welcome ... enjoy yourself

Monday, March 30, 2015

portland (in iphotos)

A few weeks ago, Paul and I went to Portland to visit family and friends and celebrate the anticipated arrival of our first baby.  While we were there we walked under the cherry trees along the Willamette River...

tried out a new coffee shop...

soaked in all the spring vibes and blooming flowers...

enjoyed breakfast at my favorite French bakery...

and had a mini babymoon at the Crystal Hotel (the lounge pool was the best!)....

The few days we spent in Portland were so rejuvenating and restful.  I had no idea how much my body and spirit needed warm weather and a mini vacation until I felt myself coming back to life.  One day at lunch I couldn't stop smiling and laughing - all because the weather was warmer, we were surrounded by friends, and we had a break from the past few busy months in Milwaukee.  The winters here really take a toll on me, and it's so nice to get away for a bit and feel like myself again.  More photos from our Portland baby shower coming this week! 

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

thoughts on pregnancy (28 weeks)

Welcome to the third trimester!  I hit 28 weeks this Saturday which means we have less than 12 weeks until we get to meet this little bambino!  There's still lots to do, and I have a feeling the next three months are going to fly by.  Here's some random thoughts on my pregnancy at 28 weeks:

- I finally look pregnant.  Like the pictures of pregnant ladies you see in advertisements, tv shows, and hospital posters (there's never pictures of pregnant ladies in their awkward pregnancy stages).  Random strangers can now tell I'm pregnant and not just super bloated.  For some reason, it makes me feel like I'm really pregnant now.  Funny how the way you look can influence how you feel.   

- Relatedly, people have been so kind about my pregnancy.  It's an excellent conversation starter.  Everyone is so happy to hear about a person starting a family.

- I feel the baby move all the time.  The baby loves moving in the morning and right before I go to bed -- and anytime I sit down or lay down.  Sometimes the baby hits me on both sides of my stomach at the same time.  Baby - how do you do that??  You're already impressing me.

 - I love resting things on my stomach.  My hands, food, the Ipad.  It's really fun when the baby moves and kicks/punches whatever is resting on my stomach. 

- I'm starting to let go of former responsibilities.  I gave up my role as the community garden leader since the baby will be born right in the middle of the garden season.  I'll still garden, but I'll just help out at the garden when/if I can.  I also stopped one of my part time jobs a few weeks ago, so I'll just be working about 25 hours a week until the baby comes.  I'm really excited to have extra time to set up the baby nursery, exercise more, and focus on eating healthier.  I'm very grateful to be able to lower my stress and build my strength in my last trimester. 

- In anticipation of upcoming baby showers, Paul and I started our baby registry a few weeks ago.  I was a little nervous about it because it seemed pretty overwhelming, but it was actually a lot of fun. I took care of the smaller items, and Paul picked out the big ticket items (crib, stroller, car seat).  I was so glad I didn't have to research those big things!

- We're in the middle of baby shower season.  We had a St. Patrick's Day baby shower with Paul's family last week in Portland, and I really felt showered with love.  In the next few weeks I'll have a couple more showers with my family and a virtual one with friends.  It's such a gift to share our excitement with family and friends.  This baby is already so loved and wanted and welcomed.  
- I'm starting to like my body again.  Even with the stomach stretch marks and my inability to tie my shoes and my extra poundage.  The coolness of my growing belly is starting to balance out the awkwardness of my other bodily changes. 

- I found another great book that's been super helpful - this time for my fear of childbirth.  When we hit the 12 week mark, and it looked pretty hopeful that we would have a healthy baby I had two simultaneous thoughts.  One: thank God!  Two: that means I have to give birth!  Ina May Gaskin's Guide to Childbirth has been really helpful in helping me let go some of my fears.  Her midwife approach to birth has really opened my eyes to the beauty of childbirth.  I love that she reminds you over and over that pregnancy is not a pathology but something natural that women have been able to do for thousands of years.  It's made me feel more open to trying some natural birthing techniques instead of just opting immediately for an epidural.  We'll see what happens :) 

- In my last update I talked about some of the struggles I had been having with my pregnancy.  After writing that post, I realized that I wasn't letting myself feel pregnant.  I wasn't letting myself embrace the pregnancy for a lingering fear that someone would tell me I wasn't actually pregnant.  Or that one day I would just suddenly get my period.  Part of it was the earlier miscarriage and part of it was going to the doctor that first time and not getting a positive test -- and part of it was a bit of that childhood naivety that you'll never actually get older, never actually be able to be a parent yourself.  Pregnancy is truly a huge emotional and mental journey. 

Monday, March 23, 2015

welcome to spring!!!

Last week Paul and I travelled to Portland for a quick visit.  Spring was in full bloom, and the warm weather (60s) was such a welcome change from the weather we had been having in Wisconsin (20s-30s).  If you've ever experienced a winter up north, you probably know the de-thawing feeling that comes with spring.  After spending all winter bracing yourself against the cold, you can suddenly let your body relax.  You can be outside without wearing multiple parkas.  You finally feel the warm sunshine on your skin instead of biting winds.  The return of spring feels like a little miracle every year.  

I'm so glad I had a few days of daffodils, tulips, and cherry blossoms, because we returned to Wisconsin to more clouds and cold.  As I'm writing this, we're getting a fresh sprinkling of snow.  I'm crossing my fingers and toes that it's the last of the season!  

Eight winters up north (one in Syracuse, two in Chicago, five in Milwaukee), and I've yet to master surviving winter happily.  I worked on thriving last year - and I'm glad I did - because without that intention I think I could have slunk into a very unhappy place.  This year the cold and snow hit later than usual, and it doesn't seem to want up to let up just yet.  It really feels like a marathon of cold, and I always hit my wall right around mid February - just when I still have at least another six weeks of cold weather ahead of me.  

But all of that aside, it's officially spring!  There's tulip leaves popping out of the snow, the biggest snow piles have melted, and the ground at my community garden plot has thawed!   We'll have color and life here before too long, and I'll finally feel like myself again.  

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

spring fever

Is anyone else feeling winter blues?  Fantasizing about beaches or gardens or issuing an arrest warrant for Puxatony Phil?   

Winter blues hit me hard a few weeks ago.  One day, I suddenly was just completely finished with cold and snow and clouds and coats and boots and empty trees.  I started physically aching for spring.  A look through old pictures of flowers and warm weather almost starting making cry I wanted it so bad.  I'm sure the pregnancy hormones are partly to blame, but this also seems to happen to me every year.  Luckily the feelings never have to last too long, because inevitably spring always seems to show up again.   

This intense spring fever is hitting during one of the busiest time of my pregnancy.  I wrapped up one of my part time jobs last week, and I just finished day 3 of 13 days in a row of retreat leading.  I'm very happy that in just ten more days, I'll be down to working thirty hours a week and will finally have some time to get things in order for our June baby delivery.  

An upside of my current busyness has been a distraction from spring fever.  I don't live in Boston or Maine, but I do live in Wisconsin which should be synonymous with never ending winter.  I know humans have adapted to live in many climates around the world, but I don't think I've adapted yet to living in six months of winter.  

Another nice distraction was the small Oscars party Paul and I hosted for some friends a couple of weeks ago.  We had Oscar cookies, plenty of sparkles, and prediction ballots.  It was very simple, but things like that seem to be necessary in the darkest times of the year.  

Other ideas for surviving winter: 
- 20 tips for thriving in winter
- end of winter survival
- winter photo album 


Monday, February 23, 2015

grace (eventually)

One plus (potentially the only plus) of many weeks of morning sickness was getting back into my reading habit.  To help relax and distract myself from nausea before falling asleep, I'd read for about 30-60 minutes.  The habit has stuck, and I've been back to reading a book or two a month.  I recently finished another Anne Lamott book and overall I enjoyed the read. 

She tends to talk about her struggles with George W. Bush in this book A LOT - like almost every essay.  But otherwise, the essays contain the kind of honest, soul bearing writing I've come to associate with Lamott.  

Some of my favorite quotes from this book:  

If you have a body, you are entitled to the full range of feelings [depressed, fascinated, scared, fine, exhausted, sad, accepting, enraged, grateful, amazed].  It comes with the package.   

A sober friend told me that while fear and confusion often swirl around us, faith is straight ahead: I trusted that even though I didn't know a thing about taking care of infants, toddlers, kids, or teenagers, I would be shown the next right step on a need-to-know basis.  I trusted that other parents would help me every step of the way, and that if I did not keep secrets when motherhood was going particularly badly, there would be healing and enough understanding and stamina to get by.  And this has proven to be true. 

Children can connect you to the child inside you, who can still play and be silly and helpless and needy and capable of wonder....Having a child, loving a child deeply in a daily way, forces you to connect with your mortality, forces you to dig into places within that you have rarely had to confront before, unless you have taken care of a dying parent or friend.  

In the long haul, grace will win out over everything, over the misery, the stupidity, the dishonesty....

The best way to change the world is to change your mind, which often requires feeding yourself.  It makes for biochemical peace.  It's almost like a prayer: to be needy, to eat, to taste, to be filled, building up instead of tearing down.  You find energy to do something you hadn't expected to do, maybe even one of the holiest things: to go outside and stand under the stars, or to go for a walk in the morning, or in such hard times, both.  

Reading Anne Lamott always reminds me to be gentle with myself.  We're all just human and we're going to have plenty of ups and downs.  I also love the reminder that grace is infused in all those ups and downs and gives extra beauty to our lives.  

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

40 letters in 40 days

This Lent I'll be continuing the tradition of writing 40 letters in 40 days.  I thought about not doing it this year with the whole being pregnant thing, but I thought that next year would probably be even harder to write them with an 8th month old crawling around, so I'm giving it another go this year.  Because I'm crazy, I'll also be trying to start a daily pilates routine and will be taking more breaks from my cell phone (because my hand seems to be glued to it lately). 

Here's what I wrote last year about my letter writing tradition.

Last Lent [2013], I started a tradition of writing forty handwritten notes/letters/cards every day for the forty days between Ash Wednesday and Easter.  Growing up, my parents said it meant more to do something extra for other people rather than give something up for Lent.  Their thought was that God really didn't care if I didn't eat chocolate for forty days, and it wasn't doing anything to help anyone else.  I hope they were right, because a God that supports abstinence from chocolate doesn't sound like a God that I'd like to spend time in Heaven with. 

Though I understand the need for sacrifice and abstinence in some situations - and can see a lot of beauty in fasting traditions in various religions - self-inflicted suffering in winter just doesn't do it for me.  (With this being said, I can see how cutting something negative/draining/harmful out of your life could still be a good thing, I just won't be taking that approach to Lent this year.) 

So instead, this Lent I'll continue my tradition of taking time everyday to remember someone I love.  I see God in my relationships with others, so I will work on strengthening these.  40 letters in 40 days, 40 chances to show someone I care about them.  Changing my approach to Lent helps me shift my understanding of this season to one of love and rememberance rather than a time of pain, suffering, and sadness. 

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

reflections on beauty

I mentioned in my last thoughts on pregnancy post that I was struggling with my body image and lots of pregnancy feels in general.  I've been feeling a lot better since writing that post for various reasons.  It helped admitting all those feelings "out loud", having a couple crying sessions, and embracing my pregnant strength - and pregnant body. 

I also came across this quote by Terry Tempest Williams a day or two after writing the post: "beauty is transformed over time, and not without destruction."  How perfect for the transformation women go through in pregnancy and childbirth and motherhood.  Their old beauty is transformed and there might be a bit of destruction that will accompany it but ultimately it's all part of their journey of beauty. 

Also, I've been buying myself lots of tulips.  Tulips help all bad moods.