20 July 2016

our kitchen remodel


Months ago I posted a photo on Instagram of our torn-apart kitchen, and I realized I never followed up to say that our kitchen remodel is finished! When we bought this house, the one room that shouted out for an update was the kitchen. Last November, we decided to take the plunge and fix it up. The actual renovation started in mid-March, during my second trimester, and lasted through early June or so, with an added surprise bathroom renovation thrown in (more about that later). At 41 1/2 weeks pregnant now, I don't have the same mental capacity to write an eloquent post about kitchens, so we'll just dive in bullet-point style, ok?


1. We got rid of the old ironing board cabinet in favor of gaining more counterspace. Yes yes, it was a cute quirky detail but our house has plenty of other cute quirky details to make up for this one. We kept the built-in cabinet on the right to use for our spices. A fresh coat of paint (a barely there minty green) did wonders for brightening up the space.

2. Chris spruced up the windows that look out to our mudroom/entryway, refinishing the wood sashes with tung oil and cleaning up the hardware. I love this detail and the extra light it lets in the kitchen.

3. All new cabinets, counters, sink and backsplash! In an effort to maintain the character of the house and not go too ultra-modern, we opted for oil-rubbed bronze cabinet hardware and a more traditional Shaker-style cabinet front. We were also able to squeeze in a dishwasher! It's hidden behind the cabinet door to the left of the sink.

4. Added wall cabinets, backsplash and an over-the-range microwave to this side of the room.

5. Finally were able to center the stove on this wall and add cabinets. We also had a few electrical outlets added in for extra functionality.


6. We kept this built-in hutch and had it spruced up a bit with a new coat of paint and new hardware. I think keeping it helped preserve the room's charm.

7. The hutch got a new butcher block countertop and matching backsplash tiles.

8. Chris also cleaned up our air vent cover from a caked-on, crusty white mess to a sharp-looking bronze.

9. New floor! We went with a pre-finished hickory hardwood, in honor of the oak hardwood that runs through most of the house but with a slight twist for the kitchen. I love the crazy variations in grain and color and the wider plank makes my swollen, pregnant feet not look so huge by comparison.

One quirk of our kitchen is that the refrigerator is sort of... not quite in it. It's in a little nook in the hallway right outside of the kitchen. Matching wall cabinets and a fancy, slightly-bigger-but-still-not-normal-size fridge tie it all in.

This isn't technically our kitchen, but we've annexed other parts of our house for storage because that's what you do when you have a 1930s closed kitchen! Our basement door is right off of the fridge nook hallway, so we repainted the walls and stairs and Chris built a pantry shelf for us.

Some restoration detail shots:





So many layers of paint, everywhere. Why, people?! Why are you painting over everything, and why so sloppily?!

And that's our new kitchen! We are so happy with the outcome and so amazingly grateful we were able to update one of our most-used rooms in time for the baby to arrive. It felt a little bit crazy at the time to have so much of our home in chaos during my second and third trimesters, but it was chaos of our choosing :) Our makeshift kitchen/dining room got us through the renovation along with lots of takeout and bowls of cereal for dinner. Next up, I'll tell you the story of our accidental, surprise bathroom renovation we tacked onto this project. Gulp.

11 July 2016

pregnancy survival list



In light of officially being 40 weeks pregnant, I figure I have some standing to offer my very own "pregnancy survival list". There are a lot of good ones out there, filled with goodies to buy and sneaky tricks to try, but here are the things that helped get me through the past 10-ish months.

Awesome midwife. Yeah, this is a really personal decision, but our choice in care provider completely shaped my pregnancy. We chose a wonderful home birth midwife with incredible experience, an awesome team, supportive community and a birth philosophy that totally fit ours. Her vibes infused my pregnancy with a sense of calm and confidence, because she helped us see birth as a natural, healthy and empowering experience.

Prenatal yoga. I found a six-week series at a local studio and absolutely fell in love with the class and the wonderful instructor (who is also a doula and probably a fantastic one). Every Sunday for a little over an hour we met and talked and stretched and strengthened and rubbed our bellies. Signing up for the class was one of the best decisions I made during pregnancy, because it guaranteed time each week that I was focused just on me and the baby. I slowed way down, tuned in and finally felt proud and connected with my pregnancy. So often throughout this journey I've shrugged off the epic nature of growing a human, but at yoga I was all in. I loved the first series so much that I signed up for another six weeks even though I'm pretty sure I'll have the baby before it's over.

Chiropractor. One of the many perks of our midwifery practice is that they have two chiropractors hold hours at the office for expecting mamas. I had never seen a chiropractor before but a bit of sacroilliac joint paint prompted me to check it out. I saw a lovely Webster technique pregnancy-certified chiro every few weeks and think it helped me avoid much of the common pregnancy pains. Just a quick 15 minute adjustment to keep the aches away.



Water. You need to drink so much damn water when you're pregnant. Trust me on this one. So many of the discomforts associated with pregnancy ease up when you're hydrated (swelling, Braxton-Hicks contractions, round ligament pain, itchy skin). Get yourself a new water bottle and started chugging.

Lemonade. Couldn't get enough lemonade. Pounded it by the gallon when I was sick of water.


Granola bars & string cheese. Don't get caught without snacks. Granola bars, specifically Kind Bars, and string cheese were my go-to snacks that I kept with me at work and on the go. You'll feel totally fine and full one minute and seconds later be about to pass out with hunger. Stash your bag, car and desk with some nibbles to prevent a total meltdown.

Naps. Naps are great, take them often.

Desserts. Love dessert, ate as much as I could. I'm probably going to birth a big doughnut or ice cream cone instead of a baby.

Overpriced lotion. I know they say that cocoa butter and fancy lotions don't help prevent stretch marks, but I bought expensive lotion just the same because it made me feel pampered and less itchy. Treat yourself.


Clown shoes. My feet got HUGE. Look at those ankle rolls! I bought a new pair of Birkenstocks and a pair of Toms in a whole size bigger than usual. These were the only things that fit on the bread loaves at the bottom of my legs. Get big, comfy shoes and own your new fat feet. #noregrets

Knee high, striped compression socks. Again, my feet and ankles got huge. I'd say they were the biggest discomfort during pregnancy for me. I didn't realize how tender swollen feet can be or how the tops of your feet hurt as much as the bottoms because they're all maxed out with fluid. There wasn't a lot that helped them, but at night I'd slide into ultra-sexy knee-high, striped compression socks and found some relief in them.

I'd also like to say that it's absolutely worth it to invest in some nice maternity clothes. You'll sausage yourself into regular clothes for awhile, but I felt much better once I bought a nice pair of maternity jeans, work pants and at least a few shirts. As I got bigger I bought a few more pairs of pants, more shirts and a few cute dresses too. Your options will likely still be more limited than you're used to in the mornings, but having some clothes you feel good in and that fit is essential. Trust. 

08 July 2016

precious lives

It's been a tough few weeks in the world, but I know that every week brings with it violence that is often not reported, or at least not reported here in the U.S. My heart is heavy for those who suffer violence, for the black men who have died at the hands of police, for the police officers who died at the hands of cowardly snipers, for those who died in horror at their safe haven in Orlando, for victims of terrorism in Paris, Brussels, Istanbul, Baghdad and countless of other places in countries I've never been to, for the women and girls around the world who are used as pawns in bloody wars, for those who face physical or emotional violence every day just because of who they are or love. Others will say and do more than I can right now, but I will continue to hold space and light for those suffering today.

28 June 2016

pregnancy, the second trimester


The better trimester! If you read the pregnancy books, they say that you will feel like a superhero in weeks 14 through 27. Your skin will glow, your hair will be unstoppable and you'll have all the energy in the world. You will be a glowing, healthy goddess ready to take on the entire universe.

Well, sort of. I did start eating more than just cereal and went for a few more walks than usual. I also didn't throw up once this trimester, so yeah ok I was basically a glowing goddess.

Around six months I finally thought I looked pregnant, and with that realization came a lot of EMOTION. No longer just secretly pregnant. No longer able to get by with a loose shirt and unbuttoned pants. Now you are pregnant pregnant, and the world knows it. Cue an epic pregnant meltdown!

One of the most surprising things about this journey has been how at peace I am with my body. I was worried about it, about how it would change and whether it would become a public topic of conversation. Of course it's changed a lot because its growing a damn baby from scratch! Of course people talk about it! But I've had very few rude or unwelcome comments come my way and the ones that have I've collected mostly as a source of amusement and indicators of the commentators' social awkwardness. Mostly, I've been loving this little growing baby bump. I love feeling him move around, seeing my belly wiggle along with him and having a fantastic excuse for letting it all hang out. There's a baby in there! Life is so weird!

It's been a hoot. I've gained a good amount of weight, and not just in the belly, but I'm feeling strong and healthy. My feet are unbelievably swollen, but I try to think of them as badges of honor instead of memory foam pillows attached to my cankles. The second trimester was fun because we actually let ourselves read baby books and prepare to welcome a new little one to the family but we weren't close enough to the due date to feel rushed. Laid-back second trimester, you were pretty great.


Highlights
  • Telling more people, including my colleagues.
  • Flying to Raleigh for a leadership course graduation (with accompanying lowlight of getting stranded at Newark airport with no flights out until the next evening, with no access to my luggage and deciding to rent a car and drive home at midnight)
  • Finding out that we're having a boy!
  • Feeling the baby kick
  • Not puking
  • Presenting at a conference in Atlanta (and not getting stuck at any airports)
  • Signing up for an awesome prenatal yoga class


13 June 2016

pregnancy, that first trimester


I'll admit, pregnancy made me nervous. Apart from the fear that we would lose this one too, I had a lot of worries. Would I gain too much weight? Would I morph into a different person during pregnancy? Would this be the start of my loss of identity?

I was also uncomfortable with how much my body would be in the spotlight. I dreaded that people would be checking out my bump and sizing me up. What if it wasn't a perfect little basketball? In fact, I hated that the pregnancy would be in the spotlight at all. That it would be the first and only topic some people would ask me about. That I'd be expected to discuss it with all sorts of people with whom I don't regularly discuss such womb-related matters.


First trimester
The first trimester can be lonely as hell, right? We told our parents and close friends early on but kept the pregnancy quiet from most everyone else until the first trimester was over. Our miscarriage made us realize the importance of having a support team but we were also not convinced that this one would actually stick. Still, it was nice to have a small group of people excited for us even though we were mostly just scared and in disbelief.

I was flu-level tired, nauseated and sort of out of it. I obsessively checked websites and apps that would give me some sense of what might be happening inside my body, while constantly reminding myself that this could all go away. I'd leave important meetings and get sick in the bathroom or parking lot and hope that was a sign things were going well with the little babe.

The excitement of being pregnant was constantly put to the test by the anxiety of that early pregnancy stage. You don't feel quite right, but you aren't recognizably pregnant yet. Your world is drastically changing, but most people around you have no idea. It wasn't all magic. It wasn't terrible either, though, not by a long shot. It just took me awhile to embrace this pregnancy and to allow myself to dream and plan and imagine life with a little baby.

But soon enough, you hit that second trimester and things start feeling LEGIT...

Highlights
First ultrasound and hearing the heartbeat! 
Being secretly pregnant at major work events, including two big press conferences
Telling family & friends
Having a good excuse to nap on the couch
Celebrating Thanksgiving, Christmas & New Year's for the last time as a family of two

01 June 2016

space for reflection


There is so much happening right now and yet I can't think of what to write. Or rather, I don't know what to share. So many of the things taking shape in my life are tough ones to write publicly about: pregnancy, work, politics, and The Figuring Out Of Things.

If I think of this space as a journal, I freeze up. I'm not interested in documenting my life chronologically here on a blog. My day-to-day goings-on and thoughts... those aren't meant for public consumption. I love Instagram as much as the next person but even so, I live most moments privately. You don't see what my mornings are like or what I do at work. You don't get a sense for how I'm adjusting to a new professional challenge or the nights I fall asleep on the couch at 8pm. And I don't want to start sharing all of this! But I do want to hold space for reflection.

I'm not here to document everything I ate this weekend or each moment I've lived. I'm here to share stories and thoughts, to explore themes, to spread a little bit of cheer or wonder or beauty. There! The pressure is off! I don't have to fret because this blog doesn't reflect the chronology of my life. Phew. I've been inching toward this realization for some time now, but now I've got some clarity around what I want to share here. Essays, found inspiration & occasional updates from a life actually lived, instead of just a life documented.

A few topics on my mind:  leadership, feminism, imposter syndrome, civility, pregnancy, identity. And irreverent essays based on writing prompts found on the internet.

08 May 2016

the last time i was pregnant

A heads up & note of explanation: This post is about my last pregnancy and my miscarriage. Happily, all is well with this one! I've been wanting to publish this post for a long time now and today on Mother's Day, I thought it appropriate. Happy Mother's Day to all of those who are mothering in any form, and an extra special hug to those for whom this day is painful. xo.


In December 2014, Chris and I found out I was pregnant. A baby! Due in the dog days of summer on August 28, 2015. We planned and plotted and imagined our new future. We met with our midwife. We were elated. In late January, I miscarried.

It was scary. It was confusing. It was surreal. Miscarriage didn't seem like something that we would ever face. We had already told our immediate family and many of our close friends that we were pregnant, and telling them about the loss was hard. I wanted to wrap myself in a bubble with Chris and stay there until the pain left.

If, as a culture, we don’t bear witness to grief, the burden of loss is placed entirely upon the bereaved, while the rest of us avert our eyes and wait for those in mourning to stop being sad, to let go, to move on, to cheer up

 -Cheryl Strayed


I've privately written pages and pages about losing that pregnancy, and the ways in which the experience has surprised me. I've written about how the miscarriage was much harder on my body than I thought it would be. I've written about how my love for Chris grew with each day of grieving. I wrote about that terrible morning, our short drive to the emergency room, the waiting, the tests, the blood and the shock as we realized it was really over. I've describe how trapped I felt in my slightly-chubby-but-no-longer-pregnant body and I've written about the guilt I felt for carrying on at work and in public as though nothing had happened when I was so heartbroken. I've wrestled with feeling like the miscarriage wasn't "bad enough" to grieve, with knowing that so many women have faced pregnancy loss and that, relatively speaking, we were lucky because at least I was still in the first trimester. I've written about my unwavering conviction in reproductive rights and the right of women to control their own bodies, because it is all comes down to choice. That's what we all want. When we choose to be pregnant, we want to get and stay pregnant. When we choose not to be pregnant, we want to have access to the knowledge and decisions to make that possible.

I've scribbled lists of what was helpful to hear or read or think about and lists of what sucked to hear, in hopes that I can be a better witness for those who will inevitably suffer after me. (Hint, a great place to start is with this line of miscarriage empathy cards, which includes one for Mother's Day.)

But in those moments when disappointment is washing over us and we're desperately trying to get our heads and hearts around what is or is not going to be, the death of our expectations can be painful beyond measure. 

 -BrenĂ© Brown, Rising Strong


The questions and comments that people fling at every woman of childbearing age struck me as even more inappropriate and hurtful after my miscarriage. So, no kids yet? Better get started! Are you two planning to have kids anytime soon? I don't know what we even thought about before we had kids, everything else seems so trivial. Trust me, you haven't really known love until you've had kids. Hey! You guys should have a baby! Just a seltzer? Are you pregnant? The woman you are saying these things to may be: pregnant but not sharing the news yet, grieving a miscarriage or neonatal loss, struggling with infertility, not interested in getting pregnant now... or ever, or simply not interested in sharing the private details of her reproductive choices with you.

I've written about it all, but what I can share now is this:

You are not alone. You are not damaged. The miscarriage was not your fault. It didn't happen because your job is stressful or you went for a run or you snuck a cup of regular coffee in one morning. You didn't miscarry because you have complicated feelings about motherhood and identity. You didn't lose your pregnancy because the universe lost its faith in you as a mother. Miscarriages are common. Sometimes the knowledge that you are not alone will help you to heal but other times you will rightfully shout that your experience is unique and you will know in your heart that this is your pain to bear. This experience will make you stronger and more compassionate. Please don't be ashamed or embarrassed. Speak out. Remove the stigma. End the silence. (If you want to, that is. You don't have to do anything.) You don't have to bury your grief just because you know things could be worse.

You don't have to feel guilty if you aren't as sad as you think you should be. You don't have to feel guilty if you aren't as okay as you think you should be, even after many months have passed. You can and you will recover. You will rise stronger than before. Chances are you are already mothering someone or something even if it's not the baby of your dreams.


I made the decision to share publicly about this heartbreak because I hope it can help. I always knew I would share my story, our story, but I also knew that I need some time and distance in order to really process my feelings and the impact the miscarriage had on me. In fact, that's how I'm most comfortable sharing many personal things:  after I've processed and reflected on them privately. I hope it can shine light on an experience so many women and couples share, but are rarely given permission to discuss. I hope my story and the thousands others like it serve as a reminder that pregnancy is a wild unknown. I hope maybe, just maybe, people grieving a pregnancy loss, infertility or even just the lonely first-trimester blues can find comfort in the shared experience. I hope our openness to be vulnerable helps you do the same, so we can dare greatly together. Hugs to those of you suffering today, and any day.


A few resources that I found helpful (though they may not be helpful for everyone)
5 ways to reframe pregnancy loss from Modern Loss (a great resource for anyone grieving)
The postpartum body without baby: miscarriage and body image
About What Was Lost: Twenty Writers on Miscarriage, Healing, and Hope by Jessica Berger Gross
This new line of fantastic miscarriage empathy cards
My Happy, Hopeful News by Emma Straub

29 February 2016

a baby boy

Hello world! Chris and I wanted to let you know that we are expecting a new little family member to join our tribe this July! Baby Boy will be here just in time for summer campfires, frisbee and home improvement projects.

Woo hoo! Now that the cat's outta the bag, I can't wait to share some thoughts the first 22 weeks of pregnancy. Because people, I've got lots of thoughts on this whole thing :)

24 January 2016

to feel the way i want to feel


I'm trying something new for 2015. Instead of resolutions— which I really do love— I'm asking myself,

What will I do to feel the way I want to feel?

It's a new way of getting to the goal, which is of course, to do good and feel good. A year or two ago I started following Danielle LaPorte and poked around her Desire Map process. Danielle believes that when you sit down to make to-do lists— which, again, I really love— that you aren't really chasing a goal but rather you're chasing a feeling. That makes sense to me. My to-do list might tick off the tasks that I need to do for our home to be neat and organized, but what I'm really after is that feeling of calm and control when everything is in its place.

What if, first, we got clear on how we actually wanted to feel in our life, and then we laid out our intentions? What if your most desired feelings consciously informed how you plan your day, your year, your career, your holidays — your life?
- Danielle LaPorte 

I'm intrigued. So when the 2016 Desire Map Planner came out I scooped myself up one and set about using it as a daily prompt for journaling, reflecting and dreaming. 

My planning system already involves:

  • A work-only weekly planner where I jot my to-dos, meeting notes and miscellany so everything is tracked chronologically, which is the only way I've been able to organize the happy chaos that comes with my job.
  • Digital calendars for every appointment, meeting, deadline, birthday and reminder. My Outlook calendar syncs to my Google calendars which all syncs to my phone. I'm religious about making sure that it is up-to-date and comprehensive and I check it a billion times a day to keep track of everything work and non-work related. And yes, it's all backed up somewhere safe.
  • Wall calendar for the big things and for visual mapping.

With this system in place, I was hesitant to add yet another planner to the mix. In retrospect, the undated Desire Map journal would have worked well, but I need accountability! I need to feel the guilt when I look back at a week of blank pages. So far, the daily planner gently keeps me on track and with my core desired feelings in mind. 

Is this all a bit woo-woo for you? The core desired feelings mumbo-jumbo? I understand. I've been there. It can seem a bit fluffy but I've learned over the past few months that the things that can seem soft, or fluffy, or not that important really make all the difference. The leadership strategies that seem the least task-focused and most obtuse are the ones that can elevate an entire team. The time spent in reflection and staring out windows can some of the most productive moments. 

Here we go. I want to feel brave, generous, at ease, curious, supported, grounded and present. And I'm working to distill these ideas into a few core feelings and to find the right words for them. I'd love to dig into each of these themes here on the blog, sprinkled in among house updates and new recipes we've tried and whatever else ends up on the page.