Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Grandma and her Gardenia

"How many buds are on the gardenia plant now, Fred?"  My 92 year old grandma asks my uncle in her southern-now-east coast accent.  "The same, Ma" my uncle responds back.  This was a frequent exchange, daily.  In addition, any new eyes that came to the house were asked to do a check for buds on the gardenia.  My grandma was obsessed with this plant ever since last year, when it had over 30 blooms on it at one time.  It was her prize plant, and she wanted frequent daily updates as to whether or not the buds were blooming since was unable to look for herself.  For weeks, the plant held green buds, but none of them had opened.  She was concerned the green buds were just going to fall off, and wanted multiple counts, daily.   

Half of my mom's side of the family is Italian (her father/my grandpa).  Although it feels like all of the relatives in the small Connecticut town are Italian because my grandma was a lone wolf when she met my grandfather.  My grandfathers family was dominant in numbers, dominant in opinions.  My grandfather had two siblings, a sister and a brother, both of which married and produced a few cousins for my mom and her 5 (now 4) siblings.  Of course those cousins had little ones, which became third cousins for me, my sister, and our first cousins.  The majority of this family still resides in the dilapidated coastal town that saw its heyday in the WWII era.  Just as is traditional with Italian families, everyone lives close together (real close), eats a lot, and needs to have their voice heard.  

My mom fled the small town when she was 18 to join the Army.  After the Army, marriage, college, and starting a family, she moved back to Connecticut, but to a neighboring town.  After I was born, my mom, dad, sister, and I moved to a different, but still east coast state- Massachusetts.  We lived there for a bit before moving to the West Coast, where we pretty much remained.  I think my mom got a lot of flack for moving across the country, but she and my dad had their reasons, and personally, I'm happy they made the choice they did.  I would have a very different life if we had remained on the East Coast living so close to all the family, and all the drama.  We made frequent trips to Connecticut, I'd say at least once a year.  

I remember when my grandfather died in 2003, I became aware that my family and trips to Connecticut as I knew them would not be the same.  Since we would visit once a year, everything was always the same- we would see the same people, do the same things.  It's just how it was there.  And it was comforting.  My grandfathers funeral was low-key and well attended.  It was like a mini-family reunion, albeit sad circumstances.  My grandpa's sister Londie was the last remaining pure Italian relative from that side of the family.  My great-aunt Londie was very close to my mom and my mom's siblings.  They enjoyed her company immensely, and even more so after the passing of their father.

Early in January of this year, my mom took a trip to Connecticut to be with her mom.  My uncle lives upstairs in the house the family grew up in, my grandma has the bottom floor.  One of my aunts lives in a house across the street built on land my grandfather owned.  One of my other aunts used to live next door in a house built on the same land, but now her son (my cousin) lives there, and she lives a few blocks away.  Like I said, everyone is close.  My grandma started having a more difficult time caring for herself, so up until my mom arrived, my uncle and aunts were doing the majority of the care taking, along with some weekly home visits from hospice.  My mom spent a good 3 weeks getting bossed around by my grandma, feeding her, bathing her, and counting the gardenia blossoms. Throughout January, my mom would send me updates on my grandma, and when my mom cancelled her return flight to California at the end of January, I knew things were taking a different turn.  

Early Sunday morning, 2/1, my mom informed me great aunt Londie had passed.  Monday morning, 2/2, my mom informed me my grandmother had passed.  Just like I had in 2003, I contacted my sister to try and coordinate flights arriving into town around the same time to minimize people making airport trips.  Well, 12 years had passed since the last time we had to do this, and so much had changed.  I was in Kansas City (actually on my way to the airport headed to Texas for a meeting) not in Seattle, and my sister was in Portland.  Coordinating was just too difficult, so I let my boss know I'd be leaving the staff meeting early to fly to Connecticut.  

When I arrived in Connecticut late on a Thursday night, I walked into my grandma's house, and it was filled with relatives.  Even the full house couldn't compensate for the emptiness that was hanging in the air.  My grandma was a fierce red-head and her presence was always felt.  Friday morning was the funeral for Londie.  Saturday was the funeral for my grandma.  I had a long couple of days in front of me.    

Grandma's funeral was almost identical to my grandfathers, but with more people making their way through the funeral home to say good-bye.  I thought my grandma looked amazing, and so at peace.  In her hands she held two perfect, white, fragrant gardenias.  I learned at dinner after the funeral that my uncle went over to water the gardenia on Sunday, the day Londie died, and there was one bloom that had opened up overnight.  My uncle went into the room where my grandma was still alive, but in and out of consciousness to let her know.  The next morning, when my mom found my grandma had passed, another gardenia blossom had opened.  Sometimes, it is so hard to be present in times of grief, but stopping to think about how amazing it is that my grandma got to take those two perfect gardenia blossoms with her forever makes it just a little more bearable.  

RIP Madeline.  

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Ad Astra Per Aspera

...where we left off, our heroine was packing up the family and moving some 1,900 miles east.  

I wanted to come here to write many times immediately after our epic eastbound journey, to document the various cathartic moments along the way, but the longer I delayed writing them, the more I wanted to keep them to myself.  The best I can say now is that the trip provided closure on so many different levels.  It was unexpected, and utterly grand.  I was able to set foot in this new place to call home with 100% confidence I was doing the right thing,

We have been here 3 months now, nearly to the day. It has been an adjustment, but for the most part, things have gone relatively smooth.  After an initial 2 weeks in a extended-stay hotel, we signed a short apartment lease to give us time to house hunt.  The hubs has been a stellar SAHD, taking care of the millions of annoying things that crop up during the day when relocating to a new area.  Had we both had new jobs here right away, I don't think our transition would have been as smooth.  He was able to tour apartments while I was at work.  He was able to receive the moving truck of our belongings while I was at work.  He was able to update the dogs rabies and licenses so we could sign the lease while I was at work.  He was able to unpack our belongings, do all the grocery shopping, make meals, take care of the kid, ON and ON and ON...while I was at work.  

For the first time in the history of our relationship, we've had weekends off together, and have been making the most of those by exploring our new surroundings.  But now we are settled.  The rental apartment walls seem closer everyday.  The hubs is desperately missing adult conversation.  The kid is going stir crazy and is need of stimulation only early childhood educators can provide.  So, after 15 months of the kid being watched by either myself or the hubs, we enrolled him in part time day care.  Now the hubs has 2 kid free days a week to play Xbox (or look for a job).  Once Dave gains employment and knows his schedule, we can plan for more serious daycare, and buy a house.  I know these things take time.  I know in a few months it will seem like an eternity since we moved here and were living in a hotel (although, those first 2 weeks seemed really loooong).  I know soon we will have a house, and friends, and routine.  I'm working on enjoying the process, and trying not to rush things.  

The past 6 months have been all about the new job, and the move.  I've had my moments of getting my crap together eating/exercising wise, but nothing that I could hang on to for very long.  I'm not going to beat myself up about it, I'm done doing that.  What I am going to do is forgive myself, and start focusing on taking better care of me.  Through trial and error the past few months, I've realized the only time I can consistently get my workout in is in the morning.  So, 5am it is.  Through trial and error over the past 30 years, I've realized what foods work for me, and what foods don't.  I will be adopting a more "flexible eating" approach, tracking my protein, fat, and carbs to match specific targets each day.  Yes, it means tracking, weighing my food, and math.  But, it doesn't mean restriction, regret, or refusal of any food.  To me?  That sounds healthy.  

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Kansas City Here I Come

It's hard to believe that a little over one year ago I was deep in the throes of childbirth.  I have such spotty memory of that day (days) and the subsequent year that brings me here.  The past 12 months have been great and new and educational and hard and full and fleeting.  Just when I think I have something figured out, something changes.  

I've been quiet here for quite some time, numerous reasons for that- I have very little time to myself these days to do things like blog.  I am currently not in the fitness "zone" so I feel I'd be doing a disservice to try and talk about eating good things and awesome workouts when I'm not.  I also got a promotion at work that has not only been kicking my butt, but has me relocating 1,800 miles from Seattle to Kansas City.  Kansas.

The past 5 or 6 weeks have been nuts.  Getting our house ready to put on the market, trips to Kansas City to look for new housing, putting our house on the market, meetings, deadlines, new projects, interviews to fill my position in Seattle, selling our home, packing, and planning the logistics of a move that will take at least 4 days with a one year old and a dog.  

We make the move in less than 1 week.  We are ready.  We will be ready.  We have to be ready. 

I have mixed feelings about leaving Seattle.  I notice on one hand I keep trying to focus on the things that I don't like about the area.  This is probably a way of me trying to distance myself from this place and make a clean break.  On the other hand, I find myself incredibly nostalgic for a place that has held so many important milestones and life events for me the past 13 years.  

I moved here September 15, 2001 after I graduated from college.  Like any fresh college graduate, I thought I knew everything and was going to change the world.  Luckily, life handed me my ass over and over and my learning REALLY began.  I met my now husband in 2004.  I bought my first property (condo) in 2006.  I got my first "real" job (in my degree field) in 2007.  My now husband (then bf) bought our first home in 2010.  I got a new job with a huge well-respected company- the kind of company one stays with for their entire career in 2011.  I got engaged in 2011.  We married September 15, 2012.  Our baby boy was born September 22, 2013.  All here in Seattle.  That is a whole lot of life.  And these are just the MAJOR things.  Infinite significant experiences happened between and during these milestones.  Friends made, friends lost.  Friends moved away, friends returned.  Vacations, road trips, BBQ's, parties...way too much to wrap my head around.

Now we move to Kansas CitySeptember 30, 2014.  I'm excited for all that is in store for this new chapter in our lives.  I've decided that good-byes here are hard, and awkward, and I wish I could avoid them.  

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Sprint Tri Re-Cap

A little over 16 weeks ago I closed my eyes and jumped.  I registered for a sprint triathlon.  With about four months to prepare, I figured it was on the edge of do-able.  I immediately put together a training schedule and figured out a way to get swim workouts in.  Afterall, I knew I could bike 12 miles.  I knew I could run a 5K, the only unknown initially was how a 1/3mi swim would be.  Oh, and then combining all of those events. 
 
When I posted about registering for the sprint tri, I noted how typically registering for events like this has the opposite of the intended effect- instead of training dilligently and being at the top of my game, I tend to do nothing and then panic at the last moment.  This experience was slightly different, but I was still very panicked the last 3 weeks leading up to the event, and considered bailing on it altogether many times. 
 
I've lived in Seattle now for 13 years.  In my time here, I've done many events.  Too many 5K's to count, a half-marathon, a 69-flight stair climb, a mud/obstacle run, and now this sprint triathlon.  Of all the 5K's, I think I was in shape/properly trained for maaaybe 2 of them.  But, 5K's are short.  You can walk one in under an hour.  I've written before about my half-marathon disaster.  The stair climb was pure hell, and the mud run I badly sprained my ankle on the first obstacle and had to be carried off the course on a race volunteer's back.  Not my finest moment.  Of all the events I've done that I've been ill-prepared for, this was by far the most painless. 
 
The first 2 1/2 months of my training schedule went great.  I did everything as written, I was feeling good about my pool swims, my runs, and my bike. I just needed to put road tires on my bike, and then I would be good.  Around 4th of July or so, my scheule hit some bumps as I began traveling a lot for holidays and work.  Some other life stuff hit mid-July and continues now, so to say I had a lot on my plate is an understatement.  I still tried to find time to fit in workouts when I could, but I wasn't getting in all the elements evenly the last 3-4 weeks before the event.  This did a number on my confidence.  Also?  I hadn't lost a single pound.  Not one. 
 
I began to doubt myself, my training, I was worried about the size of my body and how I would look going into the water, coming out of the water, and along the course.  Just general stupid stuff.  I wrote before about the challenges I was having with swimming in open water vs. a pool.  I decided that a) I would just go through with it, b) just focus on one element at a time, c) realize that this is where I'm at right now and own it, and d) just get through the swim. 
 
The day before the event, I met my friend down at registration where we picked up our race packets, bibs, timing chips and racked our bikes.  As I was in line to get my stuff, I was blown away at all the shapes, sizes, and ages of the participants.  My self-consciousness began to fade.  I had to force myself to remember all the work I did leading up to this event, and not get caught up in the fact my body was still the same size it was prior to training.  I had been in a pool or lake at least once a week for 15 weeks leading up to the event.  I had run at least 2 twice a week for the 16 weeks leading up to the event.  I had biked enough to know I could do 12 miles just fine.  Could I have done more?  Maybe.  Was it possible for me to do more given all the circumstances?  Not likely.  I was as ready as I was going to be. 
 
Race day I woke up at 4am, made coffee, got all my stuff ready and headed for the shuttle.  I made it to the bike transition area a little before 6a, and set up my station.  My friends that were doing the race found me, and we chatted for a bit.  They began kicking us out of the transition area at 6:15, and herded us to the boat ramp for the swim entry.  The first wave (oldest) participants began at 6:45, and my start wasn't until 7:15.  So we had an hour to just hang out and wait to get in the water.  The sunrise was beautiful, and many friends/supporters were there to talk to.  Finally it was time to line up and start easing towards the water.  No turning back now.  As my group was called into the water, we waded in and listened to the countdown.  We were off.  I hit start on my watch.  It was a sea of bubbles and legs and arms.  I just gently breast-stroked my way along and got used to being in the water.  The remainder of the swim, I did a combination of breast stroke and free-style.  There were people doing all sorts of strokes, all different speeds.  I felt pretty good about the swim.  When I emerged from the water I checked my watch -16:24.  Not bad.  I jogged sopping wet to my bike, wrapped a towel around me, sat down on my other towel and dried my feet- putting my shoes and socks on.  I ripped off my swim cap, took off my wet tank top and put on my tech shirt with bib attached, stood up, put my helmet on, and walked my bike out of the transition area.  I looked at my watch, 22:00 so T1 took me 5 minutes.  Not bad. 
 
There was a sign marking where we were allowed to mount our bikes and start the ride.  Some competitors behind me were riding out of the transition area and were told to dismount until the proper riding area.  Ha.  I began the 12 mile ride and immediately started passing people, and people were passing me.  I felt good.  Just out for a bike ride.  The bike portion had a few good up hills and corresponding downhills, which were reversed on the way back.  I hit the turn around point at 46ish minutes according to my watch, so it took me 24 minutes to get there.  I figured I was on track for 48 minute total ride.  The ride back seemed a lot longer.  I remember the last mile or so thinking "it didn't seem this long on the way out."  I passed a girl really close to the end of the bike ride, and when I was in front of her I heard the distinct sound of a tire popping.  I felt bad for her, but at least she only had 1/4 mile to walk her bike.  I dismounted my bike where I was told, and walked into the transition area.  Holy cow, walking after all that biking?  My legs were like lead.  I racked my bike, took off my helmet, and headed out.  I didn't need to change shoes or anything in T2. 
 
My jog was slow and pained.  My lungs felt fine, it was my legs...they were so heavy.  I had done one training workout where I did a 30 minute bike ride, then a 15 minute run, so I sort of knew that after a bit my legs would feel better, but WOW, this was so much more intense.  By the time my legs felt better, my lungs were now struggling.  I just wanted to keep moving.  I was going slow, but jogging.  I was passing people/people were passing me.  The sun was hot on my face.  I had to keep reminding myself that I had swam for 15 minutes, then biked for 50 before doing this...of course it was going to be hard.  About 1/4 mile after passing the 2 mile mark, there was a short steep hill.  I jogged up as much of it as I could.  Husbands and boyfriends of other competitors I knew were BBQ'ing at the top of the hill.  I waved, they cheered me on.  It was nice.  Once I reached the top of the hill, I knew the rest of the race was all down hill- figuratively and literally.  I promised myself to jog the whole way, and that is what I did.  I looked at my watch when I crossed the line, 1:54and change.  I was very happy with that. 
 
Given the circumstances, I was calculating a 2:30ish worst case finish time, and was happy to come in under 2 hours.  I could possibly see myself doing another sprint triathlon.  The distances for each event were just right, and it is nice not just doing one thing for a long time- i.e. running for two hours.  If I do another one, I will for SURE get a road bike, and work on my bike-run workouts more.  I was happy I went through with the event, and didn't succumb to my insecurities. 

Friday, July 25, 2014

Open Water Swims

My triathlon is 3 weeks and 3 days away.  I'm really feeling the crunch now and the doubt is creeping in.  Somehow I thought I'd be so much farther along at this point.  But, that is just my head getting the best of me because I know that I have been doing more exercise wise in the past 3 months because of this event than I would be if I hadn't signed up.  That's the whole point, right?
 
Last week my friend that talked me into this business wanted to go test out an open water swim.  I thought that would be a good idea since all of my swims so far had been in the pool.  Finding a time that worked for both of us was tough- she is ridiculously busy all the time, and I have a baby to watch pretty much whenever I'm not at work...so...yeah.  Anyway, we finally figured that5:30am on Fridays would work. 
 
We met at the swim spot last Friday on a cool morning when the previous days had been in the 90's (cruel trick, Seattle).  We found an entry point to the lake and discussed our plan of attack.  She was in a wetsuit, me in my mom speedo suit.  I could see the lake plants growing up from the bottom and pooling at the surface.  There were mosquitoes buzzing around.  I stepped into the water, and it was warm.  Like, bath tub warm.  So, that was nice.  I pushed out and we started to breast stroke out to deeper water.  The whole time plants were caressing my bare legs and arms and it was freaking me out.  We got to a place that was deeper and seemingly less plant-y.  "Alright.  On the count of three.  Let's try to make it to the end of that dock."  I put my head down and began to free-style.  When my head went into the murky water, I could see nothing but murkiness and plants below me.  It freaked me out.  I kept trying to swim, but now my breath was all out of sorts.  I stopped.  My friend had stopped.  "This is creepy" I said.  "Don't look underwater" she said.  Yeah, too late for that. 
 
We would swim a few strokes, stop, catch our panicked breath, and keep going.  We were never able to get away from the plants, and the whole thing was just hard without any sort of direction.  "I'm over this she said."  Thank god I was thinking.  "Me too!"  So we swam to the nearest dock, climbed up the ladder, and that was that.  I would hardly call it a workout, more of a fact finding mission.  I began to get really nervous for the swim portion of the race.  The part that I was least worried about suddenly became my biggest nightmare.   
 
A few hours after this first swim, we exchanged some text messages.  "I think we just need to suck it up" she said "next Friday try again?"  "Yes" I shot back.  I then asked her if she knew of a better area we could go from that maybe wouldn't be so inundated with water plants.  She said she would think about it.  A few days ago she messaged me that she had a new location to try, and let's meet on Friday (today) at 5:30am
 
That is just what we did.  The new location was on the other side of the bay from where we were last week.  The water was deeper (and much colder) but there were no plants.  It was pretty much iconic "Sleepless in Seattle" as we swam in front of the fancy houseboats.  Today was SO. MUCH. BETTER.  I don't know if it was because I knew what to expect?  Or if having a row of houseboats next to us was comforting and also gave us something to sight off of?  Or if it was the plant-less water?  Either way, we were able to get a solid workout in.  One that we could both be proud of. 
 
On the agenda for me this weekend is getting my mountain bike tires switched out to road tires, a run, and another lake swim on Sunday.  I will get through this event.  I will get through this event. 

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Oh, Look, a Toilet

Anyone else restrict their water drinking after squat day so they don't have to use the bathroom as much?  No...just me?  Ok...moving on.
 
Being a mom is hard.  It is not hard for any of the reasons I thought it would be though.  I always thought watching your kid, feeding your kid, changing diapers, clothing changes, disciplining; you know, general child care would be hard.  No.  The hard part is everything else.  Even when you are not physically caring for your child, you are still caring- thinking about schedules, milestones, development, sleep, and general well-being of your child.  Mom's have to do it all.  There are no breaks, no times when we get to slack off or check out (silly me thought I would get a break when baby is sleeping). 
 
Don't get me wrong, I wouldn't change it for anything, I just find this whole experience to be fascinating.  Things that are so OMG stressful and difficult and end of the world one day, are literally forgotten the next with a simple smile or babble from a tiny human.  I have no idea how it works.  I have to force myself to remember that there have been tough times.  Then, 3 hours later in the midst of a 20 minute over-tired scream fest, I can be back to questioning everything - am I doing something wrong?  Is there something wrong with my child?  How am I going to make it through this?  THIS. IS. HARD.  Magically, the 20 minutes of screaming (which is really an eternity) is forgotten seconds after tiny human falls heavy and deep into sleep.  If I didn't experience it myself, I would never believe it to be possible. 
 
I am amazed every day that somehow, someway, I create time to do it all.  The more I do, the more I do.  Yesterday, after 7 hours of sleep, I went to the gym located in the back room of my office and got in a 30 minute heavy lifting session before starting work at 5:30am.  I completed everything on my work to-do list and was bored by 11am.  Hubby met me at 1:30 to pass the kid off, and home we went.  We walked to the grocery store (3mi roundtrip), I watered the garden, I made dinner, loaded the dishwasher, emptied the diaper pail garbage, switched laundry, folded laundry, ate dinner while watching the baby eat some solid food, watched 30 minutes of OITNB while baby napped, put baby to bed, and packed up all my bags/lunches for the next day before retiring to bed at 8pm.  Oh, and there were diaper changes, bottles, and clothing changes sprinkled in as well.  I know, #humblebrag, right?  That is not my intention.  I'm just documenting for my own re-assurance. 
 
This morning I woke up with a little less sleep, didn't hit the work place gym, and have been at work for 3 hours with only a few replied-to e-mails under my belt.  I can't stop thinking that I'm not doing enough.  I haven't read a book to my baby in 3 days.  He needs to practice more with solid foods, and right now he only eats them sporadically.  Will he sleep better if he eats more real food?  Am I starving my baby?  It's bath night for him.  I need a shower.  The floors haven't been vacuumed in 4 days.  Kid is biting everything.  Is he going to be one of those weird biting kids?  I need to change his crib sheet, I think he peed on it a little last night.  Oh, and all his clean clothes are in a pile.  I need to put them away.  I should be getting these revised documents to my boss.  I'm hungry.  How can I be hungry?  I just had breakfast.  Oh, I'm going to make enchiladas for dinner tonight with the left-over chicken breast in the fridge.  Do I have vegetables?  Do I need to go to the store on the way home?  No.  We have salad.  I'm off schedule this week on my triathlon training.  I won't get to swim this week, and I haven't run any distance in a week.  I'll run today with the kid when I get home.  Then I'll read to him.  And make dinner.  And feed him some solids.  And give him a bath. And take a shower.  And hope that he sleeps well.  And hope that I sleep well.  Weights again tomorrow morning at 5am. I really need to get something done here today. 
 
Jesus.  I'm crazy.     
 
 
 
 

Friday, May 16, 2014

Bye Lululemon, Hello Costco

Wait, what?  Before you all think that I've taken a high dive into complete momdom...let me explain.  I love to workout.  I have always loved to workout. This means I have owned LOTS of workout clothes, and by proxy, makes me an expert.  :)
 
For the longest time, Target was my go-to for workout gear.  It was cheap, relatively stylish, and did I mention cheap?  In my early 20's I just could NOT fathom spending more than $14.99 on some running capris.  However, I had to buy capri's every few months because the quality was so poor.  But, $14.99!!!  Can't beat that!  After a few years of CrossFitting and wanting to be accepted into the cult, I succumed to my first pair of $85 running tights with the reflecty circle thing on the calf.  There was no denying the quality.  I finally got the hype.  My lululemon collection grew, and my nasty threadbare Target collection got trashed. 
 
My expensive workout gear has far surpassed the test of time.  I've had my first pair of Lulu tights for over 2 years now, worn no less than 2x/week, washed at least 2x/week, and they are still good as new.  The might be a little see-through when I bend over, but that's just because my butt is bigger than what was designed for (ha). 
 
The other day I was at Costco, and they had a big display of Lulu looking capri's and tanks.  They were so cheap, I figured even if I didn't like them for working out, I could just wear them around the house.  When I got home, I decided to go for a long walk, and thought I would test out my newly purchased gear.  I slid on the pants and tank, and fell in love.  They were so comfortable!  I thought to myself, surely I can't look as good as I feel?  I went over the the mirror and was blown away!  The clothes fit amazing, and looked amazing too.  I don't wear tank tops in public.  My arms are just too big, and no one wants to see that.  But for some reason, I didn't mind how this tank looked on me.  So, out the door I went, in a tank top.  I even tested out running for a bit, and was happy that the pants didn't fall down, or roll, or do anything else annoying. 
 
I'll be going back next week to purchase more colors.  I still have my lulu's, but these are a great addition.  Yes, they still need to stand up to the test of time, but for now, I'm pretty happy!  Way to go Costco!