Tuesday, December 30, 2014

The Tale of Teddy

For those of you who don't know at this point (and I can't imagine there are a whole lot of people out there who haven't heard) - the hubby and I are expecting Munchkin #2!  We are beyond thrilled, as we would be with any pregnancy.  This particular pregnancy, though, has a bit more of a story behind it than the average pregnancy.  I've had a few people suggest that I write about it, so, I thought it might be a good way to dust off the keyboard and get back into blogging.

A warning, though:  some of the content in this story may be a bit "much" for you gentlemen out there.  Nothing overly graphic, but if you have trouble with the words "ovaries" or "uterus," go check out my previous blogs (and be sure to check back for new ones, too).  

So.  Let's start at the very beginning...

(For those of you who finished up that line with "A very good place to start" - you make my heart smile.)

Right around Munchkin #1's first birthday party in February, I started experiencing cramp-like pain on a semi-regular basis.  I didn't think much of it, and continuously brushed it off as my body still adjusting to post-baby life.  Every now and then, I would call my doctor and check in to make sure there was nothing for me to worry about, and I was always given the attempted-reassuring-but-always-slightly-condescending "Oh, you're just going through new mama pains.  It'll go away once your hormone levels balance out."

Well, the pain didn't just persist - it grew both in severity and frequency.  It was a pain that I never experienced before - so bad that it would shoot into my back and down my left leg.  So bad it would make me nauseous and not want to eat.  So bad that I began carrying a heating pad with me everywhere I went.  I couldn't sit, stand, drive, work out, play with my daughter, anything without the pain inhibiting me in some fashion.

Then, one day, the pain was so bad that I asked someone at work to take me to the hospital.  Beads of sweat dripped down my face and my skin turned ashen as I did everything in my power not to cry while we drove down a slightly bumpy road to the hospital.  I checked myself in, they took me to the back room, and a doctor bustled in to see me in tears.  After running the standard *Poke poke* *Prod prod* "Are you sure it's not just indigestion?" tests, he concluded that an ovarian cyst had ruptured.

"Uh..." I replied, while thinking Oh please, just give me some medicine so I can think.  "Shouldn't we run a scan or something so we can make sure that's it?"

"Well, that will cost a lot of money and take time.  I don't think it's necessary.  Your OB/GYN will know how to handle it once he sees your symptoms.  Besides, you are prone to cysts, aren't you?"

"Yes, but this doesn't feel like...Ok.  Fine.  Whatever you think.  Can I please just have something to get me through the day?"

Not only did the doc give me a shot of Norco, but he also prescribed me with Vicodin...you know, just in case.  Yikes.

I called my doctor that afternoon, and while I wasn't necessarily treated rudely, I also wasn't listened to entirely - which can be just as offensive.  After explaining everything that happened, I was told I would have to wait over a month for an appointment.

"Wait, you're kidding, right?  Because I'm still in pain every single day.  And I can't just pop a pill every ten seconds - I have to take care of my family.  I have to drive.  I have a job."

"Yes, but we don't consider this to be a threatening situation, and you would need to come in for just a routine check-up."

"I was hospitalized because this is so bad.  Am I not making myself clear?  You're telling me that - even though I went to the hospital - you can't find time to fit me in?  And even though I am telling you point blank that I cannot function right now because I'm in so much pain, my pain is not worth this doctor's time?"  *silence*  "Ok, well, gather up the necessary paperwork.  I'm finding a new doctor.  I'll need you to transfer it all once I find a new practice."

Well, fast-forward another two months of thought- and sleep-interrupting pain.  I finally found a new doctor and, after examination, explained to me that I had what he thought to be endometriosis.  For those of you who don't know what that is (because I sure as hell didn't), endometriosis occurs when the lining of your uterus doesn't entirely go away during your monthly cycle like it is supposed to.  Furthermore, this tissue can become displaced outside of the uterus, where there's no chance of it escaping at all.  As a result, your body forms copious amounts of scar tissue, which can ultimately attach itself to (and even twist) your ovaries.  This can be caused due to surgeries like a C-section (which is possible for me), or just because your body hates you and wants you to be miserable (which is also a possibility).

The solution?  A laparoscopic procedure to take a look and clean me out.  I set the date of the surgery immediately, because I'm a "We have a problem, we know a potential solution, let's fix this now" kinda gal.  That being said, though, the doctor's warning loomed over me:

"This might work.  But it also has a tendency to be a temporary fix, because there's no true cure for endometriosis.  We treat this as a 'three strikes and you're out' situation.  If we have to go back and do this surgery more than twice within two years, we will need to start talking about a hysterectomy in order for the pain to subside."

"Can I get pregnant before then?"

"I don't see why you can't try - the best time for you to get pregnant is immediately after the surgery, though.  Even then, many women with endometriosis find it is very difficult to conceive naturally.  We can try [insert lots and lots of overly complicated and stress-inducing ways to get pregnant]..."

The weeks leading up the surgery, hubby and I had very, very serious conversations about what we wanted out of our life together.  How many kids did we really want?  Would he be disappointed (specifically though not spoken, in me) if we could only have one biological child?  Would we ever be able to afford to adopt a child if we wanted another one? 

I kept apologizing to him as if I had done something wrong, and truthfully, I felt like I had.  From day one of the "What do you want to be when you grow up?" questions, I always knew that I wanted to be a mother above all else.  After experiencing an absolutely miserable pregnancy and bringing a tough, tough, tough baby into this world...I was beginning to feel like maybe this was God's way of saying "Eh...this really isn't for you.  Let's hope you can handle the cards that I've dealt you."  My hubby, being the ever-patient and amazing friend that he is, continuously reassured me that whatever the result of the surgery, our little family would always be perfect - regardless of whether or not we had more children.

I began to feverishly pray leading up to the day of the surgery.  My prayers, though, always turned into prayers of surrender...although, I have to admit, that makes them sound more graceful and reverent than they actually were.

Lord, I really don't get why You think I'm such a strong individual, because I'm just about at my breaking point.  Again.  I don't understand what you want from me.  I'm exhausted on all levels.  But You know what's going on a whole lot better than I do, so...whatever Your plan is, I'm alright with it.  If hubby and I are supposed to just have one child, that's alright.  If I'm supposed to have more children, that's alright, too.  Just please make it clear for me...I can't handle the guessing game of life anymore.  

I asked for others to pray for me, too, but not to pray for a specific outcome.  I didn't want it "my way", so to speak - I just wanted clear guidance as to what was best for both me and my family.

The night before the surgery, I was a wreck.  I was nervous, I was emotional, and I was still in a tremendous amount of pain.  The bottom line, though, is something didn't feel right...there was this nagging feeling in my heart that I was not in the right place at the right time.  Hubby reassured me that I was just nervous about the surgery, and that I would feel better after it was all over...so, I went upstairs as quickly as I could and closed my eyes, just ready for this whole thing to be over.

And then the dream... 

I dreamed that we were at the hospital, and I was waking up from anesthesia, groggy and cotton-mouthed.  I looked over to see my doctor, still in his blue surgical scrubs, with a mournful grimace on his face.  Why didn't you tell us?, he asked.  Tell you...what?, I mumbled, still waking my drug-addled brain up.  That you were pregnant.  

You didn't tell us you were pregnant.  

We lost the baby.

I shot up in bed.  I looked at the clock - 5:30 AM, only a couple of hours before the surgery.  There's no way, I thought.  There is no. way.

I crept downstairs to get a drink of water, deciding that if I didn't calm down after five or so minutes, I would take the last pregnancy test that I had in the house, just to calm myself down so I could get some more sleep.  When those five minutes came and went, I took the test...and it came back positive.

Now, this next part, I am 100% ashamed to admit, but since I'm being entirely truthful...I sobbed.  Uncontrollably.  Big, heaving, gasping sobs with horrendously ugly tears.  I don't really know why I cried...it's not that I didn't want a baby.  I did.  I wanted another little pork chop so badly that the idea of living life without another little pork chop was causing me serious anxiety problems.  I think the tears were out of pure, unadulterated helplessness.  I realized in that instant that I got exactly what I prayed for, but because it wasn't what I personally prepared myself for, it caught me completely off-guard.

Furthermore - adding to the shameless honesty here - I already felt like a crappy mom.  I was having a very difficult time balancing my long commute and my new promotion with my family life.  I felt like I spent zero time with my daughter, and that broke my heart...so how am I supposed to do this with two??  And the money...where were we supposed to come up with the money for another baby?

I got myself under semi-control and went back upstairs, only to lay down in bed and start crying again.  My husband woke up terrified, and when I told him what was "wrong", he started laughing.  "Babe, that's great!  Don't worry about all of the other stuff - we'll figure it out!"

"I don't even know if this pregnancy test is right - and I don't have any left."

"Well, we'll go to the hospital for the surgery anyways, and just let them know.  They have to screen for all of that beforehand."

So, after dropping Munchkin #1 off at daycare, we headed to the hospital.  Once I was ushered to the back room, I sheepishly told the nurse "Uh...so I had this weird dream last night...and I took a pregnancy test and it came back positive, but I honestly don't believe it.  You check for all of that, right?"

After laughing a good deal, she said "Yes, we check for all of that."

Twenty or more minutes go by, and the nurse came back with this perplexed look on her face.

"So...did you know you were pregnant?"

"Well, I took that test, but like I said, the only thing that cued me in was this weird dream...wait, are you telling me I'm for sure pregnant?"

"Honey, you're not just a little pregnant - you're like six weeks pregnant."

Fast-forward a few months (and by "a few", I mean nine - because I'm about to burst at this point).  I've never loved my husband or my daughter more.  My husband continues to be the best friend that I could have ever asked for, constantly reassuring me every time I have a panic attack about all of the "unknown factors".  My daughter, who remains as stubborn as ever, is changing right before my eyes into this spectacularly intelligent and beautiful little girl who I know will be a fierce protector of her baby brother.  And this baby....this baby that I'm pretty sure is the size of a small walrus...It's truly amazing how much you can love a little being when you haven't even seen their face, nuzzled the peach fuzz on their soft heads, and breathed in that newborn smell...

And lastly, I've never believed so strongly in the power of prayer.  My prayers have changed significantly since learning of the pregnancy, though:

Lord, you have shown me that this is what You want for our family, and I'm thrilled that You responded to my call.  I only ask one thing more (as always):  You know my strengths and my weaknesses.  You know what I can and cannot handle.  Munchkin #1 was the biggest test I have ever faced in my life, and continues to be a strong-willed, difficult (and amazingly wonderful) little girl.  I ask that this next child not push me over the edge.  

And if this child is a clone of Munchkin #1, please send me a superhero cape. 

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Dear Tupperware Cupboard

Dear Tupperware Cupboard:

I loathe you.

You are the bane of my homemaking existence.  You are the single most infuriating part of my kitchen.  The Achilles Heel of my organization.  The cupboard-version of Miley Cyrus to my otherwise "this-makes-so-much-sense" layout.

You are everything that makes me sigh at the end of a long day when the dishes must be done.

"Why," you might ask, you disdainful storage closet, "do you have so much hatred towards me?  You must be overreacting.  I can't possibly be that bad."

Oh.  You have no idea.

See, herein lies the problem:  I have four partial sets of Tupperware that fill you to the brim, all of which are just slightly different in size, plastic composition, color, and so on.   

And they multiply.  Not like adorable rabbits, but like a flu virus.  Like mosquitoes from a body of still water.  Like evangelists that feel it's necessary to ring the doorbell at nap time.

They don't multiply necessarily according to your desire, Tupperware Cupboard.  I will grant you that.  It's more a matter of my mother sending me home with a piece or two of cake after a birthday party in what was once a plastic container holding lunch meat.  Or my mother-in-law sending my hubby back with some of her salad from the last barbecue (which is covered by tin foil, not a specific lid).  These get washed, and we attempt to return them to their rightful owners...but since everyone is dealing with Tupperware Cupboards from Hell, and no one wants to publicly acknowledge it, the rightful owners will stare at me blankly and claim that they have never previously owned that plastic contraption before.  So, the container comes back to reside with us forever and ever.  Typically, with no lid. 

When trying to organize you, Tupperware Cupboard, I begin to fully appreciate what the creators of Tetris were trying to teach me in life.  The music plays in my head the second I swing open the door and everything tumbles out at me in warp speed.  I frantically sort things according to size-ish, color-ish, and brand.  Tupperware, Rubbermaid, Ziploc, off-brand, butter containers...I finally accomplish my mission to see towers of plastic teetering to and fro as I slowly close the door.

...Only to have the miniature Godzilla that is my daughter squeal with delight and tear it all apart while I'm cooking dinner.

Or to have my husband throw the recently-cleaned containers and lids haphazardly in and close the door as quickly as humanly possible. 

Or to just be hit with a case of the "screw-its" and just let it all pile up until I can't take it anymore.

There's no winning with you, Tupperware Cupboard.  You're never satisfied.  You always demand more and more of me, and you give back so little.  I want this relationship to end.  Forever.

...Right after I make my lunch for tomorrow and use a couple of the Ziploc containers.  

A point of frustration.

The hubbs and I are huge fans of the Renaissance Festival here in Michigan.  Not to the point where we dress up or start speaking in foreign-ish tongues, but we enjoy making a date-day out of it once a year.  It's our time to go out, buy a few trinkets that we really don't need in any capacity, listen to dirty jokes from roasted almond vendors, and treat ourselves to lunch at The Laundry in Fenton afterwards. 
One of the things that we really enjoy, though, is seeing the same astrologist each year for a star chart/psychic reading.  Mind you, we don't put any stock into it at all.  It's usually just a weird form of affirmation and some curious things to ponder while we walk through the rest of the festival, trying to find a gentleman selling pickles that won't harass us. 

The readings are typically pretty positive and light-hearted.  Last year, we had her quickly look up the star chart for our daughter before she thoroughly read ours.  She glanced at it and started laughing.  "Well," she said with a cryptic smile, "you guys have a tough one.  Very smart, sensitive, and tough."  Granted, I 100% understand that could apply to almost any child on the planet, but it was perfect for our kid.

We got through the reading with nothing truly ground breaking, and we were about to get up and leave when the woman looked at me and said somberly "Dear, you need to just put your head down and get through this year.  You're going to question many of the decisions you've made this year, but you're on the right track."

....Odd.  And, frankly, not the best business practice, leaving your regular-ish couple hanging on a foreboding note.

Honestly, I haven't really thought about it at all up until this point (now that we're planning our next date-day to the festival).  But, looking back, I have to admit that this year hasn't been "my year" in regards to, well, anything

Standing up for my convictions.  Holding firm to my promises to myself.  Knowing what I want out of any given day.  Really understanding what success means.  Not expecting perfection out of myself.  Prioritizing my life.  Finding ways to stay physically and mentally healthy.

Understanding that the clock only moves forward and never ticks back.

There's no happy wrap-up here, friends.  I'm still struggling, and I don't anticipate this struggle dissipating anytime soon.  The stage that I'm currently at in my life, though, allows me to turn this into a level of exhaustion and frustration that doesn't evolve into self-bashing.  That, believe it or not, is a massive step in the right direction for me

So, in conclusion...I haven't decided if I will go back to that astrologist this year.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Home is where the clutter is

I had a great conversation with a friend the other day about all the different ways we procrastinate before diving into housework (ironic, eh?).  I wistfully thought aloud about how amazing it would be to have someone come in and take care of my Arch-Nemesis of Daily Tasks:  the dishes. 

"Well," she said, "I've worked for people before who have someone come in and clean once a week...but they clean up beforehand."

"...Wait, what?!" 

"Yeah!  They would ask me on those days to empty and load the dishwasher and clean off the counters, otherwise she wouldn't fully clean the kitchen."

I am still reeling over this tidbit of information.  What the hell is the point of paying someone to clean when you are going to clean so they will have a clean enough area to perform their daily or weekly cleaning?!  I can only imagine the contract.  "I hereby authorize Mary Poppins to come in and sing a song, snap her fingers, and give off the appearance that she has tidied up the nursery, when really I will take care of everything no less than one hour before her arrival." 

But, truthfully, the more I think about it, the more I realize that I would do the exact. same. thing.  Honestly, I don't even think I would hire someone to come in and clean.  Even now, while I'm looking in at my kitchen with a pile of dishes resting in the sink and the baby's bottles hanging out on the sidelines just waiting to be washed, I know I would never ask someone to come in and straighten up for a small fee. 

Side story:  When I was a high school student, I had a small group of friends that I hung out with on darn near a daily basis.  Since I was almost always over my friends' homes, their parents became another set of parental figures for me.  Now, please note - this was "back in the day" where my friends' parents had no hesitation in telling me to stop acting like a teenage asshole if I was getting out of line.  They asked me to help with dinner prep and clean-up, take care of some yard work, and so on (as did my parents when my friends came over). 

These people also served as a much-needed set of mentors for me.  Let's face it:  even for me (the disgustingly well-behaved honor roll student whose idea of rebellion was to stay out an hour past drama rehearsal), getting along with my parents wasn't in the cards for a few years.  So, to have a couple of other people on the sidelines who would guide me in any way, shape or form - even if it was the same, exact guidance that my own parents would have given me - was so incredibly helpful in forming the young, working mom that I am today. 

One of these parents had a "moment" with me and my friends when we left an unnecessary mess in the living room and didn't even think to pick up before we ran out the door for the remainder of the afternoon.  After we were told off when we got back, we all quickly picked up and put everything back in its proper place.  Me, being the goody-goody that I referenced earlier, went up to the mom and apologized profusely.  She smiled sweetly and said "It's fine, but you guys just have to learn that a home is a reflection of the woman's heart."

I've never forgotten that.  Truthfully, as I get older, that saying imprints itself more and more on the forefront of my brain.   

There was a time in my life where I felt so insecure about who I was that I would go on massive cleaning sprees, dusting and Swiffer-ing every square inch of my home.  I would work at 5 AM, go to class until 10:30 PM, and come home and clean for another hour before collapsing into bed.  I didn't do it because I'm only comfortable in a clean home.  I did it only because I was terrified that someone would pop in and it would look like I actually cooked in my kitchen, ate at my table, and studied on my couch. 

Then, there was a period of time where I couldn't care less about my home.  "Exhaustion" doesn't even come close to explaining what I felt during that portion of my life.  I was perpetually giving to my work, my studies, my family, my significant other...but I wasn't giving myself any time to decompress and just be.  So, my house reflected that.  Tumbleweeds of cat hair drifted down the hallways, our downstairs area was littered with paperwork from my four college courses, and I don't even want to get into what our bathroom looked like. 

I've had moments where I swing the pendulum back and forth between these two extremes.  I will get into a rut where all I want to do is sit on the couch and zone out.  Thankfully, my husband helps out around the house quite a bit, so we don't "self destruct," but the reality is it takes two to manage the daily tasks.  So, we'll live out of laundry baskets and just barely manage to do the dishes.  Then, something will light a fire under my hindquarters and I will realize that I would be ashamed for anyone to see my home in that kind of a state, so I'll clean with an unhindered frenzy until I break a sweat.

I've learned now, though, that I'm comfortable in clutter and a little bit of chaos. 

I want books to be littered across my tables.  Not because I'm too lazy to pick them up, but because I love reading with every ounce of my being, and I want my daughter to learn how to become engrossed in a book as soon as humanly possible. 

I want toys to be scattered around the living room throughout the day.  My daughter is too active and engaged for me to constantly be putting stuff away!  I have no desire to raise her in a museum.

Sure, I'll dust and vacuum once a week, the bathrooms will get wiped down over the weekend, and I'll keep the laundry baskets tucked away until the minute I plan on folding anything, because I still do harbor that typical fear of someone walking in and seeing my home for all it usually is.  But, the fact of the matter is:  my home is imperfect and lived-in, but it's well-loved and comfortable. 

If the home is a reflection of the woman's heart...why in the world would I want my home to be anything other than this? 

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

"I'm not dead yet!"

Has it really been that long since I last blogged?! 

I mean, truthfully, I seem to remember writing a whole lot more over the past month.  I'd say that it must have been a dream, but I would have to sleep in order to dream about anything.  There hasn't been a whole lot of that over the past month, either. 

I lovingly describe my daughter as a crawling-and-cruising petri dish.  I love my child to pieces, but let's be real here - she's kind of disgusting.  The amount of snot and saliva that pours out of her face on a daily basis isn't just gross - it's downright impressive.  It doesn't help that she goes to daycare full-time, where she is surrounded by other crawling-and-cruising-and-dripping-and-oozing petri dishes from the age of three months to the brink of toddlerhood. 

Needless to say, my home has had a bubonic cloud surrounding it throughout the past thirty days.  Because those baby germs are freaking potent.  She coughed twice:  my husband came down with pneumonia for the first time in his life.  She barfed, I cleaned her up, and she moved on to play with her stuffed squirrel:  I came down with a case of the flu that was so violent that I had to be taken to urgent care.  She had a slight fever today, and I'm terrified to see what's going to happen to us tomorrow...

It's truly incredible that my baby can carry these germs that don't really phase her, but debilitate us adults completely. 

Cheers to you, nature!  Thanks for protecting my kid!

Anyways, short and sweet post, but I wanted to let you all that I haven't forgotten about you, my beloved readers.  And I haven't died (although I'm not entirely sure how I avoided that).  I've just been too busy puking and sanitizing that I haven't been able to pick up a pen or tippy-tap on a keyboard.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Nightmare on Gym Street

I love awkward moments.  I feel that there is nothing more human than foot-in-mouth statements, terrible-timing conversations, and pregnant pauses that make the heat rise up in your cheeks and at the top of your ears.  We've all experienced these moments where we want to just crawl up in a ball and die...or, in my case, giggle uncontrollably.  I can't even begin to tell you how many times I've come home and said to the husband "Oh man - you should've been there", as if I were talking about a recent promotion or a powerful homily, when really I'm talking about an instance that would make any person question every choice that they made leading up to that moment in time. 

But, my avid readers, the unthinkable has happened.  I have finally found an awkward moment that made me flee.  That made me run into my car, slam the door shut, bury my face into my hands, and mutter "Oh God, please don't let this ever, EVER happen again." 

My hubby and I recently started going to a gym down the street.  I don't mind working out, but I really, really don't like gyms.  The sad reality, though, is in Michigan, you have to have a gym membership if you have any hope of getting into shape in January.  So, we opened our wallets, forked over a ridiculous amount of cash, and started to trade off nights to hit the treadmill. 

Yesterday happened to be my workout day.  As I walked into the gym, the "odor" was a bit more pungent than usual.  Every gym I've ever been in has this distinct smell of sweat, testosterone, self-consciousness, and shattered dreams that slaps you in the face the moment you walk in the door.  But yesterday was a whole new experience for my nostrils, and not a pleasant one.  The writing on the wall clearly stated that this was not going to be the best experience in the world. 

Once I stepped in the door, I looked around and realized that the gym was full of muscle men, all of whom were staring at me with glazed over eyes.  Now, ladies and gentlemen, I am not a sight to behold when I go to work out.  Unless these guys were into the "old-ratty-t-shirt-sweatpants-no-makeup" type, I can guarantee you that I was nothing more than a change of scenery for them in the midst of their sausage fest.  I sighed heavily, made my way around the gym bags that the "bros" chose to leave on the only bench in the place (as opposed to leaving them in one of the twenty empty cubbies), changed into my running shoes, and hopped onto the treadmill.

While I was warming up and flicking through my iPod to find something to listen to, I began to hear these...sounds.  I quickly realized the guttural, demonic, half-panting noises were coming from the muscle men.  I've been trying for the past twenty-four hours to figure out how to describe this sound.  All I can come up with is a mental image of a honey badger bowing up on a mountain lion.  I looked over and saw one of the muscle men barking at his set of weights.  The other was stretching his arms, and apparently felt the need to vocalize something terrifying while loosening up.  Again, I sighed heavily, and turned on the first round of music my finger landed upon.

While I was jogging, a few other women walked into the gym (thank the Good Lord).  Two out of the three women were like me - sweat pants, t-shirt, walking in with the mindset to get something done and then get out.  We all exchanged quick smiles and nothing more.

But the third woman...

In walks the Kim Kar-trash-ian of Howell, flaunting her ebony boy short underwear and skin tight white tank top, complete with hot pink sports bra.  She wore no coat, so it was a good thing she didn't have an ass, otherwise she would have froze it off in these post-Polar Vortex days of Michigan in January. 

I admit, I can be the jealous type, but this has nothing to do with jealousy.  I wasn't enthusiastically vying for the attention of the grunting aardvarks at the far end of the building.  I'm just pointing out the obvious fact that this woman came to the gym with no intention of sweating and ruining her meticulous makeup. 

To further prove my point, I had finished my workout, cleaned up, changed into some normal winter clothes, and stood at the before-mentioned bench with my boots in hand while Mrs. Peacock was still preening her feathers.  She was looking out into the parking lot, shifting from side to side while sticking her barely-covered buttocks out for the gym-world to gaze upon - as if that qualified as stretching.  She put her hair into a tight pony-tail, but left enough of her hair out in the front so she could continuously (and sensuously) sweep it away from her eyes every five seconds.  While she was playing on her iPhone, still swaying from side to side, I stood there, boots still in hand, waiting to sit down within the two feet of space that the "bros" had left available after plopping down their gym bags.  I let out my third (and final) heavy sigh of the day, and only then did she notice me.  She rolled her eyes and moved away from the bench, only to continue her "stretching" in front of the stationary bikes.  "Thanks," I muttered. 

I plopped down, slipped my boots on, and began to lace them up.  My elbow slightly brushed one of the gym bags, which loudly crashed down on top of the outdoor shoe rack.  I scooped it up and put it back onto the bench, realizing then that the bag had been left unzipped and that some of its contents had spilled out on top of everyone's shoes.  "What idiot would leave their gym bag open on the corner of the damn -"

My thought process instantly stopped.  My face flushed crimson, and my ears began to burn.  My eyes widened as I realized what EXACTLY spilled all over the shoes.

Condoms.  Lots, and lots of condoms.  All different colored foil wrapping with the tell-tale ring raised in the center. 

Oh dear Lord, they were EVERYWHERE. 

Each pair of boots had at least one condom inside of it, with another one or two scattered on top of the lacings.  Oprah's voice began shouting in my head "You get a condom!  You get a condom!  EVERYONE GETS CONDOMS!" 

I started to breathe heavily as the debacle played out in my head.  "Do I quickly pick them up and put them back in the bag?  Then the bro might think I'm going through his stuff, and he might direct his weight-barking at me!  Ok, wait, if I do it fast enough, he won't notice...but then what if someone walks in and sees me holding all of these wrappers like I'm the Safe Sex Fairy?!"

I couldn't take it.  It was too much awkward in an incredibly short amount of time. 

I looked around - all eyes were on Mrs. Peacock who was still "stretching" and sweeping her hair from side to side Baywatch-style. 

It was the perfect moment...for me to run. 

I scooped up my purse and freaking BOLTED out the door.  I got in my Focus, blasted the radio, breathed a silent plea to the Lord that he never put something that awful into the Roadmap of My Life ever again, and left the parking lot.

On the plus side, between the sprint to my car and the overall anxiety of the situation that lasted a solid hour or two afterwards, I'm pretty sure I tripled my caloric burn for the day

...But realistically, that's the only positive I can take away from this situation.  I'm still - STILL - mortified. 

Friday, January 3, 2014

Lessons Learned

This past year was a persistent test on my limits:  The third trimester of pregnancy; childbirth; colicky baby; stay-at-home mama for five months; transition to working mama; hubby at home to help me out; hubby working on base (and away from home) for a week or two at a time - this list could be endless.  I have never known another point in my life where there was so much change in such a short period of time, and there were many moments where I had to quit thinking, pick up the extra coffee, and sprint the last half of the"marathon". 

I can't remember a year so complex and overwhelming.

I know there's probably a negative connotation to that, but I don't necessarily mean it that way.

Was it stressful and taxing?  Absolutely.  In fact, I'm pretty sure that these bags under my eyes are a permanent thing now, and I may or may not have already plucked a gray hair from my scalp.  

But everything about this year was inexplicably beautiful.  


I learned how to find true joy in the moments where you feel the most overwhelmed.
Baptizing my daughter was such an important moment for me - something that I, truthfully, thought about from the moment I realized I was pregnant.  The first half of the Mass went well, with our Curious Georgette enjoying the music and reading books with her daddy.  And then...the moment where the priest walked down the aisle towards the baptismal font.  As the congregation began to profess the faith, my daughter began to protest.  No, she began to howl, as if to say "Wait, you want me to believe what?!  And you're telling me I get no say in this?!!"  At the point where we reject Satan in the creed, her screeches became so overwhelmingly loud that the priest paused and asked the congregation to speak up so he could hear them all over the baby.

My heart started to flutter.  I began to panic.  I could feel the heat in my face as tears started to well up in my eyes...

And then I looked at my husband, who was holding what could only be described as a thrashing ostrich in a precious white gown...and we just started laughing.  We laughed from the moment that the priest poured the warm water over our daughter's head (which she vehemently told us she was against), to the point where her forehead was annointed with oil (well, somewhat annointed - she was tossing her head from side to side so vigorously to avoid any kind of priestly blessing that I don't really know how much she received).  

I mean, truthfully, what can you do?  You laugh, you shake your head, and you move on.  My daughter has an incredibly strong personality, and all I could do at that moment was thank God for giving me the opportunity to raise this vocal baby into a strong, smart, independent woman.  I find myself doing that an awful lot.  Prayers from me come moreso from the glider in my daughter's room than from a church pew...

I learned how to breakdown and rebuild in a matter of minutes.
A good friend of mine once told me that her car was her chapel, and I never fully understood it until this year.  My car became my sanctuary, and quick runs to Meijer would allow me the opportunity to jump-start my spirit in a baby-free zone.  I could allow myself to sob for no reason other than I was exhausted and simply didn't understand how I was still functioning.  I could scream at my steering wheel, not because I was mad at a particular person, or angry with my situation in life, but because I didn't know how else to vocalize the pure, unadulterated frustration that comes from not being able to soothe your colicky baby.  The steady hum of a Focus at 50 miles an hour allowed me to breathe, to not-so-patiently ask God to cut us just the tiniest bit of slack so we could feel like ourselves again, and to pick up my phone and call a friend.  All in all, I would find that a twenty minute trip could make me into a new-ish woman, and I would be ready to come back into my home and start fresh.

I learned to prioritize.  
I used to truthfully hate when people told me that I would "never understand exhaustion until I had kids."  (Might I add, I don't use the word "hate" lightly.)  Whenever individuals would utter that phrase, regardless of how good or bad their intentions were, it would make my ears burn with anger.  The honest to God fact is the physical exhaustion that I felt as a graduate student working three jobs is no different than what I feel when I plop down on the couch after I get my daughter to bed.  I still don't move for a half hour, I still watch something mindless on TV until I can feel my toes again, and I still have a bottle of "emergency wine" in my fridge at all times.
Now, the emotional exhaustion - that's different.  I will grant that to all of those people who tried to put me in my "young and naive" place, because there is a gargantuan difference between the life practice of prioritization for efficiency and mommy-hood prioritization.  At the end of the day two to three years ago, I still had dishes to do and laundry to fold - and I had to bribe myself to get up and keep moving for just another hour more.  Nowadays, though, I sometimes feel like if I have to wash one more bottle, I may throw-up.

The only difference is the complete lack of "me time".  Before, I could sneak in a moment here and there to go outside and read a book, or drive around for an extra fifteen minutes to listen to the radio before I went into my next job.  It was a few moments to recharge my batteries.  Now, the batteries have to be recharged at night.

So, I re-learned how to prioritize - again.  I'm not as efficient as I used to be.  I leave the house later than I want to, and there is always (always) something that can be cleaned in my house.  I have taught myself to understand that no one really cares if there are dishes in the sink and if there are toys on the floor (and if they do, well, fudge 'em).  I have no desire to be Martha Stewart.  I would much rather play peekaboo for hours, read The Very Hungry Caterpillar a couple more times, and steal a few sips of my husband's beer when he's not looking at the end of the night.  I'll keep my house a bit more cluttered if it means I can find more reasons to laugh and be truly ready for the next day.

-----

"A year of transition" is clearly an understatement.  I'm truly ready to see what this next year holds for me and my little family.

So, 2014 - I've got coffee in my mug, make-up on my tired eyelids, and a sweater draped over my shoulders in a superhero cape-like fashion.

Bring it.