Learning to Cope and Leaning In

Sometimes when you care deeply about things, it can be hard to reconcile work and your personal principles.  In fact, when you work in environmental consulting, it can be a daily challenge.  So, today I want to share an email that my boss shared with me.  She wrote it to a young sustainability coordinator in our company who is struggling to find a balance between her work and her beliefs. Reading it, I am reminded about my calling to this work and my belief that change needs to have internal champions.  Names have been changed, obviously.

Dear Hillary,

I spent some time with Rebecca after the conference and she shared a little bit about how hard it was for you to make peace between what we do as a company and what you personally believe from a sustainability perspective.  This is a topic my colleagues  and I talk about frequently and I thought you might like to know our perspective.

I have worked on many projects that were frightening and unfair to impacted landowners – especially when eminent domain is involved.  There was one project a long time ago that particularly sticks with me – I was working with Bob Anderson on a storm water solution for the greater Omaha area that would involve flooding a huge area of farm ground and relocating a small community north of town. Bob and I spent several days meeting with landowners one-on-one, some whose houses would have to be relocated for a planned recreational area adjacent to the lake, and many who were third-generation on the land.  Good, honest people sat down in front of us and cried because they understood that if the project was approved they would lose their home or post office or farm ground.  On the drive home, Bob and I were silent for a long time.  And then I asked him if he ever felt like we were on the wrong side of the issue.

“Every day,” he said, “and that is exactly why you and I need to be leading this project.”

His point was that if we weren’t on the inside, who would be fighting for the little people?  Who would be pushing to do the right thing?  Who would be working to find a solution with the least impact?  Who would be working to make sure the community’s voices were heard?  Who would be there to make sure the people weren’t bullied?

Over the years I have realized that is exactly what my job is.  My job is to get on the inside of our client organizations and swim upstream as far as I can to influence the decision-makers to do the right thing for the public.  Sometimes I can influence them to do great and amazing things.  Sometimes I am powerless to do anything at all.  Sometimes I can nudge them a fraction of an inch, sometimes I can push them miles ahead of their time.  What is important to remember is that my career – my quest to make a difference – is a marathon, not a sprint.  My success isn’t measured by one or two projects, rather it is measured by hundreds of projects and professionals I have influenced over many years. 

I offer this perspective to you because I know that every word in bold above can be replaced with the word ‘environment’.  I know that without people like you on the inside of our firm working to make a difference, bit by bit, every single day – without people like you championing the earth, our society would continue to destroy it.  I also understand that there is a tremendous industrial momentum in our society right now that is not going to turn on a dime – it could take another decade or two or three to get it to fully embrace renewables, recycling, and smaller footprints.  You work for a company who is in the middle of that and not only believes in sustainability but invests in it heavily.  It’s a good place from which to make a difference.

Do not be daunted by the full task at hand.  It will take hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of people just like you to change it.  Feel empowered by the small space you have to make a difference and just keep doing it.  Over time, you will realize how much of an impact you are having.  Also remember that you are just getting started – your power will be much greater in 10 years after you have tried things and witnessed things and soaked every possible thing in that you can.

It was fun to spend a little time with you at the conference this week.  Thank you for your deep commitment and tenacity.  Both are a great service to the earth.

Announcement!

Hi friends!  For those of you following along at home with my pregnancy, I have a bit of an announcement.  I have referenced it a few times so the keen reader may already know this – but Rick and I (after much deliberation) decided to open up the envelope from our doctor telling us the sex of the baby.  It’s a boy!  I grew a penis!  And balls! (Sorry.  I just love saying that.)

Though you never know for sure until the baby is born, for now we are planning on a little man entering our lives in December!  After debating for a long time about whether to open the envelope, Rick finally convinced me that it was the right move for us – and I’m glad we did.

We opened it up in the mountains, by ourselves, sitting in the bed of Rick’s truck.  We had spent the weekend camping with friends and it was beautiful autumn weather.  We felt warm and happy and good about life. As we sat in the sunshine,  I opened the envelope to find a small, folded piece of paper with cursive handwriting that said “It’s a boy! :)”   We both cried with excitement.  It was a special moment that I wish I could relive over again.

Rick had said he wanted a girl. Though I know he is thrilled that he’ll have a son.  I on the other hand, was impartial, but fairly sure that I’d seen some man parts during the 20-week ultrasound.  After googling ultrasound penis images for a few days, I was not convinced of what I’d seen.  But, I did have some other feelings and theories about the baby that led me to think it was going to be a boy.  Rick had to laugh a little when I found out I was right.  He knows he’ll never hear the end of it now!  If you want to hear about my theories you’ll need to address those questions to me privately, because the answers are not exactly blog-appropriate!

We shared the news at my lovely baby shower a couple of weeks ago.  My mom and mother in law had come out to join us, along with my sister.  Rick and I wanted our news to be a fun surprise, so about halfway through the shower I asked my sister if she would give a toast.  After the toast I stood up and presented the group with my incredible pumpkin carving skills.  That morning at 5:30 am I had woken up and secretly carved three pumpkins.  One said “Rick”.  The other said my name, “Kat”, and the third (a small one) said “Frankie”.  I cut a huge hole in the front of the “Kat” pumpkin that served as a display window.  Inside, I placed the “Frankie” pumpkin.  It was a cute little pregnant pumpkin display.

I don’t think anyone thought twice about it, until I stood up and they witnessed the birth of pumpkin “Frankie.”  Inside Frankie I had hidden two cards that I gave to my mom and mother in law, ostensibly as a thank you, for traveling to my shower.  But, when they opened them up, the saw the announcement that we are having a boy!  They both were quiet for a moment, the Lisa buried her head in her hands and started crying (happy tears) and my mom got all teared up.  It was enough to clue the rest of the crowd in that we had shared more than a starbucks card!  It was such a fun moment because nobody expected it, and we got to catch them all off guard!

Since the “reveal” we have been reveling in knowing we have a little man on the way.  More and more, I feel like I am carrying around a little Rick. The reason I think that is because I have been incredibly happy, even-keel, and content the entirety of this pregnancy. It makes me think that the influence Rick exerts on me in our daily lives is being compounded by carrying a little soul inside me that is a lot like his dad.  He wakes up early and kicks me, he loves it when we talk about Rick’s truck, he has Rick’s hands and profile according to our ultrasounds, and he seems to like the Beatles.  One can only conclude that there is a little Rick in there, already training for marathons in the womb.

Lately, the baby has been so active that I can literally sit and watch the movements roll across the skin of my belly – even through my clothes.  It’s all beginning to feel so real. I am so excited.  Yesterday we began our hypnobabies class to learn to birth naturally through hypnosis.  I’m so excited to try it!  Tonight I met with my doula, Julieanne.  I am so thrilled to be working with her!  And last week I found an ayurvedic postpartum doula to work with after the baby is born.  I am so thrilled to see the pieces falling into place.  I cannot wait to be a mom.

 

Open Hearted Confession

I have been struggling with whether to share a very personal story here, and after about a year of laboring over whether and how to broach the subject, I feel the need to share this story publicly.  I think it is in part, a reconciling for me of the past as I try to unburden myself of pieces of my history which I no longer need to carry as I enter the journey into motherhood.

This time about a year ago, just before my wedding, I received an email from an old boyfriend with a link to a google document titled “Growth Curve Data.”  Unsure what it was, I opened the link to find several pages of his writing about the ways he had grown and changed in the three years since we had parted ways.  It reflected on whether true love was something we each find only once, and asked whether I too, felt a “cold wind blow” through my soul since we ended our relationship.

My stomach dropped when I read the words.  He had cut me out of his life, and then his new significant other had barraged me with messages full of accusations and lies that I could only assume originated from him.  I was warned never to contact him, and here he was sharing with me this slice of his heart that I can only assume he had been forced to hide away for years.  I felt terrible for him and sad.  Then I felt angry that he had the nerve to throw this mess of feelings at me just a few days before my wedding.  I considered whether to reach out to him in response to share my reactions.  And, finally, I called him.

It had been a long time since we’d last communicated by phone and it was hard to come up with words to span the years and dramas that had intervened.  Despite the strangeness of the context it was still clear that we connected deeply and both had felt a sense of uneasiness with the way our story ended.  Our talk was cut short when my husband walked into the room.  He asked who I was talking to, but it was clear he knew.  And it hurt him. And seeing the flash of anger and hurt in his eyes I knew that the unresolved issues of my previous relationship were not going to be resolved on the phone, or in person, or ever.  I reminded the ex that having any kind of relationship with him was too hard on our significant others and reminded him that I had never reached out to disturb him when he married his girlfriend – and that while it was good to hear from him, I wished he’d have done the same.

Though the conversation was intense, it was relatively benign at the same time.  Subsequently, I have heard several stories from other women who have had exes reach out to them right before their wedding. So, I know it wasn’t even unique. It was a commonplace situation.

My husband emailed the ex, asking that he not contact me and not share these types of feelings.  He responded and apologized. It was awkward but resolved.  But, then,  my ex’s significant other responded with a final email where she accused me of several indiscretions that were entirely untrue – including telling my husband that I had plotted to leave him in Australia.

Obviously we saw the accusations for what they were – a lashing out of someone who was very hurt.  I felt so much empathy for this woman at the time that it was almost hard to be mad at her.  In some ways I still feel a strong sense of sadness for the way it must have hurt her heart to read what he wrote.  But, unfortunately, for me – over the last year occasionally, and against my better wishes, an anger has come up within me against this woman and my ex for their callousness.

I wonder often if they would have felt a sense of satisfaction if their actions had ended my relationship or created a rift that could not be healed.  It makes me wonder how they would have felt had their behavior truly and significantly impacted two other souls who love each other.  And, it sometimes really bothers me that they can go on with their lives merrily after attempting to cause such a disturbance in mine.  Moreover, it bothers me that a year later the lies and immaturity of that situation still get under my skin.

I’m not an angel and I have done things I am not proud of.  But, the way I see it, when two people have committed their lives to one another then it isn’t my place to attempt to intervene in their relationship. Before there are rings and commitments, perhaps it is open season, but afterwards no.

I often wonder why my anger over this lingers.  I guess perhaps it is simply that the event made me question people.  My husband is a rock – my rock.  He is the most stable and calming influence in my life.  He lights fires for me in constructive places in my life, and helps quell those other flames in me that burn without purpose.  I loved my ex dearly, but he was exactly the opposite type of influence in my life – sowing unease and rebellion in me. I think of the little man I am bringing into the world, and more than anything I want him to be a force for good.  When I reflect on the situation that happened a year ago, it reminds me of the tenuous nature of our fleeting lives and how in an instant the course of our lives could change dramatically.  It threatens my sense of peace.

I hope that voicing these thoughts allows me to get them off my chest and helps me to let go of them before I move into the next phase of my life.  As I read about and explore the steps ahead of me, through labor, delivery, and the early stages of motherhood I know I want to enter into this phase of my life without lingering stressors from my past.  I also know that clearing my soul of these things may not only make me more present in my life, but may allow me to open up to the process of delivering a new soul into the world more gracefully.  I hope this small step will help me to look this new challenge in the face and approach it with an open heart.

 

 

Missing my practice

 The third trimester of pregnancy is now where I am beginning to notice some limitations.  I can’t reach dishes that I once could with my belly now protruding outward.  Bending over is incredibly awkward.  Shaving presents new challenges.  I wake up with a stomach that growls so loud it wakes up the baby and then I get kicked in the ribs.  These are some of the newest developments in my life.

Yes, it’s an adventure all right.  I miss the body I had, which I didn’t fully appreciate in the moment.  I miss being able to button my pants, or fit into them at all.  I miss not having to wear a bra.   I miss my old stomach.

My body now is a foreign thing, which I am doing my best to embrace.

Traditionally, I find yoga to soothe and rebalance my body when it feels a bit out of whack (like now), but yoga is beginning to present its own challenges to me. A few chaturangas into a practice I observe that my belly seems to be hitting the ground much earlier than expected. Also, the 25 extra pounds I’m carrying makes lowering my body a new challenge for my shoulders and back.  Twists – not happening, really.  Inversions I can still do, and some easier arm balances, but I definitely feel the difference from where  once was.  Also, if there was ever a time I wanted to do backbends, this is it.  But, camel and bridge seem to be my limit – even early in the pregnancy, wheel felt like it might tear my stomach open.<

So, I am missing my more vigorous yoga practice these days.

On the flip side, my hips are doing things never before seen, and suddenly I find  myself comfortably in malasana more often than is really necessary – like anytime I need to pick something up off the floor. So, there's that.

Below is a link to a video post from the studio where I did my teacher training in Bogota.  It's a video of my rising one-legged into wheel.  I am proud of my ability to do that – it's a challenge!  I'm now using the video as inspiration to recall my more practiced self and hope that soon enough I will be back to this place physically.  Namaste!

Smelly Feet and other Love Symbols

I’m sitting in a coffee shop in Calgary reflecting on an email I got this morning from my husband.  It was titled “Come Home.”  As I read the email I laughed aloud as he recounted how our puppy ate my Birkenstocks while he was in the shower this morning.  Yesterday, it was one of my pairs of Danskos.  She’s not typically a shoe-destroyer, so one can only assume she misses the smell of my feet, and me, by extension.  He says that he, too, misses me.  Thankfully he doesn’t show it by eating my shoes.

Being away from home for a week by myself is a good reminder of the blessings I have in my life.  There are so many – and prep yourself because I am going to talk about them.

For one thing, my job, which brought me to Calgary is a blessing.  I work in the exact intersection of things that I love – communications, writing, media, working with people, and environmental issues.  It is not always a fun job, thankless at times, but it is rewarding and full of opportunities to learn and grow.  I love it.  The past week in Calgary for the International Pipelines Conference has re-shaped my perception of pipeline folks entirely. There were amazing sessions on working through environmental challenges, improving safety, learning about ways that pipeline infrastructure actually changes ecosystems to cause certain animals to thrive – and so many more!  The ones that appealed to me most directly dealt with utilizing social media and the internet to include the public in routing decisions and educate them on issues that they care about.  I also LOVED learning about the ways that companies work with First Nations communities to share ownership of infrastructure, accommodate cultural and lifestyle differences, and achieve social license to operate.  This is cool stuff, people.  And for those who might question how a self-described environmentalist can work in this space, I will remind you again that THIS is where change happens and that our voices are often strongest on the inside of an organization as we strive to achieve best practices.  Moreover, unless you can say you don’t use metals, electricity, gasoline, and the myriad other fuels and materials derived from natural resource development – then you are a silent accomplice to the means that brings your iPad to your lap while you watch Hulu.  So, in my opinion it’s best to be a part of the conversation.

After a rough few weeks in the office, that at times made me questions how I would be able to continue to work effectively once Baby Frankie is born, I feel refreshed and renewed by my week here.  I was dreading it, but instead I came away inspired.

In other blessings, it now occurs to me that in just over a week my sisters and another friend will be hosting my BABY SHOWER! My sister has been calling it the Frank and Beans baby shower, since we are doing it outdoors, with a fire, barbecue,  lawn games, and warm fall drinks – and we are referring to the baby using the moniker, Baby Frankie.

It has taken many months for my coming role as a mother to really settle in for me.  Perhaps it is the constant kicking in my belly, or the fact that the shower we plotted out months ago is finally here, or the fact that my maternity clothes are actually a NECESSITY now, but the reality of our coming baby is beginning to hit me in the most pleasant way!  Rather than fretting over how to manage this new variable in our lives, I am softening into daydreams of snuggling with a little newborn, breastfeeding, and sharing all the special moments that happen when a new life is created.  (As I typed that, I thought to myself that the me from a few years ago would have gagged a bit at the mushiness of that sentence, but that was before the influx of hormones that makes me gaze adoringly at babies and want to stroke their soft little baby skin.)  I’ll just go ahead and admit it now: I am going to be an obnoxious mom.  My poor child, like everything I love, will have the scars to prove my attachment.  Of that, I’m sure.  I love hard, and leave marks – physical and otherwise.  Just ask my stuffed animals, my husband, any former love, and my family.  But, loving hard can’t be all bad.  My puppy misses the smell of my feet, so I can only assume she loves me hard right back!

The last blessing I want to talk about today is the blessing of health.  I have watched with alternating fascination and horror as my body has changed with pregnancy.  I’ve talked about it plenty here.  My thighs, oh my thighs!  What are these things I once knew as my muscular legs?  Hah.  I remind myself that they are blessings too.  I have health, wellness, and a body that is supporting me well as I grow a tiny hew human.  Sure, I occasionally feel tired, or my feet hurt, but overall I have been blessed with health through this pregnancy (with the exception of a wildly under active thyroid for a bit there…).  I have read several books on pregnancy and birth, all of which encourage a certain reverence for the wonders of the female body’s ability to create and support life.  On an intellectual level I completely get that, but I am working to understand that in my day-to-day reality as I see myself in the mirror and feel shocked by the belly that juts out in front of me.  I reflect daily on the challenge of labor and what will be required of my body to birth and support a child.  Then I look at my hips and thighs with a new admiration.  These  “maternal stores” come with the territory as my body becomes a life-giving machine.  I am beginning to recognize that the hips, which I have often joked would never be able to birth a child unless I starved the thing, are now preparing to do that.  My frame is small, and it is entirely focused on a single purpose now – allowing the growth, support, and passage of a baby. Wow.  That is wild stuff.

Anyway, if you have made it to this point in my very long blog post, I am impressed with your curiosity and perseverance.  I have many other blessings, which I suppose I should reserve for another post.  I will close by acknowledging the many sources of love and support in my life that give me the confidence and security to embrace this new direction in my life.  Thank you!

Banff

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Beautiful Banff, AB!!!

My job is pretty cool.  I may have grey hair earlier in life than most as a result of it, but it’s cool.  I think it is worth it, and important, to do work that matters.

As I stare down a future filled with decisions about maintaining a balance between raising a family and working, I know that work will have a place in my life.  Why?  Because I love working.  I love interacting with adults over things that require I use my brain.  I like thinking strategically and considering ways to work smarter, better, and more effectively.  I like being around smart people who are trying to make the world around us work.

And, I like going to places like Banff.

This week my work has taken me to Canada, one of my ultimate favorite places in the world.  It’s exciting and I’m having a great time, plus it affords me a chance to slip away to scenic spots like you will see in the pictures below (all of which came from my cracked and touch-screen challenged droid.  It’s so pretty that even that obnoxious piece of technology couldn’t obscure it.)

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My traveling companion, Baby Frankie.

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Moraine Lake, near Lake Louise. Amazing glacial lakes!

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Another great view of Moraine Lake.

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From the rock pile (moraine) at the end of Moraine Lake, looking down the lake.

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On the drive from Banff to Lake Louise – this is where I began plotting my next bike tour!

Reflections on roundedness

Excuse the alliteration there.

Roundedness has many meanings in my current state.  For one thing, as I sit cross-legged on my couch, laptop in lap, my increasingly globular belly encroaches on my keyboard view.  I have to reflect on what that feels like for a moment.  For one thing, when you see pregnant women, you often think warm, kind thoughts about their state – bringing new life into the world.  It seems like such a happy and picturesque existence.  I am here to warn that the photos you see on pinterest of lovely pregnant ladies looking maternal and serene, perhaps offer a glimpse of a rare and lovely moment – but on the whole do not reflect reality.  As least, not mine.  I don’t sit around all day mulling over my belly and the new life I’m creating.  Rather, at almost 27 weeks – on the cusp of the third trimester, I marvel at the fact that maternity clothes, which I bought early and used to be swimming in, now fit me.  I look at my body and I don’t even know it anymore.  Whose thighs are these?  Whose hips? Where did my previously toned arms go? Where did these boobs come from?  Why do my ankles have to look like that?  And, holy shit are my feet sore!  My belly – well, that was to be expected.  The rest, I wasn’t as prepared for.

It’s hard losing control of your body.  And it’s weird that someone I’ve never met is kicking me from the inside.  Kicking my cervix, kicking my ribs, occasionally causing a mug I’ve gently rested on my belly to quake from a rogue elbow jab from within.  I think people expect that as a woman you are somehow prepared and intuitively knowledgeable about these things. I’m not!  All I know is that my bed has become a structural challenge that requires several pillows propped in just the right spot to make me feel at ease.  My hips, always narrower than my shoulders, are no longer.  They ache.  They are moving.  My posture is changing.  My body is operating under the command of hormones and I no longer have a real say in the way things go around here.  By the end of the day, my entire belly feels stretched to its limit.  I wonder if there is enough shea butter and vitamin E in the world the allow it to continue to grow without bursting.  Then I remind myself that I am only just beginning my third trimester.  And then, I get a bit nervous.

Meanwhile, as I observe these bodily changes day to day, during what I’ve heard is one of the biggest periods of growth, Rick and I are taking on some fairly challenging things.  Rick began an entirely new career as a teacher this fall.  He teaches honors Algebra II and pre-Calculus at the highest-ranking school in Colorado.  Let me say it again, he has just begun his teaching career.  It’s no small task to be thrown into an incredibly rigorous and notoriously grueling school as a first year teacher.  He is burning the candle at both ends.  I try to pick up the slack.  I manage dog responsibilities, cook dinner, keep the house in order, and arrange doctor’s visits and birthing classes and doula interviews.  There is also the small matter of my full-time job where I am taking on major projects and doing an increasing amount of travel.  WE are burning the candle at both ends.  We are a tired pair.  In our lives at this stage, we have not found the ideal balance of well-roundedness that I think we both strive for.  And we both are intimidated knowing that we haven’t even HAD the baby yet.

This morning I had a little bit of a breakdown.  I had a hard week at work.  We hosted a going away party for some friends last night, so I was getting the house ready all week, and Rick’s mom is staying here for a few days.  We have a lot happening! Plus, we haven’t had a weekend at home in a month! This morning when I woke up, I guess I just felt the strain. As Rick and I talked in bed, I found my eyes tearing up, asking him to remind me that he still thinks I’m pretty.  (He tells me all the time, actually. So clearly that wasn’t really what I needed to hear.) I guess it was my overly simplified way of asking him to reassure me that all the stress and pressure at home and at work and changes to my body and our lives won’t change what WE have.  I needed to know that the way we understand each other and work together and approach the world with a unified front wouldn’t be undermined by the myriad changes in our lives.

When I look at Rick, his strength and his character and his toughness draw me to him.  It makes me stronger and tougher and better. He is such an inspiration to me each day and he drives me to set the bar higher. When I look at myself and I feel sore and tired and, well, pregnant, I feel bad that I can’t give him the full support and encouragement that I want to.  I feel like I am falling short trying to be the best employee, the best wife, and the best-prepared mother.  I feel constantly as though I need to give more and be more.  Perhaps it is my hormones, or my pitta drive that makes me feel like I need to live up to external standards and measures of achievement. I don’t know what it is, but I do know that I am tired.

I wonder if this feeling that life is getting overwhelming comes to all pregnant women?  I know stress definitely is normal, and I wonder if I am conflating external stressors with my internal hormonal tides.  It’s hard to say.

When we got engaged in March of 2013, some of the best advice we got was to just relax and enjoy the time we had together as an engaged couple – knowing we had the future ahead of us and each other.  I fall back on this advice now, telling myself to enjoy these moments of just Rick and me, (and Adelaide the puppy, of course) knowing that together we’ll get through the challenges we face.