rented from, although I have used them in the past.
Brian hauled our suitcases onto the rental car shuttle in Oakland. On the ride to the cars, I listened to a woman talk about an Assembly race and felt comfortably at home. We waited in line at the Enterprise counter, while I glanced over at the National counter from time to time: both companies have green logos. Enterprise had no reservation under my name and no more cars. National didn't either, but they did have a Cadillac we could rent for $140/day.
We sat down on a bench to think. There was pay wireless, so I could check my email that way, but I decided to call The Sister instead. (That makes her sound like a nun, doesn't it?) She kindly logged into my Gmail account and searched for "rental car," "car," and "Enterprise."
Nothing. Except that I had rented from National back in July.
I went back inside the building where Brian was waiting and told him what The Sister had found. He patiently went up to each of the rental counters that didn't have a long line to confirm that we didn't have a reservation with them and ask about the prices of their available cars. The cheapest was $39.95/day. I was pretty sure I had reserved a car for $25/day, so he pulled out his computer and I did a quick search. I discovered that Dollar (which had a long line, so he hadn't checked there) had $29.95/day. I made the reservation, wrote down the confirmation number, and went to wait in line, fingers crossed that the reservation made it into their system promptly. While we waited, I thanked Brian for not being cranky at me about my mistake.
"And at least this makes a good story," I told him.
Where we came from
When we moved from Santa Cruz to the DC area four years ago, we were lucky that Brian's company was willing to allow him to telecommute. The arrangement has worked out pretty well, but I know he likes to get back to see his coworkers live and in person, so we headed down to Santa Cruz for the day to have lunch with them and to visit with another friend.
It was a drizzly, gloomy day when we arrived at the office. Brian requested Mexican food for lunch, and rather than taking us to one of our usual Santa Cruztaquerias , one of his coworkers suggested La Costa, a casual place in Davenport. Eight of us headed up the coast, and we seemed to be the restaurant's lunchtime rush, although the man that had picked the restaurant assured us that during the summer they do better business with people driving along Highway 1. The food was good. I had my usual, simple bean burrito, but they were able to make vegetarian enchiladas at Brian's request, and he raved about the mole sauce on them. I had fun listening to everyone joke around, and just enjoyed the appearance of the people we were sitting around the table with: nearly everyone was wearing jeans, a t-shirt, and ahoody . I miss the casual atmosphere of Santa Cruz (although when I was temping there I always managed to end up placed in offices that were formal enough that women who wore skirts needed to wear nylons; I didn't wear skirts much). I know that I could wear jeans and ahoody to work if I wanted (provided there weren't meetings that day), but I think I would feel too out of place.
The drive up the coast those few miles was wonderful. We had been at the beach only a few days before with Aly, walking along and looking out at the sparkling water, but somehow thegrey , choppy water here was even better. Maybe it was more familiar. We stopped at the home of one of the coworkers on the way back to the office. Or, more precisely, we stopped at the site where he and his wife are building a new house. He led us into the house, point out where different rooms would be, and we climbed up to the second story. While the others investigated what the construction workers were doing and admired the craftsmanship that was going into the building, I stood in what will be the master bedroom, looking through the window over the cypress trees and the farmland to where the cliffs drop off to the ocean.
After lunch Brian and I headed downtown by way of West Cliff Drive, and I thought about the countless times we'd walked there when we were living in The Circles. Everything seemed the same. I thought about how much I wanted to move back to the area. Then I thought about lack of jobs in public policy and the cost of homes.
We met up with my former writing professor at Caffe Bene downtown, just around the corner from his former haunt, Jahva House, which is now a brew pub. I had been disappointed to see that Jahva House was gone when I was there last December, but I enjoyed Caffe Bene, which I'd never been in before. After a nice visit, we said good-bye and headed up to campus, in search of some cute slug gear for Sticky.
It was nearly dark when we reached the main entrance, and as we drove up the hill, the fog was setting in. We were lucky enough to find a metered spot in the Bay Tree lot, and I thought that I was glad to have worked on campus for a couple of years after graduation; otherwise I would have been completely shocked by the changes around campus. (I was surprised to see that the apartments across the street from the bookstore had been completed, although that probably happened some time ago.) I picked out a Fiat Slug tee for Sticky to wear next spring, and Brian vetoed the $20 slug slippers I had my eye on. We also bought a poster of Natural Bridges that we saw near the register, since that was our favorite beach when we lived there, and because it was done in a style we both liked instantly.
We were tired and ready to go home, but we wanted to wait out the rush hour traffic, so we went back downtown. We wandered up and down Pacific Avenue, going into Chefworks, Bookshop, Logos, Streetlight, and the hat store, noting the new stores--both chains and shops that proclaim that they are locally owned--that have opened since the last time we were there. Finally we grabbed slices of pizza at Pizza My Heart and sat in a booth, just like we used to do back when we were in college and then when we were living in town afterward. On other visits to the area, we've both been a bit disappointed, perhaps because we've idealized the town in some ways. But on Thursday night we were both content and thought that this was a place we wouldn't mind living in again.
The next day we headed off to Berkeley to visit friends. We spent the afternoon at the home of some friends, eating a delicious lunch of spicy black bean soup andchiles rellenos on their patio, and then met up with another friend when he was finished with work for dinner (Indian) and a stroll down Solano Avenue. It just felt good to be around people I've known forever. And to eat spicy food without getting heartburn (although a banana I ate the next day just about killed me with the heartburn).
I lived in Martinez my entire life until college, but I rarely ventured across the bridge to Benicia. Not that that's surprising: Benicia isn't exactly full of tourist attractions. But on Saturday, Brian and I met up with some friends for lunch there, and spent some time walking around the downtown area. We walked down onto the pier for views of the water and the surrounding hills (and the smokestacks of the refinery back in Martinez), and strolled back up First Street past antique shops and the old state capitol. I still don't think of it as a tourist destination or some place I'll be hanging out a lot, but it was cute and not a bad way to spend breezy afternoon.
Older than I once was, and younger than I'll be
I'm going to be 28 in a couple of weeks. I've got a master's degree and a salaried job. I've been married for almost five years now. I am about two months away from having a baby. Most of the time I don't feel very grown up, though.
Saturday night I sat at the dinner table in the house I grew up in. My dad was there. My sister and her fiance (she's getting married! That sounds much less nun-like) were to my right. Brian was to my left. And my brother and his live-in girlfriend sat across the table from me. It seemed a little surreal. I suddenly felt old. When did we all grow up?
Where my thoughts escape
I experienced homesickness on this trip, which surprised me. By the end of a week away, I am usually glad to be back in my own house, but this was different. Our first night in California I laid down beside Brian in his parents' guest room and began to cry because I wanted to go home. "I want to be in my bed and see my cat and have my pillows," I whimpered, knowing I was sounding ridiculous, but totally unable to help myself. I was tired and hormonal, and Brian was very patient, and comforted me each night as I went through the same thing.
Sunday night when we got out of our cab, I felt a surge of energy, in spite of the long day spent traveling (we left Martinez at 5:45 that morning) (the fact that I slept for nearly all of the flight from Dallas to Washington probably helped). After spending 10 minutes on the couch letting the cat jump back and forth from my lap to Brian's as she rubbed her face against ours and tried to groom us, I got to work: I unpacked, started the laundry, sorted the mail that arrived while we were away, paid some bills, and made a list of things to do this week. I even did the dishes after dinner without complaining. It was all very boring and felt very good.
The time difference kept me up for a long time, and the cat woke me up frequently, having returned somewhat to her natural nocturnal ways while we were gone. But I was back at home in my own bed.
I was going to wait to post this until I had sorted and uploaded photos. But then this would never get posted, and The Sister informs me that opening this page to see "More Squashy Goodness" every day is getting old. So for her sake, photos will have to wait. Halloween pictures are posted here; my jack-o-lantern is the one with the spider.
Saturday, October 21, 2006
Braised Pinto Beans with Delicata Squash, Red Wine, and Tomatoes
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cups thinly sliced onion
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 pound delicata squash, halved, seeded, and cut into 1/2-inch-thick slices*
3 garlic cloves, crushed
1 15-ounce can pinto beans, drained and rinsed
1 14-ounce can diced tomatoes with their juice
1/2 cup dry red wine
1 chipotle in adobo sauce, minced
1 tablespoon fresh sage, chopped
freshly ground black pepper
*You can use butternut squash as well, with good results, but you have to peel it first. Actually, I usually peel the delicata, too, because I like the softer texture you get without the skin.
1. Melt the butter in a large pan over high heat with the oil. Add the onion and salt and saute until lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Reduce the heat, add the squash and garlic, and saute for 1 minute.
2. Stir in the pinto beans and the tomatoes, along with the wine, chipotle, and sage. Raise the heat and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, covered, until the squash is tender but not falling apart--about 15 minutes.
3. Uncover the pan and cook for 1-2 minutes to thicken the sauce. Season with salt and pepper.
Berley suggests serving this over cheese-filled arepas (pupusas). As a lazy cook, I often just serve it with rice or tortillas. I also had good luck with an alternative version I prepared a couple of weeks ago: I used half the amount of onion, left out the beans, added an extra can of diced tomatoes, and tossed it with pasta.
Thursday, October 19, 2006
I have always been adamantly pro-choice. Depending on the discussion at hand, I will argue in favor of Judith Jarvis Thompson's violinist perspective, take the position that even if it is a life, it’s okay to terminate a pregnancy, and support the legalization of late-term abortions. I attended to March to Save Women's Lives on the Mall a couple of years ago, and I always write cranky letters to my conservative senators whenever NARAL or NOW sends me an email alert.
But while in some debates on social issues I find it nearly impossible to see the other side of the issue (How does letting gay people get married threaten the quality of others’ marriages exactly?), when it comes to the abortion debate I can see where the other side is coming from. After all, if I truly believed that abortion was murder of a human being, I would feel a moral obligation to work to make it illegal, too. I think it was my ability to see the other side of the abortion debate that made me briefly question my beliefs last year after I miscarried.
I’m not sure what brought the idea to mind initially. I was lying in bed in the middle of the day, looking out the window and listening to the hum of the air conditioner while I let my mind drift. Suddenly I found myself wondering: if I am grieving like this for a nine-week-old fetus, how can I argue that it wasn’t a life? How can I believe that it’s okay to end a pregnancy on purpose if I’m this sad to see this one end for no apparent reason?
It didn’t take long for the answer to occur to me. I knew that I wasn’t grieving the loss of a life. Not yet. I was grieving for the loss of the hopes that I had attached to my pregnancy. For the plans I had made for my baby's arrival in April. For the transformation of my life and my self that I had looked forward to so eagerly. I wasn't grieving for "Elvis" (um, I'm apparently into the stupid fetal nicknames), but for the baby I had hoped Elvis would one day become.
Wednesday, October 18, 2006
I made my favorite risotto with it on Sunday night, and after seeing a couple of squash recipe posts, I thought I'd post my own. Well, it's not really my own: this comes pretty much straight from Jack Bishop's A Year in a Vegetarian Kitchen. We love Jack Bishop in our house. Brian even wrote him a fan email one time (and was very excited when he got a response).
Winter Squash Risotto
2 T olive oil
6 T butter
4 cups broth
1 onion, diced small
1.5 cups arborio rice
1 cup white wine
2.5 pounds winter squash*
1 T sage, minced**
freshly grated nutmeg***
1/2 cup grated parmesan, plus extra for the table
*I like delicata, butternut, and acorn squash, in that order.
**I actually used rosemary the other night because it was what I had. It was fine, but sage is better.
***You don't need much. I did 3 turns of my nutmeg grinder. If you don't have whole nutmeg, a dash of ground would probably do.
1. Preparing the squash: Preheat the oven to 450. Melt 3 T butter. Slice squash in half lengthwise, and scoop out the seeds and strings (reserve the seeds and strings). Place the squash on a baking sheet, brush with the melted butter, and sprinkle with salt. Roast the squash in the middle of the oven until they are soft. (It took me about 45 minutes to roast delicatas the other night.) When the squash are cool enough to handle, scoop the flesh from the skin, mash with a fork, and set aside.
2. Preparing the broth: Place the broth and the reserved squash innards in a sauce pan. Bring to a boil and let simmer for about 20 minutes. Strain the broth into a measuring cup and discard the the seeds and strings. Return the broth to the pan along with about 2 cups of water (you'll need about 6 cups of liquid total). Cover and keep warm.
3. Preparing the rice: Melt 2T butter in a large, heavy pot, along with the olive oil. Saute the onion until it is translucent and soft, but don't let it brown. Add the rice and saute for a minute or two, coating the rice in the oil. Pour in the wine and stir until most of it is evaporated or absorbed. Begin adding the broth, about 1/2 to 1 cup at a time, stirring often and waiting for each cup to be mostly absorbed before adding more. After adding about 5 cups, taste the rice to see if it's soft enough. If not continue adding broth until it is.
4. Putting it all together: Add the rest of the butter, the cheese, the squash, the sage, and the nutmeg to the pan. Stir until the butter and the cheese are melted in and the squash is thoroughly mixed in.
5. Serve, sprinkled with more parmesan, and enjoy the praise of the people you are feeding.
Sunday, October 15, 2006
We arrived in Chicago a little later than planned, as our flight was delayed for nearly three hours. We studied the farecard machine at the Midway El station for just a few seconds before a young woman offered us instructions. She assured us that we could share a farecard, which made no sense to me, given that everyone needs his or her own on Metro and BART, but we took her at her word, and found that she was right. I guess she hasn't figured out yet that it's fun to lie to tourists. (Not that I actually tell tourists lies. I at least try to be nice and helpful.)
Since we were late getting in, we checked into our hotel and decided to walk around in Millenium Park, which was nearby. I was fascinated by the "bean" and the Frank Gehry-designed amphitheatre and bridge.
We stopped in Grant Park to rest for a short while, and then headed back toward the El to go to Giordano's, for what a friend had assured me was some of the best pizza in Chicago. We wandered around feeling a little lost until we figured out that the El is actually a subway on the red line, and looking in the air for tracks wasn't going to help. The pizza was indeed excellent, especially because we had to wait 90 minutes for a table. Watching the guys behind the counter assemble pizzas for that long helped build up our appetites. After dinner, we headed back to the hotel, having given up any hope of keeping me awake enough to enjoy going out and listening to jazz.
The next morning we checked out the Art Institute. I have been somewhat afraid of art museums ever since Brian and I spent a day in Madrid trying to take in the entire Prado. Now I know I need to have an agenda, so we did a self-guided tour outlined in a tour book someone at work had given me, which made the museum much more manageable. The tour gave us the highlights, taking us first through the impressionists, and then into the surrealists. I've always thought Dali was pretty creepy, but I discovered that Tanguay is even more so. My favorite of his was "The Rapidity of Sleep"--not because I liked the work itself, but because the card beside the painting's only description beyond the artist, title, and date read, "The relationship to the title of the painting is unknown." I liked the work of Joseph Cornell, and an exhibit that used a lot of text, by a modern artist whose name I've forgotten. The tour book led us to a dead end, which turned out to be a good thing. If it had led us directly to Georgia O'Keeffe, as it was supposed to, we would have missed the Picasso rooms and the Jose Guadalupe Posada exhibit. There was definitely more that I wanted to see, but museum fatigue was setting in.
The Art Institute was supposed to be followed up by lunch and then a self-guided historic architecture tour. Instead, it was followed by lunch and a nap back at the hotel. After I'd recovered some of my energy, we walked around the Magnificent Mile area and then headed up to the Hancock Center for drinks in the lounge at sunset. The views from the 96th floor were amazing. We watched the sky and lake fade through colors more lovely than anything we'd seen at the museum that morning, as lights began to twinkle below us and night took over the city. Finally we headed out, venturing up to Devon Avenue for curry, which involved taking a bus that we didn't have a schedule for--just the tour book's word that it would get us to the right place. It actually worked out quite well (better than their suggestion for finding the O'Keeffe paintings), with the bus arriving after only a short wait, and a large group of Indians or Pakistanis who we followed when they all got off at the same stop. We picked Udupi Palace, because it was all vegetarian and had the same name as a restaurant we like in Takoma Park. It turned out that the two are actually owned by the same people. At least that meant we knew we would like the food. (It was very spicy and good, and totally and completely worth the heartburn it gave me.) Brian took pity on his poor, pregnant wife, and we took a cab back downtown to the hotel.
We spent the next day in more museums. The plan for our trip had been to do one museum per day, but since the delayed flight on Saturday had messed with that, we decided to go to two on Monday, since Monday was supposed to be cool and gloomy. It actually turned out to be cool and sunny, but plans can only be changed so many times, and I was not going to go all the way to Chicago and not see Sue, and Brian wasn't going to miss out on the museum of the Chicago Historical Society.
It actually turned out to be good to go to the Field Museum on a Monday. I knew it was a discount day, but I didn't know that "discount" meant "free." After four years in Washington, I find myself rather appalled to have to spend actual money to get into a museum, so the discount was a nice surprise. We checked out Sue, and then wandered through case after case of birds. Because it was free, I didn't feel bad about giving up after those two exhibits, but we did spend a little bit of time checking out the mammals.
For lunch we went to Gino's East, which was another friend's favorite pizza place when she lived in Chicago. I actually liked their pizza a little bit better than Giordano's--I think the crust was a little crisper, which was nice. And every available surface was covered in graffiti. That was fun to look at for a little while, but I really thought people should have been more creative than just writing their names. I was relieved that the bus ride up to Gino's from the museum was so long and that it took 40 minutes to make the pizza. I was exhausted.
The tour book failed us one more time on the trip. It assured us that on Mondays the Chicago Historical Society museum was free and open until eight. Well, it was free, but it apparently closes at 4:30. We learned that at about 4:25, when the staff started clearing us out. I wish we'd had more time to see other exhibits, but just the sections we saw about the Chicago Board of Trade, the fire, the Haymarket Riots, the race riots, and the Democratic National Convention were interesting.
Leaving earlier than we planned meant we had time to stop and sit down for a bit before a brisk walk back to the train, so we could get our bags from the hotel and head back to the airport. Where our plane was, fortunately, on time.
Pictures from the trip are online here.
Thursday, October 12, 2006
So the routine test for gestational diabetes at my prenatal appointment on Tuesday was a bit of a surprise. I actually liked the drink: it just tasted like flat orange pop...or flat orange pop with a couple extra teaspoons of sugar mixed in. Then I had to wait for an hour to have my blood drawn. The first part of the hour went quickly because I was called upstairs for my check-up. But when I returned to the waiting room to sit, I realized I couldn't concentrate on my book at all. I was tired, hungry, queasy, dizzy. At least I got to make the office staff laugh by being (apparently) the only woman in the history of the practice to ask for another glucose drink. (I was sure that more sugar was the only thing that would make me feel better ever again.) They denied me, but the PBJ I'd brought along with me for after the blood draw did the trick.
Other than that, the appointment was good and easy. I am measuring about 29 weeks, which at 28 weeks is just fine with me. Sticky apparently had an early growth spurt, because at 22 weeks I was measuring 26 weeks. She's leveled off since then:at 24 weeks I was at 28. I guess we're leveling off now, and I'm not actually going to have an 18-pound baby. My blood pressure is lower than it was when I first got pregnant and I've gained less weight than I thought (when I started outgrowing some of my maternity clothes, I was worried), but still a healthy amount. As of now, I will have visits every two weeks instead of every four. That will be reassuring: I like to go in as often as possible to hear the fast little heartbeat.
Tuesday, October 10, 2006
The way I always describe Grandma Ruth to people is to explain what happened the day after my birthday when I turned 9 or 10. I received a new scooter for my birthday that year. It was lavender and had hand brakes. I don't know if my parents gave it to me or if Grandma did. But I remember that after school on my birthday, Grandma Ruth came over for birthday dinner and we took turns riding my scooter up and down the sidewalk up front. But the real memory is from the next day, when someone at school asked if I had had a party for my birthday. I told them that we'd had dinner and cake and ice cream, and that Grandma Ruth and I had played on my new scooter. "Your grandma? Rode a scooter? Grandmas don't ride scooters," someone said. And I was baffled, because of course grandmas could ride scooters. What kind of boring grandmas did this person have?
Grandma Ruth was our main babysitter growing up. She played with us, read us stories, and tucked us into bed. More than once I got out of bed and went to tell her I had a bad dream or I was scared, even if I wasn't, because I knew that she would come into my bedroom and rub my back until I fell asleep.
She made apple pie with lots of cinnamon for Thanksgiving, and ham with scalloped potatoes for dinner on Christmas Eve. I have a memory of standing on a chair in her kitchen helping to make cookies.
She played golf and liked the color red. She collected giraffes--everything from stuffed toys to jewelry to prints to dish towels. When we were little, my brother and sister and I made a game of counting how many giraffes were in Grandma's house. The number was well into the hundreds. When I was in Buenos Aires last year, I bought a wooden carving of a giraffe, thinking of it as a gift for Grandma.
She worked at the police station in our town. Sometimes my mom would take us down to visit her there after school. She always had lemon drops on her desk. I can't eat a lemon drop without remembering her.
When I was in middle school and my mom went back to work, I spent the afternoons at Grandma's house doing homework and watching television until my mom could pick me up. Grandma was working (right down the street), so most days I didn't see her. Until she got sick and had to stop working. Then she would be there in the afternoons. We would have Reese's peanut butter cups and A&W root beer for a snack. I remember that we would sit and talk, but I don't remember any of our conversations.
I remember that she got sicker and sicker. That instead of being in the rocking chair or at the kitchen table, she would be in bed when I got there. That eventually we would go visit her, but I wasn't spending afternoons there. That the house was full of people--relatives, friends, hospice workers. That I took home a stuffed giraffe a few weeks before she died.
She died just after Valentine's Day in 1992.
I wish Brian could have met her. I wish I could see her holding my baby this winter.
Friday, October 06, 2006
A couple of months ago I was looking at the Birchmere's fall lineup and saw "Woody Guthrie Tribute" on the list for October with Pete Seeger first on the list of performers. I didn't stop to see if I recognized any of the other artists. I just bought tickets. Pete Seeger. I mean, like, really: PETE SEEGER.
I suppose it could have been a let down. After all, after all the years of listening to his music and reading about him, my expectations might have been inflated beyond what any reality could live up to. I mean, his voice could have been shaky. He could have seemed small. He could have been somethng other than what I had imagined. But I think what amazed me most was how familiar everything seemed. There was Pete Seeger up on stage in a green shirt, looking tall and healthy, his banjo hanging from his right shoulder. His voice sounded just like it does on the records. After the intermission when he was answering questions about Woody Guthrie posed to him by Joe Uehlein, I knew his voice and his speech patterns.
The other artists were good too. Even though I'd never heard most of them before, some of their names were familiar. They were all talented musicians, and I will probably pick up an album by Sarah Lee Guthrie and Johnny Irions at some point. And because it was a Guthrie tribute I knew most of the songs. But, like most people in the audience, I was there to see Pete. I'd never seen him live before, and since he's 87 and not touring much, I figured this was my chance. It really was the perfect way to see him--surrounded by other singers who complemented his singing and playing style.
And then at the end everyone on stage and in the audience sang "This Land is Your Land," with Pete calling out the words to the verses in front of the song. Absolutely perfect.
We're off to Chicago for a weekend of pizza and dinosaurs!
Friday, September 29, 2006
"Are you okay?"
"What? Oh, yes, sorry. What were you saying?"
"Well, you were saying..." I felt my face grow warm, as he reminded what we had been talking about.
Apparently a baby kick has the ability to completely reboot my brain. The next three months should be fun.
Monday, September 25, 2006
The store was amazingly calm for a Saturday morning. We got there just after it opened, found parking easily, wandered the store without being overwhelmed by crowds, and were able to bring the car around to the loading area without any problems. It was quite the contrast from when I first introduced myself to the gargantuan blue monster just off the freeway in Emeryville. That was shortly after it opened, and apparently everyone in the bay area needed cheap Swedish furniture. I was by myself, and somehow managed to enter through the exit. Since I didn't know anything about Ikea at that point, I was confused about why everyone was so excited about a big warehouse of flat cardboard boxes filled with furniture pieces. Eventually I found my way to the showroom, where I was overwhelmed by crowds as I moved in the opposite direction of the big arrows on the floor. I was never brave enough to return to an Ikea until after we moved to the east coast, when we made the mistake of attempting to buy new furniture the same weekend that all the new students did. That trip required about 3 return trips, all of which I made Brian do on his own on his way home from work. (I'm not entirely sure that Potomac Mills was on his way home, but he was the one who was taking the car each day, and his job was in Vienna which is in Virginia and Potomac Mills is in Virginia, so I assumed they must be near each other. My concept of the layout of this area still leaves something to be desired.) So making it through the store so easily was something of a relief. And we only came out of the Marketplace with three things we hadn't planned on buying.
Plus, now I have a cute little dresser that will be used as a changing table and can hold all of Sticky's cute little clothes. My nesting instinct is once again temporarily satisfied, even if I didn't convince Brian that we need a new dining room set. I figure all I need now are diapers and a carseat. That's all one really needs to have in order to have a baby, right? Well, and boobs to feed her with, but I've decided not to shop around for those and just use the ones I've got.
(Who needs a segue when you can just put three little stars up there and change the subject? Worked for Herb Caen.)
(Ha. I just compared me and my blog to Herb Caen.)
I've always believed in the mind-body connection, but in the past year that I've been regularly attending yoga classes--what I think of as real yoga classes, not just stretching classes--the connection has become even more clear to me. In my first trimester I was incredibly anxious most of the time. I continued to attend my yoga classes, find that they helped me relax for the hour and fifteen minutes I was there, and that that relaxed feeling often continued with me for a few days. I struggled with the balance poses, though. I've always been able to find my balance fairly easily and enjoyed the challenge of poses like tree and eagle. But during May and June, I felt incredibly shaky in those poses, often moving closer to the wall in order to give myself more of a sense of security
Yesterday I woke up in a foul mood for no apparent reason--the kind of mood that would have me bursting into tears when Brian asked me how I was feeling. I coaxed myself out the door to my prenatal yoga class, telling myself and Brian that yoga would straighten me out. It didn't occur to me until the teacher had us move into tree pose that my mood would affect my practice, but as I began to shift my weight onto my left leg--usually the side where my balance is the best--I felt wobbly. It took a few tries before I could remain in the pose without tipping over. Balancing on my right leg was even more of a challenge, and even in a warrior flow series I felt shaky.
Today I woke up in a much better mood. I'm going to a regular hatha class tonight, and I think my balance is going to be better.
My short term memory seems to be fading. I print a document, leave my office to pick it up from the printer, forget what it was I was doing, go into the kitchen to get a snack, and then return to my desk. Then someone else finds my document on the printer and brings it to me. I keep a notebook of all my phone calls at work, but I think I am going to have to record the details of all the in-person conversations I have as well.
I saw my first Monty Python movie over the weekend. Somehow, all I'd ever managed to see were Flying Circus episodes. A friend in college had a box set or something of those, and Brian and I spent a weekend with the flu our senior year crashed out in front of the TV watching those. Anyhow, the movie was hilarious, and I don't know how I went so long without that silliness.
Brian and I have met with a couple of doulas recently, and we settled on one easily. I had worried that we wouldn't like the same person, but in the end it was no trouble at all. One woman we met with for what we assumed would be a 30-minute interview. We talked with her for two hours and thought she was fantastic. Another came by our house over the weekend. Within a few minutes of her arrival, both Brian and I knew that we wouldn't be able to have this woman attending Sticky's birth. I feel like such a freaking hippy for saying this (but hell, I'm talking about doulas, so why not?), but the negative energy she gave off left me stunned. I have a feeling that she and I agreed on most things, but her approach to things that she didn't like were hostile andaggressive . We spent about half an hour with her, and after closing the door behind her, we looked at each other and said "Not her." At least she helped make our decision simple. And it was nice to know that Brian and I are on the same wavelength.
It makes me happy that there are nice people out there. I worried when I got to the Metro this morning and saw "MAJOR DELAYS" in red letters on the screen. My sciatica was killing me (I blame Ikea), and I didn't want to wait forever for a train. I only waited a couple of minutes, though, and when I boarded the crowded train, a woman promptly smiled and stood up to give me her seat. Most of the time, especially in the morning, I don't take a seat when it's offered, as I don't really feel like I need it. But since my seven-minute ride took half an hour, I was relieved to be sitting down.
Are you having problems with iTunes 7 for Windows? Here is some handy tech support from The Husband:
How to replace iTunes 7 with iTunes 6
Unfortunately, iTunes 7 is a lemon. Many people have reported that music playback on Windows machines is scratchy or stutters, particularly when running other applications in the background. We went through all of the troubleshooting steps on this Apple web page, and none of them fixed the problem. In desperation, we decided to try to install iTunes 6 instead.
All of the problems went away.
Here are the steps we followed:
1) Look for a file called "My Music" -> "iTunes" -> "Previous iTunes Libraries" -> "iTunes Library -date-", where -date- is the date you installed iTunes 7 and thus wrecked the sound quality. If you don't have this file, weep quietly for a moment. You're probably going to have to rebuild any custom playlists.
2) Download iTunes 6 from Apple's web site. (Click the "Download - 36 MB" link)
3) Back up any custom playlists. (We didn't end up needing the backups, but just in case.)
4) Uninstall iTunes 7, using the Window Add/Remove Programs control panel.
5) Reboot. (C'mon, this is Windows.)
6) Install iTunes 6 using the program you downloaded earlier.
7) No reboot. (Wow! This is Windows?)
8) Start up iTunes.
9) See an error saying the "iTunes Library.itl" file was created by a later version of iTunes, and cannot be used.
10) Panic. But not for too long.
11) Go find that "iTunes Library -date-" file we mentioned in step 1.
12) Kiss an iTunes developer, if one is around. If you don't know any iTunes developers, just send Steve Jobs a sexy photo. Not all products are sensible enough to backup old versions of configuration files during upgrades.
13) Copy the file "iTunes Library" to "iTunes 7 Library." (You don't need it, but backups are good karma.)
14) Copy the file named "Previous iTunes Libraries" -> "iTunes Library -date-" over the top of the "iTunes Library" file.
15) Start up iTunes.
16) Check if the problem is fixed.
17) Be groovy.
Tuesday, September 19, 2006
But what's more embarrassing is trying to explain to said coworker that you are crying because you are very hungry and you just want to go to the kitchen and heat up your lunch, but someone recently reheated some fried chicken and the smell in the kitchen and hallway makes you too sick, and having the coworker offer to go fix your lunch for you.
And yes, I totally took her up on that.
Saturday, September 16, 2006
Man #1: Y'hear about that guy that shot up that school in Canada?
Man #2: Man, that wasn't in Canada. That was Montreal.
Man #1: Montreal is in Canada.
Man #2: No, it ain't, man. The Nats was the Montreal Expos 'fore they came here. They don't got baseball in Canada.
Thursday, September 14, 2006
I quit my job.
Okay, I didn't really. I am still here, still working away. But this week I gave notice to my direct bosses that I do not intend to return to work after maternity leave. It seems early to make this decision, but because of the way the work in this office is funded (all grants and contracts), I felt my bosses needed to know sooner rather than later.
I've been surprised how ambivalent I've been feeling since I made this "official." I've known since long before I got pregnant that I was going to stay home. It's what I want. It's what Brian wants. When I first announced I was pregnant, a couple of friends asked what I was planning to do about maternity leave, and I told them happily that I was planning on "maternity quitting." But whenever I was asked at work, I was non-committal, refusing to say one way or another what my plan was. Now I've said it, and while I am happy with my decision, I am somewhat anxious about it: I really enjoy my job; I am still paying off student loans for the degree that helped me get this job; and I have no idea what it's really like to be a mother. But this is what I want, for myself, for my family. (Oh, crap! We're going to be a family!)
I am a planner. Maybe I don't take it to the same extremes as some people, but I like to know what's going to happen in advance. Well in advance. And I like to be the one making the plans to make things happen. I don't like letting go control over plans. But I figured out this week that actually finalizing plans actually makes me a bit crazy. I guess that's why I plan a trip six months in advance, only to buy plane tickets two weeks before I leave.
So we have contingency plans. Lots and lots of plans to help settle my neurotic, hormonal mind. Right now the plan is to stay home for a few months and see how that goes. If it seems like it is the right decision, we'll stick with that. If I find that I am the kind of person who is just not cut out for being a stay-at-home mom, then I will can look for another job. I am leaving this job on good terms, but I think if I do want to continue to work, it is time for me to move on to another experience. That may mean moving back to the west coast; that may mean staying put in the DC area. I feel okay about that uncertainty because there is a plan in place for either of those options, as well as for the option of having me continue to stay home with Sticky.
It seems as though I've got all my bases covered (although I know there must be something I've leaving out), which means I can direct my anxiety toward reorganizing the rest of our closets.
Monday, September 11, 2006
I watched a plane on its ascent from National climbing across the grey sky over the Pentagon, and suddenly my mind stopped drifting and I remembered the date. I saw other people on the bus turn to watch the plane, and I imagined that we were all thinking the same thing.
Friday, September 08, 2006
According to Congressman Moran's email, 90,000 horses are slaughtered in this country each year:
The reason so many horses are treated in this manner is that the overseas market for horse meat is very lucrative. So-called "killer buyers" purchase horses at livestock auctions, from families and individuals believing their animal is going to receive good treatment. Instead, these unscrupulous buyers then turn to one of the three foreign owned horse slaughter houses (the only horse slaughter houses in the country) who put these proud animals through a painful rendering process. The byproduct of these actions ends up on the dinner plates at fancy French, Dutch and Japanese restaurants overseas.I have been vegetarian for about three years now. You might think I would be against the slaughter of horses, but I'm having trouble being particularly concerned about the animals' plight. I generally tell people that I am a vegetarian not for ethical or health reasons, but for conceptual reasons. I do not think it is wrong for humans to eat animals. Certainly I am concerned about the conditions that animals are treated in and I know I benefit from eating less animal fat, but mainly I don't eat meat because the whole idea of eating an animal started to gross me out. Should I be more concerned about horses than I am about other animals that are used for meat?
Maybe I only feel this way because I don't feel any particular attachment to horses. I've never been on a horse in my life, and I'm a little bit of afraid of them, to be honest. What if this were cat slaughter legislation? Would I feel differently then? I thought about that last night as my cat curled up with me in bed. I certainly wouldn't be sending her off to the slaughter house (although I would totally threaten it when she wakes me up in the middle of the night to play), but I don't think I would be in favor of that legislation either. If other people in this country or in others want to eat cats, that's their business. I'm not going to eat cat meat, and I'm not going to send Cecilia off to the slaughter house when she reaches the end of her little kitty life, but I can't see defining eating cats or horses as wrong when it's okay to eat rabbits and pigs.
When I read the above paragraph I also wondered whether the "painful rendering process" these horses really go through is worse than what cows and pigs go through when they are slaughtered. I know there are many people in favor of more humane treatment of animals that are raised for meat, and I can support those beliefs, although since the animal ends up dead and eaten in the end regardless, I often think the humane treatment may be more for our benefit than for the animals'.
My favorite part of Moran's argument in this email is his statement that "this practice is simply un-American. Americans do not eat horse meat. We are taught from an early age to treat these animals with dignity and respect." Why horses in particular? According to Moran it is because they are an icon of the American West. According to a group advocating for the passage of the bill, one of the top reasons is that horse slaughter hurts the U.S. beef industry. (I'll have to look up whether Moran has taken any donations from them.)
I was disappointed to read that the bill had passed yesterday. I don't think the legislation is the right thing to do, and I'd really rather that my representatives in the Congress were working on more important things. In Moran's second email he seems to agree with me; after announcing the passage of the H.R. 503, he says:
Unfortunately, this Congress, with only three weeks left on the legislative calendar, still refuses to tackle the major issues that confront the American people. Issues such as the emerging civil war in Iraq, the exploding federal deficit, the growing ranks of the uninsured and rapid global warming continue to go without debate.But then he adds:
In the absence of the Majority Party's willingness to tackle these vital issues, passing the horse slaughter ban means that the final month of session will not have been a complete waste.I'm not so sure about that.
And you know what else bothers me about the whole thing? Apparently the Bush administration is on my side on this one.
The Husband contributed the title of this post. He says that if he could draw, he would create for me an illustration of beret-wearing horse thieves sneaking up on some child's pet pony, drooling, knife and fork in hand. I think it should be a cartoon strip, and in the next panel, John Sweeney and Jim Moran could swoop in and save the day using their amazing powers of . . . um . . . legislation?
Thursday, September 07, 2006
Until Monday morning. I went to get a towel out of the linen closet and realized how disorganized it has become. I sat down right where I was to cry for a few minutes, because dude, HOW CAN I BRING A BABY INTO A HOUSE WITH A DISORGANIZED LINEN CLOSET? Everything has since been pulled out, sorted through, and returned to its rightful, organized place. I have a sling, a few cute little outfits, and organized sheets and towels. What more could Sticky possibly need?
Tuesday, September 05, 2006
But still I am struggling to accept the physical limitations that pregnancy is putting on me: I keep finding myself frustrated with things I think I ought to be able to do. Things I used to be able to do. A hike a few weeks back, on a trail that I found somewhat challenging (mostly because of my fear of falling) in April, left me limping with pain in my lower back for two days. In a recent yoga class, I discovered that plank pose, which has always given me a good arm workout, actually requires a fair amount of core strength--which isn't something I seem to have a lot of these days, not with an aching back and abs that are moving out of the way to make room for the baby. Speaking of abs, I used to be able to do 500 crunches. Now? Yeah, not so much.
"You just need to adjust your expectations," Brian keeps telling me. "Let go of your expectations," my yoga teacher says. "Practice non-attachment." Easier said that done, but I am slowly but surely taking their advice. While the rest of the yoga class does six sun salutations, I do four, moving at my own pace, putting up-dog in place of plank and cobra, rising carefully from my forward bend to avoid dizziness. I am cautious around the house, requesting that Brian carry laundry up and down the stairs for me, so that I don't do in my back again. I once walked a marathon, averaging a pace of 16 minutes a mile; now I walk a flat course on a treadmill, barely making it two miles in 40 minutes, so that I can keep my heartrate under control.
I figure this is good practice. All this letting go of expectations must be a rehearsal for motherhood.
Thursday, August 31, 2006
Monday, August 28, 2006
I stepped onto the nearly-empty last car of the train, sat down in one of the first seats, and immediately regretted my choice: the young man behind me was talking on a cell phone. But even though he was talking in a loud cell phone voice, he did at least seem to be wrapping up his conversation.
“Excuse me,” I heard a woman behind me and across the aisle say after he hung up. “You aren’t from this area, are you?”
“No,” he told her. It was a safe question on her part: from the conversation he was having, it had been clear he was in town to visit friends.
“Well, they recently passed a law about using cell phones on the Metro. It’s actually a $25 ticket.”
“Oh, I didn’t know.” He sounded very apologetic.
“A lot of people who aren’t from here don’t. It just passed and they don’t have signs up on all the trains.”
I bit my lip and tried not to laugh, as the young man apologized and the woman assured him that it was all right, that she was just trying to help him out. I wanted to turn around and look at them. Because of where I was seated I couldn’t even glimpse their reflections in the windows, but the man across the aisle from me was also suppressing laughter.
Last year for Christmas Brian gave me a book of lies to tell children. I’m thinking there ought to be one of fun lies to tell tourists.
Friday, August 25, 2006
When I went for my ultrasound last Friday, I was signing my file and noted the last date on it: “
“I don’t think I was thinking very clearly when we were here last year,” I told him. “I got the year wrong.”
I hadn’t been thinking clearly. I was terrified. When I signed that file it was part of the paperwork before the ultrasound to find out why I was spotting. I was nine weeks pregnant and praying silently that everything was going to be okay, even though I knew it wasn’t.
We had seen a heartbeat about two weeks before—a small, regular flicker on the screen—so I knew what to look for when the grainy black-and-white image appeared on the screen.
It wasn’t there.
I went home that afternoon to wait to eat ridiculous quantities of Ben & Jerry’s and wait to miscarry. I told my bosses, who didn’t know I was pregnant, that I was sick and I would be out for a few days. That was on Thursday. I didn’t miscarry until Sunday night.
I had decided Sunday afternoon that I would call the next morning to schedule a D&C. My fear of the anesthetic had made me decide to wait, but I was tired of waiting. I was ready to move on. I planned out the next couple of days as the cramping became harder to handle. I alternated between forcing myself to relax into child’s pose and pacing my bedroom, as I attempted to slow down my breathing and deny what was happening.
And then there was blood, lots of it, and the blood and the pain were something of a relief. At least I wasn’t waiting anymore. At least I wasn’t going to have to go to the hospital.
I took three more days away from work. Even though only one person in the office had known I was pregnant, I couldn’t bear to face anyone. I spent the days reading the news about Hurricane Katrina, eating ice cream, and talking on the phone and IMing with a couple of friends.
I didn’t want to talk to most people. When we told friends and family what was happening, we made it clear that I wasn’t ready to talk to anyone. But I needed those friends. Those friends who promised me that things would be okay. Who let me talk about it. Who let me talk about anything but it. Whatever I needed at that moment.
At least I wasn’t surprised by the intensity of the grief I felt. It seemed reasonable to me. It took awhile to work through, which also made sense, and when I began to reach the other side of it, I was very conscious of the change. I wanted to go out with friends again. I could look around me and appreciate the world. I wasn’t full of hate that I didn’t have any place to direct. I don’t think I was clinically depressed during those weeks, although I know Brian and my friends worried about it. I think I was dealing with grief in the only way it can truly be dealt with, and in the end I was okay.
It wasn’t until months later, until after my original due date had passed, that I got pregnant again. Sometimes I wonder about that connection. Knowing that day was my due date was sad, but I didn’t become depressed the way I had feared I might. I was simply very conscious of it, and I felt relieved when April 1st had come and gone. Getting through that date was freeing. I didn’t have a baby. I wasn’t pregnant. But I had made it and I was okay.
And then I was pregnant.
I was ecstatic and terrified. It had been too soon to test, but I had. It was too soon for the test to show a result at all, but when I looked down, there it was. I am not one who is willing to wonder if that second line is really a line. It was a digital test and it said “pregnant.” I was shocked.Crying is my response to a lot of different emotions. I cry when I'm happy, when I'm sad, when I'm confused. But when all those things hit at once? I freeze. It was four in the morning, and I was frozen. For an hour I sat, not thinking, not crying, not feeling. It wasn't until I woke Brian up and told him and felt his arms around me that I cried.
I told a few friends almost immediately—the friends that I knew I would need in case something went wrong again. One of them asked me how I was feeling about it.
“I’m okay,” I said.
"Well, I alternate among being blissfully happy, being in complete denial, and freaking the righteous fuck out. Which I think averages out to 'okay.'"
I was totally serious, and it’s completely true, even though typing it makes me laugh. I was terrified, but the joy of being pregnant won out. The checker at Whole Foods complimented my necklace, and I burst out with the news that I was pregnant. I called to schedule my first prenatal exam. I started thinking about baby names.
But every day I worried. Even when I would eat to settle my upset stomach and then feel sick ten minutes later because I had eaten, I would worry that it was all in my head. I felt guilty for being so afraid. The baby deserves for me to be happy. He deserves for me to love him, I told myself. And I did love him. That wasn’t something I could stop myself from doing, no matter how afraid I was.
Now “he” is a “she.” I’ve heard her heart beat. I’ve seen her little feet. People are starting to be able to tell I’m pregnant just by looking at me. Still, I’m anxious. But I just felt her wiggle.