Thursday, January 30, 2014

My "Morrie"

Edited Monday, February 10, 2014: Farewell, dear friend!
___________________________________________________

Another post I started years ago, but never knew exactly where to take it. I'm revisiting it today, after learning that my Morrie suffered a serious stroke earlier this week and will be transferred to hospice care tomorrow. From here to the dotted line is (largely) old stuff...and new stuff after the dots. It's a disjointed and stream-of-consciousness post. 

So be it.

Remember when Tuesdays with Morrie was all the rage, like 15+ years ago? The book? The TV movie? The episode of Will & Grace?

I don't think I ever read the book, though at that time I probably wasn't at an age where its message would have moved me in the way it was meant to. I'm sure I would have appreciated the story, in general...I mean I am a sucker for respecting my teachers and listening to authority figures and all that other oldest-child nonsense. But would I really have appreciated it? Probably not as much as I would at this stage in my life. Remind me to revisit that book.

The Scholars Walk - Honoring the U's greatest minds
Speaking of this stage in my life... and wise old(er) men...and academia:

One of the core responsibilities of my previous job was to work to increase the number of University of Minnesota faculty members being nominated for (and hopefully winning) prestigious national awards. Seeing that the only people allowed to nominate other people for these prestigious national awards are people who have already won said prestigious national awards, sometimes it felt a lot like being asked to push buttons and pull levers on a machine I wasn't actually allowed to touch.

Fortunately, I had a wonderful accomplice in all of this award business: my very own "Morrie." Let me tell you about him...

My Morrie is an emeritus professor in the hard sciences, here at the University of Minnesota. This past September marked his 51st year at the U.

My Morrie is a successful and well-regarded scholar who has been invited to teach and lecture all over the world. When people greet him, you can feel admiration and respect emanating through their words, posture and demeanor. He is a member of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences.

My Morrie served in World War II. He attended a Big Ten University as part of the GI Bill. His graduate and his post-doctoral work were done at some of our nation's finest public research universities.

My Morrie likes to read Science and Nature to "keep up on the gossip." He says it's like People...but for scientists...without all the drunken starlets (usually).

My Morrie refers to marriage as an "unnatural institution," incredulously saying "it makes absolutely no sense...it shouldn't work at all." He has been married for (I believe) over 55 years, and when he speaks his wife's name, the reverence and adoration is palpable.

My Morrie has a Schnauzer that he loves more than anything...except his children. And he glows when he talks about his grandchildren.

My Morrie loves to reminisce about growing up in New York. He tells stories about sleeping out on the fire escape on hot summer nights and describes how the neighborhoods have changed over the years. Even though he has lived in Minnesota for over 50 years, he can still recommend tons of great things to do in the city.

My Morrie grows beautiful orchids and cooks amazing meals. Jay and I were lucky enough to be the dinner guests of he and his wife one night last winter. It was a magical evening. As Jay and I drove home we looked at each other and said, "I wish we could have dinner with them every week!"

My Morrie brings me stories--clipped out of actual newspapers--about the red and white quilt show...and articles from American Scientist on the physics of pitching. He convinced me to watch Friday Night Lights. He said I'd love it. I did.

My Morrie played clarinet in a Klezmer band. He can sing "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" in Yiddish. And he's a Twins fan.

My Morrie rocks.
...................................

When I originally started the post, I suppose I was going to write a big TL;DR about how different and yet similar we are. And I was going to have some grand final point about all that. But that sort of self-serving regurgitation doesn't feel right, right now. So I'll just say this: 

Marty and I bonded from the start. I think it was at our second meeting...he'd asked me to provide a list of faculty at the University of Minnesota who were members of the prestigious national academies. I'd printed off names from a database...a list that went from present day all the way back to the early-ish 1900s...presented in chronological order, of course. Instead of flipping to the more recent names (which I assumed he'd do), he started at the beginning...going through the list of award winners saying, "He's dead...he's dead...he's been dead for years..." checking off each name off as he went.

"All these people are dead!" he exclaimed, exasperatedly flipping through the stack of paper.

"Jeez, Marty," I teased, "You're kinda bumming me out!"

I smiled at him.

He eyed me carefully...a little stunned, a lot amused.

He smiled broadly.

He turned to a more recent section of the list, and we proceeded with our task.

And that's how it went. From that day forward.

As we did our awards work, Marty and I formed a robust connection. After I left my previous job, he and I continued to meet for lunch...usually about once a month...just for fun. We sit (for longer than is wise for me to commit to in print, lest anyone who supervises me read this post) at the Campus Club and talk about everything under the sun.

He talks about having grown-up children. I talk about having a new baby.

He talks about his faith. I talk about my lack thereof.

He talks about how administrators mess everything up. I remind him that faculty are no picnic either.

After I graduated and had been working for awhile, he grilled me about whether or not I was using my PhD and challenging myself enough intellectually. I was forced to confront decisions I've made and how I feel about my life at this point.

During the fight against the marriage amendment, I pushed him on his "definition" of marriage and encouraged him to think about why he holds the views he does. He voted "no", and was quite proud to tell me how he arrived at that decision.

He'll sit and look through as many pictures of my dog as he does my kid. I waited anxiously to hear the good news about his dog's treatment for cancer.

We bemoan the inconsistency of the Twins. We revel in what a perfect sport baseball is.

We complain about the weather. We are mystified by the majesty of the seasons.

We grumble about the shortcomings of society. We marvel at the beauty of humanity.


We exist on opposite ends of the political spectrum.


We are over 45 years apart in age.


I've heard stories about how tough-as-nails he was as a professor and advisor. I've only ever known him as a lovable softy.


He hugs me hello when we greet each other.
He kisses me on the cheek when we say goodbye.


I watch him as he walks away, a little hunched over...his stride hindered by the cadence of a bad hip.

I choke back tears, because some little nagging thing always reminds me that this could be the last time I see him.


December 16, 2013 was our last lunch together.

Good god--and thank God--was it a long one.







Friday, November 1, 2013

When Enough Is Enough...But, Um, When IS That Exactly/Approximately/More-Or-Less?


Oh gawd. Here I go again. Motherhood has turned me into an over-sharer. Strike that. I was totally an over-sharer before. Now it's just all over-sharing about lady-issues.

Proceed with caution, will ya? Actually, it's not that bad. But still...some boob-related stuff ahead, okay?

...

The pressure to breastfeed is crazy, yo.

It starts with the baby classes and baby books. The time and page space dedicated to breastfeeding is immoderate, to say the least. The possible challenges of it are woefully minimized. Authors and educators say things like "It can be difficult, but just keep at it! You'll get it!"

Will do!

This unfortunately-named product actually exists.

The pressure to breastfeed is reinforced (rightly, of course) by health professionals at all stages of pregnancy/delivery/baby-raising. When nurses and other health professionals asked if I planned on breastfeeding, I always answered with--what I recognize now though didn't exactly see at the time--an air of smugness. Of course I was going to breastfeed her.

Of course!

Now I can pump and work!
Or, you know, itch my nose and reach the remote.

Breastfeeding becomes one of those de jure topics of conversation between women who have had biological children. You just start talking about it (or people just start talking to you about it) whether or not you really want to. I shit you not, on my first day back to work, this woman that I barely know (like I didn't even know her name, and I'm actually not certain I'd ever spoken to her before) walked into my office, welcomed me back to work, and asked if I was breastfeeding my baby.

Seriously?

Seriously.


Here's the thing:

I'm a sharer. I don't really give a shit...I'll talk to you about pretty much anything. In person. On Facebook. Here in the blog. Whatever. I don't care. And it's not about attention-seeking or the need for validation (I swear). It's just because I don't mind talking about personal things.

But the breastfeeding thing.

"Are you breastfeeding your baby?"

Sigh.

"Well, I can't actually breastfeed her because she has a physical condition that doesn't allow her to create suction. So she can't latch. But I pump and feed her that way."

"... Oh. ... ... Well that's good. ... At least she's getting your milk. ..."

Right.

The topic of breastfeeding has been a stressor since Day 1...or was it Day 3...of The Bean's young life when I looked down and saw a veritable octopus (literally 8 hands) on/near my chest trying to get my kid to latch. My poor, screaming, red, rage-monster of a child. And even with all that "help" we had no luck. So we had to come up with alternative feeding techniques. My milk...but other vessels.

Could not, would not
At the time, we had no idea about her partial cleft. We just thought she could not/would not latch. She was labeled a "disorganized eater" and lovingly chastised (by a wonderful lactation nurse who we truly adored) as "the only child who I couldn't get to latch!" I really struggled with the "disorganized eater" label...because, let's face it, there is no Ronning woman on the planet who doesn't know how to eat.

Anyway.

It wasn't until I did a last-ditch-attempt lactation consultation with our pediatrician (some 3 weeks later) that the tiny hole in the back of her mouth was discovered and the reason for the feeding challenge was exposed. Armed with this new knowledge, I dedicated myself just as ardently to pumping as I had intended to be to breastfeeding. "It is recommended that you breastfeed for 12 months...that's a lot of time pumping," our pediatrician said. "I don't care. I'm completely committed," I assured her.

Moo.
In the beginning, it was easy. At one point, not only did I have about 30 ounces of milk stocked in the fridge, I had another 50 (!!) ounces in the freezer. I was considering making donations to milk banks. I was looking for a village that needed a wet nurse.

How the times do change.

Give a dog a bone?
Let's just say that Mother Hubbard's udder is bare.

What was once an easy, stress-less event is now an act of psychological torture.

It's like failing...6-8 times a day.

It's not like I'm not trying to improve the situation. I am.

I'm eating Fenugreek capsules like they're Halloween candy and consuming lactation cookies by the dozen. I'm mixing brewer's yeast into my oatmeal. I rented the industrial-strength boob-juicer from the hospital, hoping it would do a better job than the Cadillac model of in-home pumps I already own. I haul it back and forth to work every day. And my arms are sore (though perhaps more toned?) from all the hand-expressing I do while pumping. I went from pumping 4-5 times a day to pumping 6-8 times a day. One of those 6-8 times is at 3:00 in the morning. I set an alarm so I can get up and pump...even though my kid often sleeps through the night. In between those 6-8 full pumping sessions (15-25 minutes each), every now and then I "micro-pump"...just a quick 5-minute hook-up. You know...to keep things moving.

I haven't had a drop of alcohol since my pregnancy ended... because the idea of "dumping" makes me nauseous. Actually, I haven't had a drop of alcohol in almost a year. AND GOD COULD I USE ONE.

Is it working?

Not really. I mean I got  a half an ounce more yesterday than I did the day before. Today I seem to be on track to get another three-quarters of an ounce. But I still only produce a third or so of what she consumes every day. And the stress this causes me is considerable. And by "considerable" I mean my blood pressure is through the roof...I'm yellier than normal (poor Jay) at home...I'm completely distracted at work. I cry about this. Often.

Yesterday, while gazing at a picture of The Bean, I realized that I spend way more time thinking about my pumping output than I do about the actual kid that all this stupid milk is for. If you do the math, some days I spend more hours strapped to the breast-pump than I do holding my child. How freaking effed up is that?

I've been "given permission" to stop pumping...by multiple moms and medical professionals alike.

I understand that in the pendulum-esque way that time works, we've swung to the complete opposite side of the breast milk vs. formula debate. As adamant and hysteric as people were about formula use in the mid-20th century...that's where we are now...but about breastfeeding. I get the data and the studies. I understand the proven benefits of breastfeeding. I do.

But I'm sorta maxed out on all this pressure.

Intellectually, I know that I've sustained my kid (with my milk) through some of the most critical months of her life. I know that so many babies grow up on formula for all sorts of reasons. And they're fine. They're better than fine. They're healthy, thriving kids. Just like my kid is.

And yet...I can't quite quit. I can't give myself permission to stop.

Enough...surprisingly...is not yet enough.

Regardless of the topic/initiative/goal, I sometimes feel like we exist in this socio-cultural vortex (too dramatic?) where there is some seriously romanticized pressure to "never give up". We're supposed to persevere to the very end. We're supposed to confront every obstacle and exhaust every option until we beat whatever it is we're up against. The successful people do that. The people who aren't successful? They didn't try hard enough.

But when is enough enough? When are square pegs and round holes just flat-out incompatible? When is something just not meant to be? When is the universe trying, with all its might, to tell us to take a different path?

What do we lose or give up by failing to recognize that perhaps things aren't working out for a reason? And the reason to stop--whatever is it--might be just as significant in a given situation as perseverance would be in another?

In recent months, I've had conversations with a few friends about not giving up. A friend confronting vocational change. A couple friends trying to start families. Friends dealing with long-standing irreparable relationships. A friend slogging through med school.

It's all the same.

When is it okay to stop and try something else? And what is waiting for us on the other side of the decision?

When is enough enough?

Sigh.

I have no idea.


Sunday, September 29, 2013

Maternity Leave: A Mixed Methods Analysis

All good things must come to an end. So here I sit...on the eve of going back to work...basking in the glow of what a wonderful maternity leave I've enjoyed with my sweet kid. So what happened over my leave, you ask?

Hmmm...

There are lots of ways to process everything we've been through together...counting the number of trips to the doctor...the number of trips to the park with Sammy...thinking about growing more comfortable and confident as a mother...counting the hours of sleep we get...the ounces of milk she drank...thinking about her developmental milestones. There are so many ways to look at how time has passed since she arrived on July 20th. But since I am rather research-y at heart, here is a silly analysis (both qualitative and quantitative) of what has happened over the last 10 weeks:

523: The number of pictures I snapped of The Bean. A few of my favorites include:

What's up, world?!

The "Don't-you-forget-about-me" fist pump.

Moms and daughters

Green Bean

I feel pretty...oh so pretty...

(Most of) Our Family

Could she be any cuter? No. No she couldn't.

Cuz ya gotta keep your head up, whoa oh...

So in love!

Playing: Am I doing it right?

Grandparents...securely wrapped around her little fingers!

My Mighty Girl :)

See. Just a few.

That number actually jumps to 547 if you include photos of her and the Samdog. A few of my favorites include:

New pals.

Can I help?

Still front and center in our hearts.

Nappers.

More nappers.

44 and 100.57: The number of walks Sammy and I took--and the number of miles we covered (per the mapmyrun.com app)--between August 1 and September 29.

Best buddy ever.

As I mentioned in the previous post (though not in a very dignified manner), thanks to all this walking (as well as the miracles of breastfeeding/pumping) and my humble attempts at cooking meals instead of dining out or ordering take-out all the time, I'm proud to report that I've lost all of my pregnancy pounds and have returned to my pre-pregnancy weight (and then some). I am not proud to report that my pre-pregnancy weight was absolutely nothing to brag about. Like not at all. So we've still got a way to go in the health and fitness department.

Speaking of dining out and healthfully-challenged meals, The Bean has been to Al's breakfast 3 times in her 10 brief weeks as a Twin Citian. And one of those times was with a bona fide rockstar. So that's pretty fantastic. It's just good parenting to indoctrinate kids at such a young age, right? I figure if I have no other real success as a parent, at least she'll be an Al's devotee.

94: The number of episodes of new TV I consumed. I watched all of Orange is the New Black, House of Cards, and--thanks to some SERIOUS bingeing this past week--Breaking Bad. I wrapped up all the previous episodes just in time to watch the finale tonight with the rest of America. Jesse Pinkman forever, BITCH. I love TV. I don't care. And if you think about it, now my kid has a seriously solid base in criminal justice, political science, and chemistry. So really, I'm a candidate for Mother-of-the-Freaking-Year. Just for the sake of accuracy, this episode count does not include the new episodes of Sleepy Hollow, The Blacklist, or Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. we've consumed in the last week or so...because those are new shows on TV, not things I watched on Netflix. I know how picky you data geeks get about counts and the operationalization of variables. So there.

I'd love to be able to report the number of times we watched Pitch Perfect. But honestly, we've completely lost count. You'd think this would be my fault. Really, you would. But Jay is totally hooked on that movie. Don't let him try to tell you otherwise.

27: The number of hours of work-work I did. It was really fulfilling (and actually sort of soothing) to stay connected with my work and my colleagues...and the modest amount of work I did saved me from burning 3+ days of vacation on while on leave, so that's not so bad either. This means that now I may even get to take a day or two off around the holidays. WOO HOO!

Boppy support: New uses for old higher ed textbooks.
15: Prior to her 8th week on the planet, I'd speculate that my kid cried (like freak-out crying...not "I'm-awake-and-it's-3am-and-feed-me-would-you" crying) maybe 3 times for a total of 5 minutes each. 15 whole minutes of crying. In 8 weeks. I'm not even joking. She is phenomenally unfussy. We couldn't be more appreciative. Then around week 8 or 9, she started getting the nighttime 6-10pm crankiness. But that really only lasted a week or so. In anticipation of many more challenging evenings ahead, we pooled resources with the grandparents and bought a swing...thinking we'd need to have multiple means of soothing her (when Dr. Harvey Karp's tactics weren't doing the trick). But the fussiness went away...at least for now. So now we just have a happy baby in a swing. SCORE.

Wheeeeee!
All in all, this was cherished time. From the days where we went out and took on the world, to the days we never came up out of the basement, I loved them all. While I'll miss the gluttonous amounts of time with my kid...and while I'll desperately miss her napping on my chest like a lump of molten baby...I'm really so glad to be going back to work. I love my job...and my co-workers...and the multi-faceted sense of identity that comes with being a working mom.

Oh wow. I am a "working mom."

It feels weird and thrilling to type those words.

I am a mom.

I guess that is what happened over maternity leave...

I became a mom.

Friday, September 20, 2013

A Friday Night (Pity) Party

When you blog about rainbows and sunshine, you deprive the world (or at least your 7 readers) the chance to see you in full-on melt-down-over-nothing mode.

Whew. That's where we're at tonight. Poor Jay. Poor Sammy. Poor anyone else who's had to deal with me in the last 8 hours. What a piece of work I am. And for no good reason whatsoever.

Here's how the latter half of today went:

After The Bean's 2-month check-up (which went perfectly, by the way), we headed out into the world to do some errands. We went to Target (how did we manage to get own to only one spare roll of TP?!). We enjoyed some Chipotle. I got new tennis shoes. We took advantage of a sale at the Carter's store. I tracked down some hard-to-find items at a little hippy health food store. All really mundane stuff. No one should be cranky, right?

But I was. I was a little on the verge as we embarked upon our errands. Why I was letting my non-specific ennui ruin this lovely afternoon, I'll never know. I do that sometimes.

I managed to hold my shit together through Target, Chipotle, and the shoe shopping. I wouldn't say I was on my best behavior. But I wasn't a complete ogre.

Yay me.

And then we're in Carter's. And I'm trying to find a few long-sleeve shirts and hoodies for The Bean. And I'm working really hard to suppress my "why the hell is there so much pink?" reflex as I paw through the clothes for girls. And I'm in line waiting to pay. And the girl behind me says, "When are you due?"

I swear to god. She asks me when I'm due.

Bah.

Here's the thing...

I've never been a small woman. I've been asked when I was due on a couple other non-pregnant occasions. I wouldn't say I'm used to it or anything like that. But this wasn't the first time. And yet it stung. Not just because it's a comment that stings, but because I've been feeling exceptionally proud of myself lately. I have, officially, lost all of my pregnancy weight...which was not a small amount of weight, by the way...plus an additional 2-3 pounds. Not that my pre-pregnancy weight was anything to brag about. It certainly wasn't. But I did it. I worked hard and lost the weight. I did it in less than 8 weeks. Although most of the credit goes to breastfeeding/pumping, I did it by walking almost every night in August and (thus far) September. I did it by eating relatively healthfully. By not going out to eat very often. I wasn't obsessed or obnoxious about it. But I was dedicated. And I did it.

I feel fantastic.

Well, I felt fantastic. Now I just feel like I have a long, long way to go. Again.

Bah.

And then I bought (or was sold, depending on where you place the blame) the wrong stuff at the hippy health food store. So I get to go back there tomorrow and see if they'll exchange the already opened and partially used package for what I really want.

And the reason I'm buying stuff at the hippy health food store is because my milk supply is suddenly sort of lower than I'd prefer, so I'm feeling all stressed out about the impending multi-prong approach to getting that back on track. Fenugreek capsules, increased pumping, and lactation cookies, to name just a few tactics. DEAR GOD I'M BAKING LACTATION COOKIES. I'm not even kidding. And now I've turned into someone who talks about boob stuff in public.

Bah.

And Sammy, who hasn't chewed on anything he's not supposed to since he was a wee pup (and the last thing was a Twins hat last summer...I think he was just protesting their crappy 2012 season), ate one of my favorite loafers tonight. A random act of dog terrorism. And I yelled at him. And he looked so so so sad. And I felt terrible.

And then I went for my nightly walk in my new tennies...the shoes I got because my old ones are, well, old and my feet have been hurting...and my feet still hurt. Not as bad as before, but still more than I'd prefer. So I probably need to take a night or two off of walking and figure out if this is a little thing or a big thing. But I've really come to love this nighttime tradition with my sweet Samdog. I walk 2-3 miles and talk to my mom...or to myself. It's fantastic. I look forward to that time every day.

So see...nothing terrible today. Just junk I wish I hadn't had to deal with or think about or whatever. Today just wasn't my day to hold it together. So I didn't.

If I was honest with myself, I'd acknowledge that the underlying currents of crankiness are probably definitely related to the fact that I go back to work in 10 days. I love my job. And in many, many ways I'm ready to go back. But of course, the transition back to the real world will be just as hard as the transition to maternity leave was. And instead of relaxing and enjoying this last stretch of time, I'm jumping too far forward and missing out on the present.

Why do we do things like that? Why do we cultivate our own misery or dissatisfaction because we can't manage to focus on the beauty right in front of us?

Bah.

Anyway. Thanks for listening to me whine. It feels awfully good to get it off my ample-but-not-as productive-in-the-lactation-department chest.

Here's to a happier tomorrow. Or at least one where I manage to keep the whining to a minimum.


Tuesday, July 9, 2013

That One Time Broken Anchor Played In My Backyard

In my attempt to "celebrate the contributions that brighten our lives," blogging ends up taking one of a few forms. Sometimes I'm monologuing and pretending I have insightful things to say about whatever is knocking around in my brain. Most of those posts are totally TL;DR (am I right?). Other times, I'm trying to point out articles or rays of sunshine that deserve readership or recognition. Occasionally, I even stick to the mission of my blog and talk about why things brighten my world, based on the criteria I established three years ago when I embarked on this adventure.

Tonight, however, all I want to do is capture a wonderful event that took place about a month and a half ago. I want to bottle this memory...etch it in stone...completely capture the awesomeness...and make sure that it doesn't get shoved into the cloudy recesses of my mind.

Tonight is about not forgetting.

So maybe once or twice in this blog (read: 6 or 7 times) I've professed my love for the music of Austin Hartley-Leonard. From discovering his music through the show Chuck, to the time Jay tweet-stalked him and he e-sang me happy birthday, I've been a fan for quite some time. Back in February, I was even pleasantly surprised that, while watching/interacting with Austin during a StageIt show, he recognized who I was..."Emily in Minnesota? Oh! Emily Ronning!"

Fangirling: I'M DOING IT RIGHT!

So you get it. I'm a stalker an enthusiast.

Anyway.

Austin now fronts a band called Broken Anchor...a whole new project, complete with a new vibe, a new sound...just...newness all over the place. And it's awesome. Austin/Broken Anchor released a series of EPs throughout 2012...a few songs at a time, each of them its own foray into this new thing he's got going. And then the best news ever: a full-length album--AND TOUR--was announced in early 2013. WOO HOO! Coming Summer 2013!

Also included in the tour announcement?

"Wanna host a Broken Anchor house concert?Take a look at the map and tour locations. If you live in any of these cities or within 200 miles of the route, email us and we'll get something planned!"

omg. OMG. O!M!G!

So I emailed Broken Anchor. Even though the Twin Cities were nowhere near the tour route. A true fan doesn't let little details like that get in the way. As you might well imagine, the email was full of ENTHUSIASM and EXCLAMATION POINTS and EMOTICONS! Actually, there was only one emoticon...I must have really been censoring myself...trying to seem exponentially calmer than I really was. I said witty things like, "You said that if we're within 200 miles of your scheduled itinerary, you'd consider stopping by. St. Paul is just a little bit outside the 200 mile radius...by another 200 miles."

How could anyone resist?! I mean really.

I prepared myself for a long wait. For--ultimately--rejection. Because let's face it: Chicago (the closest tour destination) isn't really anywhere near the Twin Cities.

Jay moonlights as a street artist. In case you didn't know.
But not two days later, Austin wrote back...and said YES.

OMG.

So, with me well into my third trimester, we started planning a concert in our backyard. Babymoons are for sissies, yo. What you really need to do is throw a party!

And a shrimp boil? Why the heck not!
We crafted a delightful little Memorial Day Weekend backyard summer kick-off...even though the highs were only
supposed to be in the mid-50s. With the help of the world's most generous neighbor, we pitched multiple canopies to ward off the rain. We hung lanterns and lights. We filled coolers with cold beverages. We lit grills and set out food. My parents even came over...to wrangle the Samdog and help with whatever might need helping.

About 20-25 friends and neighbors showed up...with lawn chairs and pot-luck style dishes to share and all sorts of enthusiasm and fellowship.

And it was the most perfect of evenings. It was amazing. It was everything I dreamed it would be. And then some.

The perfection came from a lot of different places. It wasn't just the night itself...though that was a huge part of it. It was everything leading up to the event as well.

It was Austin emailing and saying his drummer had bailed on him...essentially blowing up the entire tour...but he was still willing to come do our show if we didn't mind no percussion. (My response? "I couldn't give a shit about the drummer...I just want you to come sing songs to me!") We tried to give him an out if he wanted it...but he didn't.

It was how invested Austin was in making it a great show for us. After some discussion back and forth ("Is just me and my guitar okay?" "Yes, yes...a million times yes!"), he decided that what this BBQ really needed was an amp and a mic and a speaker and a whatever-other-equipment-fancy-professional-rock-stars-use. So we arranged for all that (thanks to another generous neighbor). And--again--we were just really touched at how committed he was to this show...this "little-in-the-scope-of-things-but-huge-to-us" concert.

It was the enthusiasm of our friends and neighbors. They showed up early...they stayed late. They were lovely concert-goers. They bought CDs. They hung out and talked with Austin after the show. They helped start campfires and clean up from the pot-luck. They effused, "He is really amazing! So talented!" And I was all, "I know right?! This is what I've been saying for years!"

It was knowing and loving every single song in the set list.

It was holding Jay's hand and looking at each other and laughing to one another, like "Do you believe this is happening in our backyard?!"

It was sitting with Jay and Austin for a couple hours after the show...talking about everything and nothing...getting to know one another...sharing stories...laughing ("You're about my sister's age...which means when you were in college, you loved Ani DiFranco, the Indigo Girls...and a little Barenaked Ladies to balance it all out...am I right?" Totally right. Way too right.).

Seriously...the most perfect night ever.

But how do we hang on to nights like that? How do we savor the experience without letting it all just turn into an anecdote? I was determined not to forget.

Nicest garage he's ever played in front of, I'm sure.
I remember listening to Austin play and looking up at the little sliver of daylight between the two
canopies... the striking silhouette of treetops against the graying nighttime sky. I remember closing my eyes to lock that view and the accompanying music into my consciousness, thinking "Don't ever let yourself forget how joyous this moment is...don't ever forget how wonderful and perfect this night is..."

And I won't.

Any day now, life is about to get crazy-different (I'm currently at 38 weeks and 6 days). We're as ready for this impending excitement as we can be. We've been waiting for this kiddo for what seems like forever. It's time.

But there will always be something just a little extra special about this magical May night. The music. The friends and neighbors. The last-hurrah before parenthood. All of it. So very perfect.

We're grateful to Austin for the role he played in making this night a reality. We're grateful that he's such a talented musician...that he is such a generous person. We're grateful for the whole experience ...that one time Broken Anchor played in our backyard.


Thursday, June 27, 2013

My Teeny, Tiny Brain: How It Works

I started this post back in February. I edited it throughout March. And because it seemed too ranty and overtly political, I decided I didn't really feel the need to publish it. It was enough just to write it and vent.

And then a whole lotta shit went down in Texas the other night. And I came to the realization that, while I have always been pro women having all sorts of agency about what happens with their own bodies, this being pregnant business has only amplified my pro-choicedness. 


So here goes...
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I'm gonna talk about vaginas in this one, folks. Even my own. I mean not a lot...certainly not graphically. But...you know...it's gonna come up, given the nature of this particular conversation. And I'm gonna swear. And get all crazy-liberal political.

Not your bag of oats? Avert your eyes. Close your internet.

Otherwise, consider yourself warned.

So...I'm pregnant. Perhaps you've heard?

Me and Kim Kardashian and Princess Kate. All knocked up. All about the same time too, or so it seems. Like when Kate was admitted to the hospital for hyperemesis gravidarum, all I could think was, "At least that lucky bitch is throwing up...I'm just rocking back and forth for hours on end, wishing the waves of nausea would either do their thing or go away."

Because I'm super empathic like that.

Anyway.

We find out we're pregnant...so we go in for the 8-week ultrasound. And I'm all ready for the jelly-on-the-belly deal, because--as a friend of mine wisely remarked--"that's how they do it on TV!" But surprise, surprise friends and neighbors! That's not how they do it at 8 weeks. Certainly not in these modern times.

You know what they do?

A vaginal ultrasound. With a big ol' probey thingamabobber. (That's its actual clinical name. I asked.) And it totally looks like something you'd buy at the Love Doctor or Sex World or wherever.

Huh.

I wasn't expecting that.

Okay...well, if that's how we do, that's how we do.

So they do the ultrasound. And I see the little gummy-bear-shaped image that is our baby.

And I totally starting crying.

A lot.

Because you cry when you see the ultrasound of your baby. You just do. I mean I didn't think I wouldn't. But I was more than a little surprised at how instinctively the tears came...it honestly caught me off guard. I said to the ultrasound tech (through a whole mess of tears), "So there's no 'not crying' at one of these, huh?"

She smiled, "Nope."

I'm well aware that my reaction was due, in large part, to the context in which our pregnancy exists:

It was planned. We'd been trying for awhile...not real long, but long enough to start wondering if it would actually happen. We are happily married. We have a wonderful home. We have wonderful jobs. We have more than we deserve...more than we need.

I am a flesh-and-blood example of what a privileged pregnancy looks like. And I am not the least bit unaware of this...all this fortune is not lost on me.

So I'm sitting there, experiencing the dissonance that results from the emotional high of seeing our child for the first time, partnered with the physical discomfort of having a probe/transducer/thingamabobber in my vagina. And vaginal ultrasounds aren't quick folks (just in case you've never had the "pleasure"). So I had plenty of time to think lots of thoughts about what I was experiencing.

And the number one thought in my teeny, tiny brain? The one that wouldn't go away? More than even "OMG!! That's our baby!" or "Don't let Jay think for a second that he can paint Star Wars murals in the nursery!" The most prevalent thought coursing furiously through my brain?

THOSE F*CKING CONGRESSMEN (AND WOMEN) WHO WANT TO MAKE WOMEN SEEKING ABORTIONS HAVE VAGINAL ULTRASOUNDS BEFORE THEY CAN GO THROUGH THE ACTUAL LEGAL MEDICAL PROCEDURE.

F*CK. THOSE. F*CKING. F*CKS.

(Remind me later to tell you about how I promised my dad I'd stop swearing once his granddaughter is born. Also, do the *'s instead of U's soften the blow of my obnoxious language? Not really? Oh well.)

I'm sitting there fuming over the idea of putting a woman who is already questioning her ability to care for a child...her ability to carry a pregnancy to term...through the invasive experience that is that type of procedure. A woman who may not have the money or the health or the support system or even just the honest-to-Pete desire to be a parent. And now she has to be physically and emotionally tortured on top of it?

Seriously.

Meanwhile, Jay is at my side ...holding my hand ...beaming... "What are you thinking about, Emmy?"

Augh. Don't even ask. Because here, in the middle of this beautiful, amazing, miracle-of-life moment, I am absolutely off-my-rocker, out-of-my-gourd, politically outraged.

Because that's how my brain works.

The same feelings overtook me during the 12-13 week jelly-on-the-belly ultrasound. Even though I tried to push the sentiment away...tamp it down. I couldn't. So there's our little bean...up on the monitor...stretching and kicking and waving her arms around. And I'm crying and in love and amazed. And even still a little like "Really? I'm really pregnant?"

But also? I'm seething. And political. And swearing like a sailor silently to myself. Again.

I can't help it. It just sends me over the edge.

I don't know how many more of these I have to go through, but I'm one wild hair away from making protest signs and picketing my own ultrasound.

Because that would make sense.

I think my point is this:

We have elected officials opining over things like "legitimate rape." Others are figuring out ways to make pre-abortion screenings more like non-consensual sexual torture than actual medical consultations. And then you've got Sean Duffy (R-WI) joking about transvaginal ultrasounds...and how he doesn't know what they are because he's never had one...and oh isn't that a laugh. But isn't that the rub? He'll never need one. No one can ever make him have one. More importantly, he'll never even have a health-related issue where congress will vote and decide what's best for his body. And yet there he and his party are, requiring medically unnecessary procedures on women with the aim of guilting them into continuing pregnancies...pregnancies that these women, for whatever reason, do not feel capable of sustaining.

Here's the thing, Sean-buddy. I have had a vaginal ultrasound...under the best of circumstances: a planned pregnancy, my husband by my side, while we are both gainfully employed and in good health, with a strong support system around us. And you know what? It was still an uncomfortable, invasive procedure. It was still awkward and unpleasant...even though I was THRILLED to be learning about my pregnancy. I can't imagine how I would have felt had my circumstances been something other than what they are.

I can't even imagine. Not just the discomfort of the procedure, but the gravity of the decision weighing on me...with the societal pressure being one of the greatest forces of all. Under the very best of circumstances, pregnancy is challenging and emotional and scary and exciting and overwhelming. But not every woman (or even every couple, if there is a couple to begin with) experiences pregnancy under ideal conditions.

You want to reduce abortion? Fine. Me too. But then let's also reduce rape and not-particularly-consensual sex. Let's increase access to affordable birth control and prenatal care and postnatal care and all the various trips to the doctor for new moms and their babies. Especially for the folks who aren't fortunate enough to have limitless resources, or at least a job with decent insurance. Let's find innovative ways to support fathers and partners and other family members who want to help raise that baby. Let's make sure all those "New Mommy" classes that everyone raves about aren't just for the women who can afford them (either the actual fees or the time away from work).

Let's be as ardently pro-life after the baby is born as we are before.

How does that sound?

All this ranting? From one itsy-bitsy little transvaginal ultrasound.

And that is now my teeny, tiny brain works.
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And because you are such loyal readers and that was such a bombastic post, I thank you for your readership with this:




Sunday, June 16, 2013

Lighting Candles: Jay's Dopplegangers

I meant to blog about this in the middle of May...but I didn't end up doing that because of [reasons]. So go ahead and pretend all this happened last week...instead of last month:

How I Met Your Mother enthusiasts will remember that one of the early recurring tid-bits of the show was reference to the characters' dopplegangers. Stripper Lilly and Lesbian Robin...Mustache Marshall and Mexican Wrestler Ted...Barney the Fertility Doctor. We all waited and waited for the unveiling of everyone's twin. Much like we're all still waiting to find out who the hell Ted marries. Those kids are like half-way to the grave by now and they still don't know the courtship story of their parents. I hope it's a good one...or Season 9 is really gonna suck.

Anyway.

About a month ago--and we weren't even looking for this--we stumbled across two dopplegangers of Jay...IN ONE WEEK.

See!
I told you!
While this guy certainly channeled Jay's omnipresent, crazy, mouth-open-and-really-hamming-it-up face:































Really. This is not Jay.
...it was THIS GUY who was a dead ringer in regard to overall facial expression, general posture, and recreational hobbies and general interests.

OMG! LOL! WTF?!

Even Jay wasn't entirely convinced that this wasn't him. Seriously.




Okay. That's all I had to say in this post. Go ahead and get back about your business. 

But keep an eye out for DoppleJays. Apparently, there's more than one out there!

Unless you see this handsome face, you're just seeing impostors...not my one true Sweet Jay.