Words For My Children

It’s rainy. I feel as though my life is in beautiful transition. Forgive me my sappiness.

Words For My Children:

Just like the rest of the world, you do not always bring out the best of me. I’m more patient now, which you likely can not believe. Yes, I was somehow even less patient than now. You’ve changed other things too.

My Maxwell, you’ve made me strong. My mother raised me as such, but you cemented it, drawing strength out of me from pits I didn’t know existed. You are my refuge from fear. You made it clear your first day on earth: there is nothing love can’t heal. Your arrival marked me as a warrior. You plant my feet to the ground.

Maxwell, I expect too much from you. I know that. But you, my little soul, are worthy of great expectations. You’re clever, sometimes too clever, and careful. You play and fall, sure, but you anticipate what is to come. You are made of emotion and passion. I hold you to high standards because your own standards are higher. Your heart is gentle and your mind is fierce. Your spirit is much like mine. I imagine you and I have shouting and arguments in our future, but know, please always know, you have my love unconditionally. Knowing you makes me better. Raising you makes me proud.

You’re creative too. I’m never quite sure what is happening in your mind, what story is unfolding. Embrace that son, even when I’m barking at you to get into the car faster because it is raining. I can’t promise I’ll stop being grumpy, but I can promise storytelling will always be worth your time.

My Eleanor. Oh, Eleanor. I call you little warrior because of your stubborn impulses and love of plastic weaponry, but there the title fades. You’re made of joy, and delight, and possibly kittens. You’re a playful and compassionate little being. Your grin shatters me into pieces of love and happiness that leave me incapable of coherent thought briefly. You get away with a lot. You call for me a lot, which I secretly love, though less so at three in the morning. I sometimes feel as though we have a secret language you and I. One made entirely of touch and smiles. You sink into me when we hug and snuggle.

You dance Elly Bear, oh how you bop about and jump and twirl. You bring the world light it desperately needs. You’re also confident. Your sense of self is more robust at two and half than mine at 32, but that is a gift you’ve been sharing.

You’ve taught me to love myself where I am, not a far off ideal. Watching you romp about discovering things made me stop putting off my joy. I find peace in everyday now. My hope for you is that you grow and change but always know yourself the way you do today.

Words for my children: Thank you.

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#mileaday

In April of 2015, roughly 3 months post-partum, I challenged myself to start walking one mile per day (or 30 per month). In May 2015 I started taking one photo each walk to document my journey and tagging it #mileadayinmay, later just #mileaday. A few months later I added running. Since then I’ve run three official half marathons and a handful of 5K and 10Ks. I lost 85lbs, reaching a peak low in the fall of 2015. Since then I’ve grown professionally somewhat significantly… and I’ve gained about 35lbs back. Whoops. I’ve been feeling so discouraged in my running, my weight, and my overall stress level. I loved feeling so strong, but lately find myself short on time to devote to fitness given my passion for my career, community obligations, and caring for two kids.

The long and short of it is this: time is precious and I can’t take the emails with me. I want my career to grow, but I need to take care of myself and my family. It may make things take longer, but I’ll have my health for that time. It’s time to let focus in, get back to work, and continue to be proud of journey (the scale’s opinion be damned).  My favorite thing about “mile a day” is that it is so doable. Just one mile per day; more if I can, but no pressure. Just get up and move. Celebrate small victories. From January 2015 (pre #mileaday but started tracking) to today, I have run and walked 1,900.04 miles. That’s a reason to be proud, setbacks and all.

To inspire myself, I combed my Instagram and pulled every photo I tagged #mileaday or #mileadayinmay. There are 520 of them, spanning from May 2015 to yesterday, September 25, 2017. They include walks, runs, and moments I associated with my fitness journey (seriously, just anything I tagged with #mileaday).

My comments and context has been stripped – I’ve saved only the images. They’re not in perfect chronological order, but a happy mess of achievement and determination.

These pictures show love, they celebrate several of the trips I’ve taken since 2015, they showcase Lincoln and the University, they remind me that I have passion, drive, and will power I never knew I had until I dug for it.

Here’s to another 520 photos and another 1,900 miles.

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My Favorite Books of 2016

November 23 2016 | I set a goal of reading 50 books in 2016. I did it! I want to preface this post with some information about me as a reader. I read mostly 300-500 page fiction, usually of the general narrative, fantasy, mystery, science fiction or romance variety. These books are my escape. I rarely read 600+ page non-fiction books, that I’m sure hold merit but not my eyes open at 10pm after a full day at the office and getting a preschooler and a toddler to bed. So before everyone is all “how do you have the time?!” know that I can polish off a 300 page romance novel in about 72 hours, reading it post children’s bedtime. Other books take more time. I also read a lot while traveling. I loathe airports and books absorb me, so I turn to them while flying. I usually knock back 2-3 books per trip.

Logistics aside, I want to share my favorites of the year and hope that others will share theirs! A full pictorial list of my 50 is below too. Note, I count graphic novel volumes as a book. I do not count individual comic books/issues.

The reviews here are mostly what I wrote on Goodreads.com directly after finishing the book. I figure those reviews are the most fresh and frankly, putting this together was enough work. I don’t have time for more in depth reviews, but always happy to talk about books!

Finishing my goal doesn’t mean I’m going to stop reading until 2017, so please, join me on Goodreads and finish out 2016 with me!

Finally – SHOUTOUT LINCOLN CITY LIBRARIES! Only two books of my entire 50 were purchased. Thank you for being an important resource to me and my family.

The Department of Speculation
by Jenny Offill
Read: October 16, 2016
18473997Goodreads Summary: Dept. of Speculation is a portrait of a marriage. It is also a beguiling rumination on the mysteries of intimacy, trust, faith, knowledge, and the condition of universal shipwreck that unites us all. Jenny Offill’s heroine, referred to in these pages as simply “the wife,” once exchanged love letters with her husband postmarked Dept. of Speculation, their code name for all the uncertainty that inheres in life and in the strangely fluid confines of a long relationship. As they confront an array of common catastrophes—a colicky baby, a faltering marriage, stalled ambitions—the wife analyzes her predicament, invoking everything from Keats and Kafka to the thought experiments of the Stoics to the lessons of doomed Russian cosmonauts. She muses on the consuming, capacious experience of maternal love, and the near total destruction of the self that ensues from it as she confronts the friction between domestic life and the seductions and demands of art.With cool precision, in language that shimmers with rage and wit and fierce longing, Jenny Offill has crafted an exquisitely suspenseful love story that has the velocity of a train hurtling through the night at top speed. Exceptionally lean and compact, Dept. of Speculation is a novel to be devoured in a single sitting, though its bracing emotional insights and piercing meditations on despair and love will linger long after the last page.

My Review: I read this book on a plane today as I was told it’s best to read it in one sitting. My goodness. At only 179 pages, it still managed to leave me a bit speechless. It’s written in a broken, but beautiful, chain of consciousness and prose. It took me 10 or 15 pages to fall into her mind, but once I did it no longer felt fragmented but comfortably, if not oddly, sequential. I’ve never read anything quite like this. A narrative in short prose, but not poetry, definitely a narrative. A walk through love, marriage, becoming a mother, martial struggles, aging – but without any of the cliches often plaguing books of that subject matter. It’s not an easy read exactly, as I had to re-read several pieces multiple times, but it was thoroughly satisfying.

 

Sparrow Hill Road
By Seanan McGuire*
Read: September 4, 2016

Goodreads Summary: Rose Marshall died in 1952 in Buckley Township, Michigan, run off 17666976the road by a man named Bobby Cross—a man who had sold his soul to live forever, and intended to use her death to pay the price of his immortality. Trouble was, he didn’t ask Rose what she thought of the idea. It’s been more than sixty years since that night, and she’s still sixteen, and she’s still running. They have names for her all over the country: the Girl in the Diner. The Phantom Prom Date. The Girl in the Green Silk Gown. Mostly she just goes by “Rose,” a hitchhiking ghost girl with her thumb out and her eyes fixed on the horizon, trying to outrace a man who never sleeps, never stops, and never gives up on the idea of claiming what’s his. She’s the angel of the overpass, she’s the darling of the truck stops, and she’s going to figure out a way to win her freedom. After all, it’s not like it can kill her. You can’t kill what’s already dead.

My Review: A little more than halfway through this book I found myself thinking that Rose’s POV reminded me quite a bit of Verity Price’s (a lead character from another series by this author). About that time the Healys are mentioned and the shared world is obvious. Loved this book and bouncing around the timeline. A take a ghost stories that only McGuire would be capable of. I love how she blends ancient mythology from a variety of different backgrounds with modern snark. Recommended.

* Seanan McGuire is my favorite (urban) fantasy author. Hands down. No competition. Always, in every novel, Seanan’s voice shines through, full of wit, empathy, and somehow hopeful cynicism. Her character’s are powerful and flawed, and everything is tinged with silliness and yet seriousness. This year I also read her InCyryptid series and her newest stand-alone, Every Heart a Doorway. Her October Daye series dominated my 2015 reading list and is far and away my favorite of her work. I also applaud the diversity of characters in her work and range of characters, though she occasionally leaves some undeveloped. The only real issue I have with most of her books are the covers. I know from her social media she loves her cover artist, but honestly, I find them a little… bad.

 

Mr. Penumbra’s 24 Hour Bookstore
By Robin Sloan
Read: August 9, 2016

13538873Goodreads Summary: The Time of Shedding and Cold Rocks has shuffled Clay Jannon away from life as a San Francisco web-design drone and into the aisles of Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore. But after a few days on the job, Clay discovers that the store is more curious than either its name or its gnomic owner might suggest. The bookstore’s secrets extend far beyond its walls.

My Review: This novel is a fictional mystery and a narrative about a 20 something startup failure working in a used book shop next to strip club – but it draws a beautiful metaphor and striking parallel between the development of the printing press and the rise of digitally stored data accessible world wide. What does immortality mean as our ability to literally leave our mark shifts? While is occasionally (ok, somewhat regularly) goes into overdrive trying to be “of the moment” with its tech references, this book is charming, smart, witty, a bit exciting, and thoughtful. Quick read, also. Epilogue is a bit over the top.

 

Sleeping in Eden
by Nicole Baart
Read: June 18, 2016
Goodreads Summary: The lives of a middle-aged doctor and a love-struck young woman 15803042intersect across time in Sleeping in Eden, Nicole Baart’s haunting novel about love, jealousy, and the boundaries between loyalty and truth. On a chilly morning in the Northwest Iowa town of Blackhawk, Dr. Lucas Hudson is filling in for the vacationing coroner on a seemingly open-and-shut suicide case. His own life is crumbling around him, but when he unearths the body of a woman buried in the barn floor beneath the hanging corpse, he realizes this terrible discovery could change everything. Years before Lucas ever set foot in Blackhawk, Meg Painter met Dylan Reid. It was the summer before high school and the two quickly became inseparable. Although Meg’s older neighbor, Jess, was the safe choice, she couldn’t let go of Dylan no matter how hard she tried. Caught in a web of jealousy and deceit that spiraled out of control, Meg’s choices in the past ultimately collide with Lucas’s discovery in the present, weaving together a taut story of unspoken secrets and the raw, complex passions of innocence lost.

My Review: I couldn’t put this down. Finished it in the space of 18 hours, distractions in the form of sleep and my children slowed me down or I’d probably read it in 6! Characters were relatable, empathetically written and the bit in Omaha’s Old Market was spot on. My only complaint is that clues and pieces led almost exactly to the outcome I expected. It took some twists and turns getting there but overall, who “Woman” is was relatively clear from the get-go.

 

The Silence of Bonaventure Arrow
By Rita Leganski

Read: June 13, 2016
15732761Goodreads Summary: Conceived in love and possibility, Bonaventure Arrow didn’t make a peep when he was born, and the doctor nearly took him for dead. No one knows Bonaventure’s silence is filled with resonance – a miraculous gift of rarified hearing that encompasses the Universe of Every Single Sound. Growing up in the big house on Christopher Street in Bayou Cymbaline, Bonaventure can hear flowers grow, a thousand shades of blue, and the miniature tempests that rage inside raindrops. He can also hear the gentle voice of his father, William Arrow, shot dead before Bonaventure was born by a mysterious stranger known only as the Wanderer. Bonaventure’s remarkable gift of listening promises salvation to the souls who love him: his beautiful young mother, Dancy, haunted by the death of her husband; his Grand-mere Letice, plagued by grief and long-buried guilt she locks away in a chapel; and his father, William, whose roaming spirit must fix the wreckage of the past. With the help of Trinidad Prefontaine, a Creole housekeeper endowed with her own special gifts, Bonaventure will find the key to long-buried mysteries and soothe a chorus of family secrets clamoring to be healed.

My Review: This book impacted me. It was very spiritual but didn’t quite cross into preachy or judgmental (though it edged closely here and there). I’m still sitting with my reactions and deciding how it spoke to me, which it what one should do after a good book.

 

A Sudden Light
By Garth Stein

Read: March 22, 2016
Goodreads Summary: In the summer of 1990, fourteen-year-old Trevor Riddell gets his 21412272first glimpse of Riddell House. Built from the spoils of a massive timber fortune, the legendary family mansion is constructed of giant, whole trees, and is set on a huge estate overlooking Puget Sound. Trevor’s bankrupt parents have begun a trial separation, and his father, Jones Riddell, has brought Trevor to Riddell House with a goal: to join forces with his sister, Serena, dispatch Grandpa Samuel—who is flickering in and out of dementia—to a graduated living facility, sell off the house and property for development into “tract housing for millionaires,” divide up the profits, and live happily ever after. But Trevor soon discovers there’s someone else living in Riddell House: a ghost with an agenda of his own. For while the land holds tremendous value, it is also burdened by the final wishes of the family patriarch, Elijah, who mandated it be allowed to return to untamed forestland as a penance for the millions of trees harvested over the decades by the Riddell Timber company. The ghost will not rest until Elijah’s wish is fulfilled, and Trevor’s willingness to face the past holds the key to his family’s future. A Sudden Light is a rich, atmospheric work that is at once a multigenerational family saga, a historical novel, a ghost story, and the story of a contemporary family’s struggle to connect with each other. A tribute to the natural beauty of the Pacific Northwest, it reflects Garth Stein’s outsized capacity for empathy and keen understanding of human motivation, and his rare ability to see the unseen: the universal threads that connect us all.

My Review: I didn’t take the time to review this on Goodreads in writing (though I gave it 5 stars). This book is brilliantly crafted, creepy and emotional. This story has stuck with me.

 

Rat Queens (Multiple Volumes)
By Kurtis Wiebe, Illustrator Roc Upchurch
Read: January – February 2016 
20299683Goodread Summary:  A pack of booze-guzzling, death-dealing battle maidens-for-hire, and they’re in the business of killing all god’s creatures for profit. It’s also a darkly comedic sass-and-sorcery series starring Hannah the Rockabilly Elven Mage, Violet the Hipster Dwarven Fighter, Dee the Atheist Human Cleric and Betty the Hippy Smidgen Thief. This modern spin on an old school genre is a violent monster-killing epic that is like Buffy meets Tank Girl in a Lord of the Rings world on crack!23012877

My Review: There are moments it feels like it’s trying a little hard, but it’s fun as hell. Diversity, flawed entertaining female characters, sex, drugs, and questing. What’s not to like? I really enjoyed the second volume (a) because I love origin stories, (b) I love relationship and battle stories, and (c) this felt more serious and grown up than volume one. As before I love the art, but I felt like this volume was a little inconsistent. Never bad, but a character’s features would look totally different one page to the next.

 

Garden Spells
By Sarah Addison Allen*

Read: May 20, 2016
1158967Goodreads Summary: For nearly a decade, 34-year-old Claire Waverley, at peace with her family inheritance, has lived in the house alone, embracing the spirit of the grandmother who raised her, ruing her mother’s unfortunate destiny and seemingly unconcerned about the fate of her rebellious sister, Sydney, who freed herself long ago from their small town’s constraints. Using her grandmother’s mystical culinary traditions, Claire has built a successful catering business — and a carefully controlled, utterly predictable life — upon the family’s peculiar gift for making life-altering delicacies: lilac jelly to engender humility, for instance, or rose geranium wine to call up fond memories. Garden Spells reveals what happens when Sydney returns to Bascom with her young daughter, turning Claire’s routine existence upside down. With Sydney’s homecoming, the magic that the quiet caterer has measured into recipes to shape the thoughts and moods of others begins to influence Claire’s own emotions in terrifying and delightful ways. As the sisters reconnect and learn to support one another, each finds romance where she least expects it, while Sydney’s child, Bay, discovers both the safe home she has longed for and her own surprising gifts. With the help of their elderly cousin Evanelle, endowed with her own uncanny skills, the Waverley women redeem the past, embrace the present, and take a joyful leap into the future.

My Review: It’s been a long time since I read an entire book in one evening, even a 305 page shorty. I love this author for that. Always the right mix of lightness, relaxation, and ease with interesting plots and such fun and subtle pieces of fantasy and magic. It’s like a quilt and coco in book form.

* Sarah Addison Allen is another of my favorite authors for fiction that includes just a touch of magic and fantasy. Her books are a warm fire, a cup of tea, a connection with an old friend. She is amazing at bringing love and warmth off the page and bringing the reader into lovely and magical places.

 

Graphic Novel Honorable Mentions: Saga Volume 6 by Brian Vaughen, Wonder Woman Volume 3 (Iron), Volume 4 (War), Volume 5 (Flesh), Volume 6 (Bones) by Brian Azzarello, Cliff Chiang (Artist)

 

The Full 50:books1books2books3

wonder woman to human trash fire and back

We all have hard days. Days we feel bad about ourselves; feel like we’re not enough. At least I do.

Not every day. Most days I fly my fabulous flag high and authentically. Less often I have days I feel like a miserable failure of a human. This is, of course, not true but that doesn’t fix that overwhelming “I’m a human garbage disposal” feeling entirely.

I thought that when I lost “the weight,” or passed the bar exam, or finished this, that, or the other, THEN. THEN I would finally stop having days this occasionally. For example, I truly believed I only had self-doubt regarding my intelligence mostly because I hadn’t passed the bar. I thought that a piece of paper would suddenly make me realize my intellectual worth – and truth be told, it does help. It’s a concrete marker of skill. However, here I am today having a “I’m a human trash fire” kind of day. Same goes for my weight loss, running, or anything else.

Our external markers of success don’t always speak to our internal ones.

Oh. Did you think I was going to present a solution to conquering self-doubt even when you’re in a period of external/public success? Nope. I ain’t got one. I just thought someone else might like to hear they aren’t alone. Some days I feel like a human septic tank too.

… although, I think it’s OK to feel sad some days. Maybe we don’t fix it. I think, just maybe, we should hold hands with the anxiety, and the worry, and the doubt. I think we let our brains be scared, hurt, and vulnerable little kids for a day – for tomorrow we raise our flags again.

PS – you are never a human trash fire to me ❤

Being Brave

Updated to Add April 11, 2016: I PASSED! I passed, I passed, I passed. No way I could’ve pulled it off without my family and without Themis Bar Review. Legit.

Original Post February 23, 2016:

I’ll cut to the chase: I’ve realized that no matter what failures I experience in my professional life, it could never touch the fear of Max’s premature birth, the anxiety of a high risk pregnancy, or intensity of Eleanor’s very fast birth. Reflection on my children, their births, and their natures allowed me to feel brave. Brave enough to face my fears of being incapable and unintelligent.

Failure does not make me less valuable as a mother, wife, daughter, sister, employee – person. Character is creature of perseverance, not success. Full stop.

Long Form: I saw a blog a while ago that was aimed at helping women who had “lost themselves to motherhood.” I immediately felt guilty that I didn’t feel that way at all. Am I a horrible mother? I don’t feel “lost to motherhood” at all – does that mean I’m not invested enough in my children? In the wise philosophy of T. Swift I quickly allowed myself to shake it off. I know why I haven’t lost myself to motherhood – it’s because I found myself in motherhood. No, I don’t mean to imply that my entire state of being is validated because I’ve had two children – it’s that my children have made me brave enough to be truly comfortable with who I am.

When I came across this post I was standing on the precipice of what can best be described as a really intimidating but entirely administrative task in nature. I started studying for this exam back in October in the midst of buying and starting the process of renovating our home – plus you know – the two small children, marathon training, and my full time job. It felt beyond intimidating, but upon reflection I realized my life was never going to feel “slow.” It was time to jump off the side of the pool – for a second time. I failed the Bar Exam when I took it in February of 2012. I was 6 months pregnant with our first child, uninsured, and utterly broke. My head was not in the clearest place. All of that aside, I tried my hardest. I did. I did the best I could with what I had to work with. Still failed. That feeling sucks. No pretty or poetic words can soften that. It sucked. I was unfamiliar with putting in that amount of work and effort and still failing. Just 30ish hours after receiving news of my failure I went into premature labor. My husband was at his father’s funeral across the country. Everything had fallen apart.

One of my greatest struggles in life has been battling my self-doubt. I wasn’t as smart as my friends, so I tried to be cool. I’m not particularly cool. I made (make) an ass out of myself a lot. If I’m not the smart girl and I’m not the cool girl, who was I? Failing the Bar Exam amplified these feeling to about the 100th degree, but I’m nothing if not stubborn so onward I marched as a new mom and a law school grad who couldn’t practice law. While I was equal parts humbled and annoyed, with my husband and my family’s support, life turned itself around. That said, not a day has gone by since the moment I didn’t see my name on that Pass List that I haven’t thought about the Bar Exam. I knew I’d have to face that son of a bitch again. I’m too stubborn not to.

I’ve often joked that Max is my Zen master. He is a bundle of feelings and empathy. He is ever present in the moment but often lost to what he is feeling. It’s hard, but damn it’s beautiful. He will touch people, impact them, and guide them. He is my rock in the storm. I started to realize that nothing could ever frighten me more than his premature birth. Touring the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit hours before his birth, without his father by my side, created the biggest feeling I’ve ever felt. I don’t know what to call it exactly, but no other level of fear or intimidation I’ve ever experienced could touch it. He has taught me that overwhelming feelings are hard but beautiful. I need to be present. I need to live presently in my feelings, express them, mourn them, love them, allow them to be a part of me.

If Max is my master of patience and empathy, Eleanor is bravery personified. Both of my births were unmediated, but I fully contend that the first one felt nothing like the second. That amount of pain shouldn’t be allowed to exist on an earthly plain. After a pregnancy that felt like a 9 month long red-wine-hangover, that girl tore out of me, on her whim, in just two hours time. Then she screamed when any non-family member attempted to touch her and immediately set about the task of nursing – which she did rather successfully with really very little guidance or input from me. At a year old her general demeanor is laid back, but make no mistake, her spirit radiates tenacity. She is not to be ignored.

These two little beings came from me and from the man I’ve chosen to spend my life with. If these qualities are a part of them, they must be a part of us, a part of me.

I must face hard feelings, like insecurities about my intelligence and abilities. I must forgive myself for being intimidated. I must be fully present in my fears in order to face them. I must be tenacious in my efforts to better my life. I must not ignore myself.

These lessons are so much bigger than the Bar Exam. Sure, as a test it’s intimidating as hell but I’ve likely blown it way out of proportion in my mind. It’s an exam based in memorization – not a strong point of mine. But with Eleanor’s example and Max’s perspective in hand I tried again.

I don’t know if I passed yet. I suspect it’ll be narrow either way. Either way, I’m proud.

Don’t Go Change’n on Me

I’m a social media addict. I post at least once or twice a day on multiple different platforms. I’m not ashamed. Sure I concede its touch narcissistic, but some of my best friendships and business networking has come through the relationships I fostered on Twitter and Facebook. Even so, I find it a bit self-important when people post a “I’m taking a break or quitting this site” status. That said, when I’ve taken a short breaks in the past friends who don’t know me in real life have actually grown concerned for my well-being, so I’m putting something here.

Until February 23rd-24th I’m working on what is a large, intimidating, and exciting goal: I’m retaking the Bar Exam. While I don’t suddenly want to practice law, it has weighed on me as “unfinished business” and it’s become a bit of a personal vendetta. I failed the exam (by only a few points, sigh) when I took it in February 2012 right after I graduated from law school. I was pregnant, uninsured, and unemployed. It was a trying time. Thankfully I landed in a position where a legal license wasn’t needed and my life and my finances quickly recovered the post-professional degree slump. I’ve identified that a traditional legal career isn’t for me, but I feel like my law school experience is incomplete.

Anyhow, I’m studying all 17 subjects for the two day Uniform Bar Exam alongside my full time job, training for my races, and remodeling our house – not to mention the two kids and lack of sleep.

I need to focus. Checking in is distracting. Constant news and information input is draining. I’m deactivating and disappearing for awhile – for my own good.

I’ll be back.

I am still lurking on Instagram until February or so because it’s easier to ignore throughout the day. I’m @peltoinspace.

Smooches.

Don’t Go Change’n on Me!

A Tale of Two Boobs 

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us…”

…and about there the metaphor would get too depressing and thankfully inaccurate. This isn’t a post about London and Paris in the French Revolution – it’s about my boobs. More specifically it’s about breastfeeding.

An act that is fulfilling yet sacrificing and ripe with optimism teetering on potential heartbreak. So many feelings are wrapped up in caring for our children and the very vulnerable act of nursing seems to carry a special emotional impact for many mothers, or at least it always has for me.

I’m standing at the beginning of the end of my time as a breastfeeding mother and bittersweet doesn’t begin to describe it.

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Using the  Bryan Health Nursing Nook at the Pinnacle Bank Arena while attending an event.

Let’s get the political part of this out of the way right quick, shall we? My stance is clear: Your boobs, your body, your business. I know tons of fabulous mothers who formula fed their babies. You go ladies. Love your babies and do what works for you. I breastfeed because it works for me and that choice isn’t a judgement on anyone’s decisions. We have enough to worry about without making each other feel like crap. OK, now that’s done.

My son got his last drop of breast milk around 7 months. He was born early and never really got the hang of nursing. We would occasionally nurse for comfort but he was never good enough at it to take his meals that way. I pumped. I pumped A LOT. For the first two months I triple fed (first you nurse, second you bottle feed breast milk or formula, third you pump, then after a a short break you start all over) – which is to say I did nothing but worry about milk. After two months I gave up the nursing piece of puzzle and just let myself become an exclusive pumper. It was fine I suppose, but it’s a logistical night mare. I was proud of my dedication to pumping and given the fear wrapped up in Max’s premature birth I think it gave me something to feel in control of. It was fulfilling, but it was exhausting. When I stopped pumping I felt free. Perhaps a bit of sentimentality came with that, but mostly I felt as though a burden had been lifted. I knew that if I had to do that again with our second child I may not make it very long.

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Got Mommy’s Milk? Eleanor does.

Eleanor came along and turned everything I knew about birth and babies on it’s head. Her birth felt nothing like Maxwell’s and her demeanor was similar. Within 20 minutes of being born she found her own way to my breast and nursed for almost a half hour. Since then she has (lovingly) picked up the name Eleanor “I could eat” Magilton. I was unfamiliar with those early weeks of marathon nursing session. Max had been in the NICU his first two weeks, then after that he mostly bottle fed. Eleanor and I spent hours camped out on the couch nursing. This drove 2.5 year old Max nuts, but was generally heaven for her and I. Eleanor is an excellent nurser and I am excellent at nursing her.

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Glamorous: Nursing on the floor of the indoor playground at 3 months old.

She will be a year old in about a month and half. She does not seem remotely interested in weaning. I’m beginning to feel a bit differently. After her birthday I plan to begin a very slow decline to weaned. I’ll hold on to the nighttime nursing for a long while I’m sure, but even that is just part of the inevitable end. Eleanor is our last baby, biologically anyway, and the gravity of that is not lost on me. This is the last time I will nurse.

I sincerely hope I don’t end up knowing when our last moment of breastfeeding happens. I don’t think I could handle it. I’m ready to move past the world of babies and into the world of children and I’m more than ready to have my autonomy back – but that closeness, that sense you’re endlessly needed, the bond.

I’m really going to miss that.

 

An 80 Pound Net Gain.

I have lost 80 pounds. Eighty. Damn, that sounds like a lot. It doesn’t feel like I had 80 pounds to lose.  Granted, I’m sort of cheating. I’m counting from the day I gave birth, so about 15 pounds was lost in just two hours. Regardless, it’s a nice round number.

I’m going to use real numbers here, so everyone applaud my bravery.

On the day I gave birth to my second child I weighed 248 pounds. The baby did not weigh 48 pounds. I did not gain a huge amount during the pregnancy. In fact, I gained only 20-ish pounds. The baby also did not weigh 20 pounds. For everyone who isn’t a math whiz, that means I was overweight (228 pounds) when I got pregnant. I narrowly crossed that all feared 200 pound mark during my final year of law school, which coincided with my first pregnancy.

Law school is stressful, pregnancy makes it more so, and nachos make me feel better. No regrets. Truly, really, I’m not kidding: no regrets.

I’ve been a variety of weights in my adult life. Some of this was the result of crash diets, “fat blocking” supplements, 1,000 calorie a day regiments, meal replacement bars; the whole gamut. When I look back on all those days and pictures there is one actually uplifting thing that sticks out to me: despite those terrible plans, I always generally liked my look. I never felt as totally comfortable as I’m beginning to now, but I always thought I had at least a little something going for me.  I wish I could go back and tell myself to focus on that. Tell myself to build on that spark of self-esteem rather than obsessively calorie count.

Hind sight, amiright?

I understand that women who aren’t being featured in an inspirational Glamour exclusive aren’t generally supposed to call themselves attractive – it’s an open invitation for every person on the internet to loudly determine whether or not they’d sleep with you (I’d probably just “friend-zone” you anyway, brah) or explain that you can’t possibly be healthy if you’re over 130 pounds. I don’t really care these days. Not because I’ve come to some fully self-assured perfect place, but because I’m too tired to genuinely care if other people think I’m too jiggly to be hot.

I’ve got my two young kids, an old home we’re remodeling, my marriage and my career to manage: take your harmful social constructs elsewhere.

Of course, confidence (or tiredness) isn’t an “end all be all.” I have insecurities. I don’t like every little piece of myself every day, all the time. I simply like the majority of myself, the majority of the time. That spark of self-confidence was a brilliant place to start a new outlook.

Breastfeeding did a lot of the calorie-burn heavy lifting that led to the weight loss, but I exercised every single day and have learned to be mindful of everything I eat. I’m proud of those changes. I won’t discount the extra push I get from nursing, but I certainly didn’t lose weight like this nursing my first baby. Most of this was me.

In my recent efforts to get healthy my focus has been on a few key goals:

  • What does 1,800 to 2,000ish calories a day look like and feel like? Eat about that. Sometimes you need to say no to food you like. Sometimes you should say yes. DO NOT OBSESS. Just be in the ball park, don’t fret over the seat number.
  • Walk (which later transformed into a wonderful running habit) a minimum of one mile per day. I love tracking data (nerd alert!) Tracking my routes and weekly and monthly mile counts truly delights me. Check out my #mileaday feed on Instagram, @peltoinspace, for my daily walking and running pictures, often exploring UNL East Campus.
  • Try new exercise and fitness challenges that sound pleasurable. If I would rather do laundry than a particular activity, let it go guilt free. It’s not for me.
  • Be outside often. Make sunshine a priority.

Surprise! That worked. It still works. Really well, in fact. My brain and body are in a really good place. I’m celebrating that. Sure, the weight loss is cool, but the person I was 80 pounds ago was amazing, bad ass, tough, hot, all of it. I refuse to discredit her.

What I want to celebrate isn’t what I’ve lost, but what I’ve gained from these 80 pounds.

Let’s do 8 things, because 80. It’s on theme.

  1. My babies. I made both of my babies carrying that weight. That body nourished them and held them. I’ll always be grateful for my pre-pregnancy and pregnant body.
  2. Surprisingly, I gained confidence when I hit my heaviest weight. At my highest (non-pregnant) weight I didn’t really feel conventionally attractive, so I explored less conventional styles that didn’t “require” the body I didn’t think I had. I had purple, blue, and pink hair. I started making my red lipstick a habit. I established my personal style (I call it “Hipster Stevie Nicks”). I was so confidently myself. I started to value my vessel, and at this point I really starting putting my body related self-esteem struggle to rest. From there it was so much easier to be mindful and work on small consistent goals. I learned to START with the self-esteem, not wait for it to come once I reached some arbitrary numeric goal.
  3. Playing on the floor sucks less. Far and away, the best part of losing 80 pounds is the impact it’s had on my relationship to my kids. Life is so much easier when you’re not carrying the equivalent of two of your preschooler before you even pick him up. I’m all about making life easier. This helps!
  4. My relationship with food is changing and growing. I had a notable “starving college student” attitude for years; when it’s there take it, eat it all, and never ever say no to food. Now I’m able to look at the left over pizza in the break room and say, “This isn’t the last time I’ll ever be offered pizza. I’ll say no this time and enjoy it during a time when it’s more fun to indulge.” On the flip side, sometimes I still eat the break room pizza and make a mental note that I should skip the nightly wine and popcorn. Balance, people, who knew? I use a food-dairy app to help me with this. I hope someday to drop the app, but for now it helps me keep track of what I put in my pie hole. My memory tends to get patchy when melted cheese is involved. Recording my food helps keep me honest with myself.
  5. I have good parents. A woman raised in this culture doesn’t get to proclaim that she’s valuable, attractive, likable, or deserving without adults in her formative years who told her that confidence isn’t just OK, it’s mandatory. Because they had gentle but high expectations of me I was forced to acknowledge my inherent worth. I hope I can give this to both my children – I hope they know they have value for simply existing. When one feels worthy of moving mountains, one tends to try.
  6. Jeans, my old foe. It’s a love/hate relationship. We’re back to solidly loving each other. Someone who loves unique style as much as I do would be remiss not to mention how much easier shopping in non-plus sizes is. Note, it should NOT be this way and I hate it, but I won’t pretend it hasn’t made shopping easier.
  7. Podcasts or simply silence. Choosing to be active every single day is a wonderful self-care driven act. Between kids, students, work, emails, bills, you know, life, it’s sometimes a challenge to truly enjoy something that’s just mine. My podcasts, listened to while I huff it around lunch, are my time. I did this before too, but I make more of a point of it now. Once I got into running I started to forgo the ear buds all together. Running for over an hour, just paying attention to city around you, is some good therapy.
  8. I realized I’ve always felt pretty damn hot, and wow, that clarity has been empowering.

I may continue to lose weight as I continue to challenge myself with running. That’s cool.

I’m happy with my vessel wherever it takes me.

What a god damn gift that is.

Finding Ten

The past 5 or 6 years have included a lot of growing pains. This is, obviously, normal. Law school, marriage, and entering parenthood are all significant transitions. As my three year old can tell you, transitions are hard. In the haze of these growing pains facades are not manageable. I ran out of time to be anything but authentically myself. What a stroke of luck that was.

o91zstBFqUE3gAWRWMe-RaM_txhxRTkuMHnCz-ZxElsI think the first time I realized I wanted to be cool, but that I wasn’t, was when I was around 11. I was overweight (the horror!), I dressed too brightly, I talked too loudly, I unpretentiously memorized Shakespearean sonnets, I built erector set vehicles, and I was weird. In reflection, I was fucking awesome. Unfortunately, other 11 year olds didn’t uniformly agree. To be clear, I was not bullied. Of course the re were unpleasant moments – the quintessential junior high and high school stuff – but I was never the repeat target of unkind behavior. I had friends, who also thought I was weird, but seemed to like me anyway. So, it’s disappointing that at the age of about 11, I started to try to cage my songbird.

I was desperate to be cool. It was a slow build through my teens and twenties. This effort to be cool ranged from being a total poser about certain bands or activities, to trying so hard to be a girl who could dance, to mostly harmless recreational drug use, to smoking (which I still hate and miss dearly), to lying about having certain experiences, to sometimes being unkind to people didn’t deserve it. These behaviors are not entirely unique, but in sum, I was the “trying too hard” girl.

This started to taper off in my early twenties – largely because I met my husband who loved me so deeply (and didn’t buy my bull shit) that my confidence grew. Of course though, these habits still pop up. Everyone wants to be liked, but by-and-large I lead with my true self these days.

As the intense desire to impress others diminished the need to figure out my “new normal” grew – and there she was. Me at 10, before the media and the pressure got to me. Before I knew there was a difference between cool and uncool. She is still here, that young girl: fearless, confident, full of wonder and desperate to share her enthusiasm with anyone who will listen.MDLnGhrFbsFqhoU04BsNUuTndLJC9v6x0xH0ncAQjhI

She does not worry if she’s smart enough. She knows she’s smart enough and that if she doesn’t get something right away it’s OK. She’ll learn. She loves to learn.

She sees her body as tool to accomplish her goals, not as an indicator of her worth.

She knows how to be kind.

She helps other people, even when she doesn’t feel like it.

She listens to her mother because age and experience do count for something.

She gets crazy haircuts.

She wears mismatched head scarves.

She has fun.

I lost her for 20 years, but she was there the whole time.

This IS Having It All

When one works at a University the end of August and the first few weeks of September are the busiest of the year. Everyone from students, faculty, staff, and our families is just a little on edge. The past few weeks have been, in a word, unpleasant. Not bad exactly, for my life is much too nice to be bad, but stressful.

Last week I was running behind in the morning, which if we’re being honest, is basically the norm. Emails and calls were blowing up my phone as students were locked out of the online classrooms I manage. I forgot my lunch. Our three year old crying because we’ve forced him to wear a shirt. Just then I received multiple email alerts on finalizing paperwork to purchase our home, right as we’re working to sell a home my husband inherited with his brothers, right as we decided to buy a new car. The baby just learned to crawl and I just remembered I forgot to get the gates out of storage. We have multiple students immigrating to the United States in various stages of the Visa and U.S. introduction processes. When they arrive the culture shock sets in the same week classes start. I try to be available to them 24/7, and right then, I was needed. Our son, well our son is three. He wasn’t having it. He’s never “having it.” But last week, on that day, we had a particularly terrible drop off at school and my heart was broken (and he was still mad over being forced to wear clothing).

As I pulled away from the daycare, blaring Green Day’s Basket Case, I  sarcastically said out loud to no one, “you really can have it all!”  I let my frustration fester for a moment but also snorted at the truth of my sentiment.

This IS having it all. Every last little bit of it. I can “have it all” and so can you – it’s just that sometimes having it all is a bit overwhelming.

I have the happy marriage, the fulfilling career, the perfect babies, the 401(k), and the mini van. It’s wonderful. It’s what I’ve worked for. It’s what I’m grateful for every day. It’s also still life. Life is messy, silly, complicated, tragic, wonderful, everything.

So is it possible to “have it all?” Yes. Absolutely. I’m so so sorry.