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 world.

Well, sort of. I did start eating more nutritious foods than 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 it's 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. 

 -Brené 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.

09 November 2015

settling into home

We are thick in the middle of fall and its darker days, but I'm feeling a little more optimistic than normal. Winters are usually tough on me. I feel cooped up and shut down and unmotivated. This year feels different. Maybe it's because we're coming up on the anniversary of our new home and I know just how damn cozy this place can be.



This was a stay-at-home summer for us. We had a few key projects that we wanted to complete and so we opted most weekends to stay close to home and put lots of time and love into restoring and improving our house. Painstakingly, we removed the old storm windows, repaired or replaced the rotten sills on almost all of our 20 windows and then scraped, primed and painted the window trim. We climbed up dangerously tall ladders to reach all of the pointy spots of our quirky tudor and repainted all of the stucco. We (well, mostly Chris) scraped and re-coated part of the roof. Just last weekend we installed 20 new storm windows and are officially hunkered down for the cold. We also paid some people to remove a tree, move our driveway and fix our front steps.


I understand the complaints about houses and homeownership. Every fix is more expensive and takes longer than you think. There's always a project that needs doing. But I've got a heart full of gratitude that we found a quirky little place with a red door and fairy tale vibes, with a working fireplace, a laundry chute (!) and a sun-filled bedroom. We are so lucky to have been able to buy this house and to spend time and money on making it the home we want it to be. And if I have to be trapped inside much of the winter, I'm glad it's in this place.

Next up:  pretty up our kitchen a bit, install some lights on the garage and new window treatments in the living room. Or read quietly on the couch with a hot cider. There's room for all of that.

02 September 2015

life is beautiful


I was glad to re-discover some of these TED talks tonight, because yes life is beautiful, even when you forget it.

If you have time to watch only a few talks, may I offer a suggestion? First, Sarah Kay​'s spoken word masterpiece "If I should have a daughter," then Shane Koyczan​'s poem to the bullied and beautiful, followed by the one and only Brené Brown​'s talk on the power of vulnerability and finally end with the delightful talk-and-classical-piano-lesson by Benjamin Zander​.

We are the luckiest that these and others are willing to stand up and share their genius with the world. I think everyone has a good TED talk inside of them, just as I think everyone has a blog or book or speech inside of them to share with the world. So let's all share. More sharing, more caring, okay?

10 August 2015

my top three veggie burger picks

In case you haven't been following as closely as I have, there's a new speed record for hiking the Appalachian Trail. It was set by favorite vegan ultrarunner Scott Jurek in what he calls his "masterpiece" and likely last long distance feat. The dude's endurance and willpower is incredible, and his recent AT record had me re-read his memoir Eat & Run for some additional inspiration. Even though Chris and I both read it a few years ago, we're only now getting around to trying some of his recipes. First we tried his red curry almond sauce, which blew our previous curry attempts out of the water with its vibrant flavor. That recipe also forced me to finally open the shiro miso I bought last year and convinced me that it tastes better than its cat food-like appearance. Next we tried Scott's Lentil-Mushroom veggie burger and it easily takes its seat among our top three favorite burgers of all time. Also dabbled with the chocolate adzuki bars and his "Western States" faux cheese spread, named after a 100-mile race he won several consecutive times.

Ultrarunning isn't for everyone, but I loved every moment of my re-read of his book. If nothing else, it reminded me to keep seeking an edge and to live outside my comfort zone. It prompted me to go running a few extra mornings before work, to revisit what I think is possible and to revel in the natural world and want to explore it more. Scott's philosophy also ties together the natural movement that our bodies are meant for and the ways we can best nourish them through food. 

In honor of Scott's new AT record and our shared love for plant-based meals, here are my favorite homemade veggie burger recipes. 

Beet & Brown Rice Burgers
Still a go-to recipe, if you don't mind dealing with messy beets. An added bonus if you are trying to win over meat-eaters is that they sort of look like hamburger, with their red hue and texture. 

Find the full recipe here.

Cumin-Scented Black Bean Burgers
From one of my all-time favorite cookbooks, The Heart of the Plate by Mollie Katzen. We've made these so many times over the past year or so and they never get old. Pay particular note to her serving suggestions; the pickled red onions are quick, easy & absolutely delicious. Trust me, I didn't think I would like them but they are the new preferred sandwich topping in our home now. 

Lentil-Mushroom Burgers
From Scott Jurek's Eat and Run. He claims these will convince even the heartiest of meat-eaters, and I'd join him on that bet. They are awesomely flavored, with a great, nutty texture. This recipe is the most complicated of the three and it calls for the most ingredients, but don't let that scare you off.

See the full recipe here.


What do they all have in common? They're hearty, protein-packed and the perfect dinner for a summer night. You can also freeze pre-formed burgers for an even quicker meal during the week. You're welcome.