Katahdin with Child (Preggers)

I climbed a mountain last weekend. And so did my fetus. We had a jolly good time.

Katahdin is the highest mountain in Maine and the final ascent of the Appalachian Trail.  It’s actually a climb I’ve had my eyes on for a few years, since my sister was in school in Lewiston, ME.  I knew it was a challenging climb then and thought it would be a fun activity for a visit. We never got around to it.  I blame beer.  

Well, now several years later, it took Rick’s mom finishing her 10-year journey to section hike the AT to get me out there, 5.5 months pregnant, climbing massive boulders with re-bar holds in a thick fog, hoping to make it to the summit. I was nervous about it, really unsure exactly what was in store and whether my changing body would be up for the challenge.  In the last couple weeks I have “popped” as they say, and I have a belly now to match the early growth I felt (and saw) in my boobs, butt, and thighs.  I am becoming a curvy woman!   I wasn’t sure my new curves, looser joints, and unpredictable balance would be up for the challenge, but they were and I’m glad we got out there to join her in crossing this major accomplishment off her bucket list!

I must say that climbing Katahdin isn’t easy.  Rick and I were both sore the next day.  It’s a day hike, but it pretty much goes straight up for 5 miles and then straight back down.  The trail is very rocky, and probably at least 40%-50% of the time we were “hiking” we were actually climbing hand over foot to make our way up and around VERY large boulders.  It’s actually the kind of hiking I love most.  The challenge of having to piece together a route helps to distract me from the hiking – which was especially valuable now because I am getting to the stage of pregnancy where my feet and back get sore and my legs swell.  (Yes, pregnancy is lovely isn’t it?)  They say to plan for 10 hours to hike Katahdin, and we were right on the mark – of course our party consisted of a 63 year old woman, a pregnant woman, and a guy wearing flip flops so we certainly weren’t about to set any speed records.  It was a long day of hiking and by the time we made it back to the bottom, my legs looked like sausages from swelling.  After settling into a bit more of a sedentary existence post-half marathon, a 10 hour day of hiking was a BIG day for me. 

All in all, the hike was a really good one.  Rick had suggested I think of it like I would a 14er here in Colorado (because I was getting nervous about the difficulty and starting to wonder about bail-out plans if something went awry for me), but it felt a bit harder than the 14ers I’ve done.  There were some very technical sections that rival some of the harder 14ers in Colorado, and certainly were more technical than any climbs I’ve done here – though comparable to some I’ve done in Utah.  I googled (many times over) “hike Katahdin pregnant” to see if I could find any accounts of it being done to get a feel for whether I was being stupid.  So, I am writing this blog with the hope that I can provide some insight for other pregnant ladies who might be considering giving it a shot. 

There are some major points worth mentioning about hiking Katahdin pregnant.  First off, let me get my caveats out of the way. I am starting from a healthy baseline of being active, and hiking, running, and doing other forms of exercise regularly. I have had no complications or reasons for concern in my pregnancy. Secondly, I am just over the halfway point of my pregnancy and am not HUGE yet, though I definitely have a belly to work around. Third, as with any break from normal activity, it’s probably a good idea to run your plans by your doctor.  I did and she said that I should go for it – there would be no better time than now! 

So with that said, my major thoughts on hiking Katahdin while pregnant are related to the weather conditions, equipment, and flexibility. 

1) Check the weather – Avoid wet conditions

 Katahdin is all rocks, many of which are covered in lichen and can be slippery.  A fall on rocks anywhere is bad when you’re pregnant.  A fall on Katahdin with very limited rescue access could be a disaster.  It is VERY important to check the weather forecast before you go – so check the weather with rangers and on your own on your phone before you go.  Conditions can change quickly, but you can prepare yourself for most things if you do a little research ahead of time. A bit of moisture adds an element of challenge – fog and drizzle are often unavoidable on a stand-alone peak so be prepared for it.  But, as a pregnant woman I would not hike Katahdin in rain. Avoid it if possible, and if you get caught in the rain due to changing weather, take things as slowly as possible up there.  Peak-bagging is not worth the risk of hurting yourself or baby.

2) Trust Your Equipment – Wear good shoes!

Make sure you have a pair of boots or shoes that you know will provide you with good traction and ankle support for this hike.  For me, a major help was wearing my heavy-duty hiking boots.  I thought about wearing some trail running shoes, but now that my body weight is distributed in ways I’m not accustomed to, I often feel a bit unstable when I am out hiking. My hiking books have a Vibram sole that rarely slips and helps me feel confident in my footing, even in slightly wet conditions like I experienced.  Plus, ankle support is a must on uneven surfaces with loosening joints. 

3) Be prepared for some climbing – Ditch the pack if you can

If you think Katahdin is a “hike” you better think again.  In many places it’s a scramble over Volkswagon (or larger)-sized boulders.  In some places the trail is helped by the inclusion of small pieces of re-bar, just where a hand or foothold is lacking.  So, it’s not a walk in the park and there are plenty of places where you will have to climb and still find ways accommodate your belly.  One thing I did (or was forced into, but appreciated later) was ditch my pack.  I love wearing a backpack, and feel very comfortable with it, but my husband told me that there was no way he was going to let me wear one.  I thought about fighting him on it, but decided if he wanted to carry the 4 Nalgenes I packed to avoid dehydration, I wouldn’t argue with him.  I don’t regret that.  You’re carrying enough extra cargo.  If you can skip the pack, do it.

4) Trekking Poles – Your new best friend

I never hike with trekking poles.  But, as I began to plan for this hike I talked to some friends who had through-hiked the AT and got their impressions of Katahdin and what I could do to accommodate my condition.  Trekking poles was one suggestion that I do not regret listening to!  They saved me many awkward bends to balance myself, because they allowed me to stabilize myself while remaining relatively upright. 

One thing, however, is that when you get to the (long) section of climbing over boulders the poles can be a bit annoying to carry along with you.  You will have to do a lot of squatting and bending and throwing a leg or a hip up to get some leverage as you climb over boulders.  This is when you can be glad for a little extra flexibility (Thanks, Relaxin!), and enjoy it.  But, be aware, the trekking poles can become an annoyance at best, and a liability at worst, depending on how you use them in this section of the climb. In the balance, my feeling is that they did me a lot of good and I’d recommend bringing some along, but just be careful with them.

5) Be realistic – Have a bailout plan

Some real limits exist during pregnancy. Your joints aren’t as stable, and you may suffer from more fatigue than normal!  That’s OK!  If you don’t feel comfortable and confident in yourself as you hike Katahdin, remember that you can always stop.  There are other days and opportunities to climb.  Consider having a few check in points with your hiking crew along the way to assess how you and others feel, and truly be honest about whether you have it in you to do a long, strenuous, and technical hike.  There’s no shame in saying that today isn’t your day. You might be preventing a much more serious situation! 

6) Hike with others

Always a good idea – an even better idea at this point in your life!  If there is any kind of emergency, you will want to be with people who can help.  Hike with a group!

And with that, I think I have exhausted my tips on hiking Katahdin (or any challenging climb) while pregnant.  The major plusses are a huge feeling of accomplishment, and the knowledge that some day you’ll be telling your kid that he or she already did X, Y, or Z in utero!  In our case, Baby Frankie got to accompany Grandma L while she finished hiking the AT.  Not bad for a baby!  :)

Head, shoulders, knees, and toes…

Check. Check. Check. And, check.

I don’t normally take the time to post two days in a row, but today was pretty fun and I wanted to share just a few bits of it.  Frankie made an appearance during our ultrasound visit and was very cooperative with the doctor and technician so we got to see all the goods – except the ones we didn’t want to see!

He/she has all the standard parts, which was great news.  He/she was moving around and showing off too.  We were fascinated to see the way his/her skeletal little frame moved and operated of its own accord.  Honestly, as my friend Jess was just saying to me this weekend, people think that as a woman you should be more prepared for the feelings that come with pregnancy – but my thought the whole time was “Holy shit!  That thing is inside me!”

We had one revealing moment where the baby put it’s hand against the wall of my uterus, so we could see its whole bone structure and there was no doubt that the hand was Rick’s.  He has engineer hands – square and straight across the fingers.  I have very differently shaped hands, and the hands we saw looked nothing like mine.  I smiled a bit, thinking of the saying “never marry a man unless you would like to have a son (or daughter) just like him.”  I was happy to see Rick’s hands come through loud and clear.  Hopefully Baby Frankie will take on some of his other qualities too.

We also had a chance to finally see the birthing units at the hospital we are probably going to use.  I had to say that I was not particularly excited.  The nurses were awesome and so helpful and friendly, but the bottom line is that I hate the feel of hospitals and this was hardly different, even though they try to make the rooms comfortable and cozy and do a lot to accommodate those who don’t want to feel like they are in a hospital.  I like that there are jacuzzi baths, squat bars, birth balls, and all sorts of other helpful tools, but I don’t know…  it’s not quite the birth experience I am envisioning in my head. I think for me, perhaps a lot of reading about home birth early on has shaped my judgments. There was not a lot of natural light, and all the machinery felt stifling. Birth seems like something that is so sacred and should happen in a place that feels comfortable and safe and peaceful. I think I will have to do a lot of mental gymnastics to feel that way about the birthing units at Rose – though they really are nice.  While I think home birth is something I would love and may want at some point, I think for the first time around I might want to go a more traditional route.  It’s hard to say and based on today’s visit I will have some real thinking to do on the matter.

Halfway there and other observations from the middle

Today marks 20 weeks in my pregnancy with the being we call Baby Frankie.  It’s hard to believe that I’m halfway through sometimes.  In some weeks each day felt achingly slow, and others just flew by.  Today, for the first time, someone who had not been told I was pregnant, felt bold enough to bring it up.  As she said, and I guess I must accept, I am now “obviously with child.”

It’s funny how hard it can be to accurately determine at what point you cross over into the “obviously with child” realm as opposed to the “possibly getting a bit chunky” realm.  Early on you feel like everyone must know that your extra paunch is baby-related, when in fact they probably haven’t even noticed it.  But soon enough you begin to think you are successfully flying under the radar and begin to wonder how you’ll start to share the news when it becomes necessary.  In some ways, I am glad my body broke the news for me. I’m happy to have moved into the former category, because it really gets old just feeling fat.  Honestly, for me I think that has been one of my hardest challenges in pregnancy.  As someone who has struggled with my weight for all of my life, including some short, dangerous interludes with anorexia and bulimia, simply feeling grateful for and accepting my changing body has been hard.  More than accepting the increased mass, has been the challenge of relaxing control over the things my body needs, what I can do, and my lifestyle generally.

Two weeks ago I ran a half marathon up in Aspen.  It isn’t crazy or overly ambitious to take on something like that during pregnancy, people do it all the time.  But, it does elicit reactions from people.  Maybe that was something I needed – just to hear that it was impressive to run a half marathon while pregnant.  At times pregnancy feels like it overtakes me, and I feel a grasping need to cling to the bits of my life that have previously defined me as more than just a woman and a vessel – as special and sweet that role is.  I needed something to make me feel ambitious and assert that I didn’t need to scale back my life.  The half marathon was a good way to do that.  But, as I ran I did notice that not all was as it should be, or would be, sans fetus.  My knees and hips ached in strange new ways, and my tendons made their presence known.  It was a different race, and though I hardly planned to PR, even I was bit surprised at how slow I was and how much my limitations were obvious.  Again a few weeks ago I felt similarly.  We made plans to ride Mount Evans, as we do each year.  It’s a big ride from Idaho Springs up to the summit at just over 14,000 feet.  Almost 60 miles round trip, and tough.  I knew riding to that altitude pregnant was unwise, so I planned to ride just to Echo Lake, a nice 30 mile ride.  I thought if I felt good perhaps I’d ride on, but at Echo Lake I turned back.  You see, even with my handlebars raised for added comfort, there still felt like there was a melon wedged into my pelvis, which was a bit uncomfortable.  Also, even though it didn’t slow me down too much, I felt a tad irresponsible tearing downhill 15 miles back to Idaho Springs on the descent.  It’s one thing to put yourself in harms way riding fast down a busy road, but another thing knowing that a small mistake could prove to be doubly harmful while you’re pregnant.

I guess all this reflection is mostly to observe that as much as I don’t want to accept that pregnancy imposes some new limitations on my life, I have to do just that.  In two weeks we are booked to fly to Maine and hike Mount Katahdin at the end of the Appalachian Trail with Rick’s mom.  Will I be able to complete the hike?  I sure hope so, but I am beginning to understand that there might be very valid reasons why I shouldn’t or can’t.    Pregnancy, finally after 20 weeks, is truly manifesting itself in more real ways in my life.  It’s amusing that even with a nursery all set up and as we begin to start interviewing doulas and making a birth plan, nothing has felt REALLY real until I couldn’t comfortably ride my road bike or run.

As of about a week and a half ago, I could feel the flutters of life moving around inside me.  To me it felt, as I told my mom, like “I am housing an unruly bluegill in my stomach.”  So much for the romance of butterflies.  Tomorrow we have our 20-week ultra-sound where we can learn whether it is a boy of girl.  We are still unsure if we really want to know, so don’t hold your breath for any updates.    Honestly, to me it will be an adventure either way and I’m not really entirely keen on removing this little piece of mystery from my life.  Today there are so few things in life that remain a mystery – it’s beautiful to hold on to a little spark of possibility without building in expectations one way or the other.

I have been musing for quite some time now, and I should get back to more pressing tasks.  I guess I will have to share the highlights of our long weekend in California with you at a later time.  It was an incredible trip and I can’t wait to describe it in more detail.  Til then, I’m off!

Sand Dunes National Park

I sat awake in the cool night air, listening.  Around me the winds from the east were rushing down the mountainside. The aspens and meadow grasses surrounding me whirred with a steady rustling.  The noises felt ominous in the cool dark, as though they preceded a storm or an imminent bear attack, but in my little tent not even the puppy stirred.  It seemed that I was the only one startled awake in the blackness to wonder at what the night concealed from me.

I shifted position, recognizing that the pressures on my growing belly made for an interesting sleep experience on my thermarest.  I curled into the fetal position, facing the tent wall as it fluttered in the wind, glowing with the subtle light of the moon’s cool light filtered through the aspen grove where we camped.

Recalling the day that brought me to this spot, I smiled.  Rick, Addie, and I had piled into his car and driven the three hours to the Sand Dunes National Park.  Rick had visited before, but for me it was the first time and I was pretty excited.  Along the way, I watched the scenery fade from the familiarity of South Park, to the arid vastness of the San Luis Valley – a huge, flat expanse of harsh, unwelcoming land.  It once was a booming agricultural valley, but now it was mostly dotted with small, abandoned shacks, interspersed with large irrigation systems that periodically brought a shock of green to the swaths of brown grassland.  The valley is testament to the finite nature of groundwater and a warning to use it wisely.  In the heat of midday, the valley seemed anything but welcoming.  Heat vibrated up from the roadway, blurring the brown grasses that made their way, crisscrossed with only dirt roads, to tan sands.  As we pulled into a coffee shop to grab a chai and use the bathroom, a sign reminded us of the cost of maintaining the toilet and the need to conserve water. It asked us to flush only after multiple uses.  It asked for contributions to help pay for their tank to be emptied each month.  It seemed apparent that the valley was not thriving.

Putting this depressing fact behind me, I tried to focus on the dunes, but suddenly I was consumed by questions of if I would even enjoy the trip.  Through the wafting heat off the valley floor I could picture myself trudging across an unbroken, unshaded expanse of yellow sand with no water or cool air in sight.  A creeping panic began to rise in me.  If there is one thing that grabs my survival instincts by the balls, it’s the thought of unbroken and unmitigated heat.  My brain immediately flashes to visions of me shriveling to a parched and shrunken shell of myself, and collapsing in the heat, and never leaving the desert.  Though many landscapes evoke fear, to me, the desert is perhaps the most forbidding.

We drove into the park, however, and I reminded myself that today would not be spent on the dunes.  Today Rick and I planned to hike in the preserve where we could backpack in to a backcountry site to camp.  Abutting the dunes is the Sangre de Cristo Range.  The winds that bear down the mountains, combined with the prevailing winds barreling across the San Luis Valley, and the winding Medano Creek help to hold the massive dunes in their place.  Today we would hike up Mosca Pass, to the crossing point of the Sangre de Cristos, in a low saddle full of wild green grasses and aspen groves.

We hiked for an hour and a half, up the incline to the pass, and were there before we even knew it!  The hike was mostly shaded and gradual, and we were moving faster than we thought.  We reached the pass just as afternoon storm clouds began gathering on the horizon, so we turned back, took a dog-legged path off the trail, and made our way into a beautiful mountain meadow with a small creek running though it, wildflowers blossoming abundantly, and a tiny, miraculous, hidden cache of Columbines in a shaded aspen grove.  It was a little paradise, and after searching out the right spot, we set up camp at the edge of and aspen grove overlooking the meadow from above.

We made a fabulous meal, and Rick broke out two beers he had stowed away in his bag as a little treat.  As I sipped my shandy and watched the light fade while Addie bounded through the meadow grasses, I couldn’t imagine a better, more peaceful spot to rest my head and body for the night.  I felt a little chill as I sat with intention, trying to share this moment with the little being fluttering in my belly.

We lit a small fire and let the night fade away from us before crawling into our sleeping bags, reminiscing on the sweet perfection of our day.  Moments spent like this, together, away from the rush of life in the city, bring both of us back to ourselves and the simple things that bring a smile to our faces.

As we have been busy putting together a nursery, fixing up our home, and trying to establish ourselves in the new jobs, we occasionally lose sight of these simple pleasures.  Our trip to the Sand Dunes was a beautiful reminder from the universe that a mountain meadow filled with wildflowers can do more for the soul than weeks of dedicated work to “improve” one’s lot.  Reduction, it seems, is often the key to contentment.

Strengths Finder 2.0

During the interview phase for my current position as the Public Involvement Coordinator for a large engineering firm, I was given a personality test.  While I love personality tests like the Myers-Briggs, etc.  I also worried that a diagnostics test might reduce me (at least on paper) to someone I’m not.  As I talked to my (now) boss about it during the weeks leading up to my job offer, she assured me that my worries were misplaced and that she and the company used the information they gathered in order to better construct effective teams and ensure that projects are rounded out with the right personalities.  So, when I received my copy of Strengths Finder 2.0by Tom Rath, I skimmed it over it and quickly found the code in the back to go online and take my test – nervous but excited for my results.

The book’s general premise is that we all do better when we maximize our own strengths rather than focusing on bringing our weaknesses up to par.  It’s a philosophy that I definitely approve of – and while I don’t see too much harm in trying to improve one’s weaknesses, it seems to make sense to capitalize on your strengths first and foremost.  The book, in order to help people identify their strengths, asked questions on a sliding scale that helped inform an evaluation of 5 key strengths, from about 34 they’ve identified. After taking the test, I came away as the following:

1. Strategic

2. Achiever

3. Individualization

4. Ideation

5. Learner

At first, I was pissed.  To me these were the strengths of a total dreamer – minus the achiever.  I was hoping for something with more solid footing.  These were not the strengths I hoped to convey to a potential employer, and now I was stuck with them.  Who wants someone full of strategies and ideas and fascinated with learning?  As valuable as these things can be, they aren’t necessarily the makings of a stellar employee.  I honestly felt really despondent for a while thinking that this kind of profile shot me in the foot.  But when I finally got the courage to share my test results with my boss we had a wonderful realization that our strengths were nearly the same!  I took this as a great relief since she is a pretty young woman, who has risen to VP in the company, and built her own unique strategic communications group within an engineering firm – no easy task.

The Strengths Finder system is a fantastic way to help understand yourself and what you have to offer. Because the personality themes identified on the test are not your typical personality definitives – they are broader and more thematic, they offer a different perspective to analyze your personality.  For example, I was a bit confused by the meaning of my Ideation theme (lover of ideas, revels in taking the world and turning it over to look at it in new ways), but the more I read about it, the more I realized it really fits me!  And, it has been a major driver of some of my big life decisions.  Because I know that I can tend to be caught up in ideas, and get more entangled in creative thinking than planning I tend to naturally surround myself with two types of people – either those who help me idle away my time discussing and analyzing the world around me like my sisters, and my Dad; or those who provide me some structure and balance me out – like my husband, my best friend, and my mother.  In looking back at my life, some of my most bonding friendship have been with other Ideators who sometimes seem to understand and follow my thoughts better than other people, but my more fruitful and long-lasting relationships are with those who provide an analytical balance to my ideation – the people who help me give my dreams footing in the real world.

Similarly, I find that the skill of individualization really helps me hone in on personalities around me.  I tend to have a very intuitive understanding of what makes people tick and I take great pleasure in considering the topic and understanding its real-world ramifications.  But, being prone to individualization I sometimes fell into the trap of giving people more leeway than they deserve, or enabling behavior because I understand the root causes of it and feel sympathetic.  I find that I am often put off by generalizations; for example, I used to date a guy who routinely referred to people according to the sport they liked or the business they were in – I found it annoyingly reductive and often called him out on it.  I do well to balance my tendency to evaluate a situation relative to the personalities in it, with a healthy dose of considering how more general rules should apply.  This could probably have saved me many a bad decision looking back on my past.

My Strategic and Achiever roles did not surprise me too much.  Ever since I was a small child my parents have marveled at my ability to manipulate things and people around me.  Often this is seen as a bad thing, but I don’t think it has to be bad.  Just because I once (as A CHILD) used these skills to get my sisters to give me foot massages and help me clean, does not mean I never used my talents for good!  I did and do!  Strategic is a skill I’m proud of, and I think it indicates a good forward-thinking approach to life.  Achiever is what you would expect.  If there is a bar to reach, I tend to try to reach it.  I like to tick off the boxes and mark things as “complete” on my lists.  It is immensely satisfying to me to watch progress happen and to set goals and fulfill them.  No shockers there.

My last skill is learner – and I find that one amusing.  I tend to assume everyone likes to learn – but apparently they don’t! Lately I have really seen it in action.  Being pregnant it such an opportunity to learn.  For me, though it might not be something you’d expect, issues about motherhood and birth have always been a special interest.  I have always wanted to be a mom – be it a very abstract desire that I, even now, still am not sure I’m ready for. But, now that I am pregnant I find that I’m delving even deeper into reading and learning about the process.  I can’t get enough information.  Just how much I’ve been taking in hits me on days like today when I toured a birthing center.  Clearly I was the least pregnant person on the tour, yet I was the one with the most questions! Anyway, this has been a post of a lot of navel gazing self-assessment, which I’m sure is very boring.  But, I have to say, the Strengths Finder 2.0 book is a really interesting tool to look at yourself in a new and different way.  I think it is a wonderful tool to help people capitalize on their strengths and identify the patterns that function best and most productively in their lives.  I’d recommend it to anyone who is in a time of self-evaluation and change in their lives.  It can truly help to reformulate the way you see yourself and the ways you market your skills in the workforce.

Diversionary Tactics

Diversionary Tactics was the title of a poster I presented at the Association of American Geographers Conference back in 2006.  it was about a hydropower development project in Manitoba that was making a major diversion on the Churchill River, through a man-made channel, upon which would be built several hydropower dams.  The dams would not be in great locations – mostly coniferous forest, without major topography, meaning the water would spread out – not up.  It would kill a lot of biomass, which would in turn rot, produce methane, and generally be a bad ecological situation. Tree stubs and floating logs would pepper the reservoir, posing safety risks to boaters.  Water levels would constantly fluctuate, making it hard for the riparian ecosystem to stabilize, and in the winter ice would not form consistently, which can trap and kill animals.  On top of that, the dams were on traditional First Nations lands, and would alter the land the tribes relied on. Worse, however, was the fact that these projects tended to divide the community and fuel corruption.  First Nations communities in Canada already suffer some of the highest rates of drug and alcohol abuse, suicide, and violence in the nation.  This type of development was simply a new chapter in a legacy of environmental racism and injustice that had long plagued them.  The saddest part to me, was that this infrastructure was being built to sell power to the United States – to Minneapolis and Wisconsin, and Chicago.  It wasn’t even benefitting the local communities that felt the impacts most acutely.  And most people in the States had no idea…

It was while I studied this that I began to better understand natural resource development.  It fascinated me.  Particularly when it comes to power.  The methods we rely on to fuel our increasingly electronic lifestyles are often pretty far removed from our lives.  We don’t tend to see the costs, and as a result we don’t often involve ourselves in the debates on how to develop our natural resources in responsible ways.  Thankfully, there are some legislative tools (the National Environmental Policy Act) that encourage us to step back for a moment and consider our choices, our alternatives, and consider public input before major projects can move forward.  These tools are pretty effective in the United States to curtain truly BAD development policies.  I tend to think, however, that our legislative tools make us a bit lazy as citizens.  When was the last time you participated in a public meeting on an issue that affected your community?  When did you last contact your representatives to let them know how you felt about a bill or a development that personally impacts you?  I can almost guarantee that unless you have a pipeline coming through your backyard, you probably haven’t been very engaged in the public decision-making process of late.  I know, because this is what I do every damn day.  I try to facilitate this process.  Though I don’t always necessarily support the PROJECTS being developed, I wholeheartedly support the PROCESS they must go through to secure permits, and prove that they are necessary and that better alternatives are not out there.  In a sense, I feel a bit like a public defense attorney; these processes are part of the structure that makes our country what it is, and it is my job to see that the process is followed that the public is consulted and made aware or these projects, and that they have an opportunity to educate themselves and make informed decisions about the natural resources issues that impact them.

It’s intriguing to me how my worldview on the subject has shifted with time and age. There was a time when Xcel Energy monitored my blog because I was so adamantly opposed to Manitoba’s hydropower developments.  Now, however, with a wider wold view, I recognize that there is a place for certain development, and unless you can claim to live entirely off the grid, we are all, in essence, complicit in supporting that development through our need for power, for gasoline to fuel our cars, for water to take a shower each day.

Yesterday I was asked to help write a rebuttal piece to an article by Yvon Chouinard, the owner of Patagonia, which was recently published in the New York Times.  He was maligning dams and suggesting we tear them down.  I deeply respect Chouinard. I worked at Patagonia and I am proud of his record of being a thought-leader and a visionary who has also made business work without compromising his principles.  Of course, I can barely afford to buy anything from Patagonia as it caters mostly to rich, white people.  But, it’s good quality product and it is made responsibly.  That said, the inflammatory nature of the article he wrote also bothered me a bit.  Most people today in the United States recognize the perils of dams.  New hydropower dams in the US are simply not being constructed due to the lack of suitable locations, and the NEPA process.  It’s too hard to permit these structures.  Plus, they have significant riparian impacts.  But, they do produce energy free of greenhouse gas emissions, and they help to manage water flows and provide storage.  They are not all bad.

I wrestled for a moment with the fact that my 23-year-old self would not have been able to write a rebuttal to Yvon Chouinard, but my 31-year-old self sees the need and the responsibility of having that conversation in a public sphere.  I am excited to participate in this project, and to be making my dreams of impacting and improving natural resources debate and policy a reality!

 

Rumbles

Tonight Rick and I sit quietly in the low light of our living room as thunder rumbles outside. Inside my head, rumbles are also rolling around – thoughts of our changing lives and what is to come. As I look over at Rick I observe the home we’re making together. We have put quite a bit of time into making our place represent us – our travels and stories up to this point. Behind Rick above our couch I see two colorful paintings of girls riding bicycles that I bought during my travels in Vietnam. On the adjacent wall is an aboriginal painting we bought at Uluru in the Red Center of Australia. On the walls behind me are old maps of Brisbane with its winding river meandering through . If I look closely I can see our old street and it makes me smile. We have felted wall hangings from Inuit communities on the Hudson Bay, sand prints from Myanmar, Peruvian weavings, mate bowls from Argentina. Our house is a collection of the things that are beautiful and meaningful to us.

I wonder at times how to maintain this lifestyle with a baby on the way. Can we still be simple? Can we maintain what we have? Earlier tonight we got into a discussion over gear – for babies. We are not big believers in gearing up excessively, and we truly want to maintain as much simplicity in our lives as possible, even with the obvious fact that babies necessitate that we give up a bit of this. I have a personal vendetta against strollers of all varieties, and I think after years of my stroller rage Rick may have gotten on board with me. We can both agree that there is at least one piece of baby gear we would like to live without. But, truly, how much else can you do without? Especially as a working mom? How does one maintain as much simplicity in his or her life as possible, while still accommodating the needs of a baby and a career?

I find myself contemplating how my life will work in 6 months or so, when in the midst of the holiday season a new life enters the mix. As I look around now I have a husband who is a joy, and my puppy who makes me smile endlessly. We have a good little thing going, so how will we fit baby Frankie (this is what we are calling it for lack of a better name) fit into the mix? How will I balance work and my desire to be a mom? How will Rick transition into teaching with the added stress of a newborn? There are many moving pieces.

I feel like I am constantly reining myself in and reminding myself that people have been doing this for thousands of years and I will do the same. We will make it all work. And I know that stressors aside, once I look at Baby Frankie I will be smitten and will do what is needed to make life work for him or her.

Pregnancy Reflections

It feels nice to be out of the first trimester and to have the ability to share more openly my thoughts and reflections on the changes in my life and the being that is rapidly expanding my waistline. I have been so heartened by all the expressions of happiness and kind words people have shared with Rick and I. It has helped me to focus on the excitement rather than the myriad changes happening in my body and in my life going forward. I have a really hard time keeping my ongoing inner monologue to myself, and it is a major relief to share the news that Rick and I are expecting with our friends after weeks of awkwardly sipping pomegranate juice instead of wine and secretly drinking virgin margaritas while we’ve been out. I’m so thankful that I didn’t suffer from severe morning sickness or skin issues – things that would have made it more obvious that something was happening. We flew under the radar for the most part, so it’s been very fun to surprise friends and family with our news.

As far as how I have felt, I have had it pretty easy with only minor queasiness at the thought of certain foods (often my favorites like eggs and salads!), and a bit of early dizziness and fatigue. Aside from basically wanting to eat exclusively toast and cheese for three months straight and being a bit tired, I think I did pretty well. Right now, however, is possibly one of the weirdest stages of pregnancy. Some days I definitely have a belly, but others it really isn’t noticeable. Most of my pants fit, but they are certainly getting snug, and a few of the tighter pairs require a belly band – if I can get into them at all. I feel like more than my belly, my thighs and hips are rounding out – not to mention other parts of me! I am trying to embrace this new curvier version of myself, but it is a struggle at times. Rick helps keep it in perspective by asking me regularly if his ass looks fat or some other obnoxious question to remind me that of course my body is changing and I should just embrace it. It is a bit of a learning curve though. I have a lot of clothing, particularly for work, that is very tight through the torso. Needless to say, I am rapidly trying to adjust my wardrobe to accommodate the fact that many of my work clothes no longer fit, and they certainly don’t do much to disguise my growing bump. Each morning is a new challenge, but I am trying to look at it with gratitude and a sense of adventure. It will almost be a relief when I am just obviously pregnant and not in this strange limbo phase. :)