Gratefully and Confidently

I recently had two experiences that made me aware of the value of re-framing the way I look at opportunities to share my knowledge and skills.

Over the month or so, I have had the opportunity to present new tools to some of the executive leadership of my company, and also to present some of my own work to peers at conferences.  These sorts of things often result in the following pattern:

  1. Work my butt off preparing presentation materials
  2. Freak out. (Silently)
  3. Freak out. (Mention it casually here and there)
  4. Pretend it is fine. (Freak out)
  5. Spend several days before internally mapping out my talking points. (Pretendind it’s fine)
  6. Spend the day or two before writing them down and practicing them ad nauseum. (Late at night so nobody knows what I’m up to)
  7. Spend the entire night before mentally rehearsing my speech.   (And, attemting to sleep)
  8. Day of:  Lots of coffee, getting ready, dressing the part, and spending the hours before getting worked up,
  9. Presenting  (Breath, breath, breath, it’s cool.  Feel the rising sense of red in the neck. Wondering if I have any clue what I’m talking, and, finally forgetting something important.)

Over my time working, I’ve actually done quite a bit of public speaking, but as you can see, the process definitely isn’t super refined yet.  But, recently I discovered something of a gamechanger for me.  Rather than framing the speech as a critical moment to shine, I have begun to approach the chance to speak as a wonderful opportunity that I am grateful to have.  I have begun to look at my presentations as offerings of my experience and opportunities to share, rather than make it or break it moments of stress.

This simple reframing has made a world of difference in my  preparation and execution .  I kid you not, I am starting to get excited about speaking opportunities as an experiential time where I get to talk about what it is I spend the majority of my time doing – and when you look at things that way it starts to feel a lot more comfortable.

I noticed that when I begin to reframe stressful situations in my life as opportunities to experience something new, or chances to grow, I handle them better and more gracefully.

It seemed critical to note this here, in case I forgetsomeday  that this reframing is useful!

New Year, New baby, new outlook

mugshot

First First Man 2016

Hello world.  I think as part of 2017, I’d like to resolve to blog more regularly.  I also think I’ve made this resolution before.  We’ll see how that goes…

 

I’m writing today from inside the haze of week of headcold.  I’m hoping that through my fingertips, fuzzy brainwaves will convert to clear sentences.  Wish me luck! (She purposefully pours more coffee into her slightly depressing “Bill Clinton – First First Man 2016” mug.)  Pictured here!

Well, 2017 is upon me.  With it, comes the standard malaise of reviewing your year – accomplishments, goals, progress, and all that.  I’ve found myself caught in a bit of a funk driven by the fact that my break felt like – not so much of a break.  For a quick rundown on that, here’s a recap of the last few weeks:

2016 ended at a sprint with a major FASTLANE grant application at work and several year-end close out items that kept me going right up to the end.  We called it, flew home to Milwaukee on the 22nd for Christmas and spent the next 4 days doing various Christmas celebrations there.  It was a fun opportunity to be home and see family, but the quickness of it all left us feeling a bit wiped out.  For a good mental image of this, see a few weeks back in my instagram, the photo of Rick slumped across the back seat of my parent’s car. We were a tired lot. While we were home though,  we did make a FUN announcement.  We learned we are having ANOTHER BOY!!!  Two littles under age three starting in May/June.  Ha.  If I’m complaining about being tired now, check in with me again in about 6 months.

We made it back to Denver on the 26th in time to catch Rick’s dad, stepmom, and step sister here for their holiday celebration.  They stayed with us and it was lovely to have the company and help as we did some preparation for some upcoming things.  First, we switched over Cody’s room to a “big boy bed” and moved his crib and other nursery furniture to what will be the new nursery.  This transition actually went remarkably well – at least in the immediate aftermath.  Cody took to his new bed and now we are 3/4 of the way there with a new nursery set up.  I also was able to go through all our infant clothes, toys, and other stuff and begin to organize – fill the drawers,set up the monitors, and figure out what holes needed filling that might make up a registry for our upcoming shower in March (with my sister Max!).  We also cleared out our mudroom and began preparing to clear our kitchen because …da da da DAH…after 2 years of permitting gymnastics with the City and County of Denver – we finally got a building permit to renovate our kitchen/mudroom, and pop the top to expand our upstairs bathroom and put a laundry/utility room up there.  It has seemed like the project that would never actually be real, but lo and behold, as I sit here today our contractors are putting down foundation for our kitchen expansion and I’m praying to all the powers that be that we can get this thing most of the way done before we have baby number 2.  Demo began on the 27th of December and we have a 4-6 month renovation schedule tentatively in mind.  For more on this, follow my instagram where I’m documenting the remodel.

Speaking of that, we burst a pipe in our kitchen last week when temps dipped down to single digits.  Our remodel is less than a few weeks in and already we have issues… and that isn’t even the beginning.  Just wait until we tear down the walls to uncover the unaccounted-for spaces – we have already discovered an drywalled-over bathroom.  What’s next!?!?

The goal of this post was a year-end recap, mostly as an exercise in testing my memory and pulling myself out of a year end funk.  So here’s a quick recap of major 2016 things:

  • I rediscovered a semblance of normality after a harrowing postpartum year in 2015.  2016 saw new work opportunities, got me back into a (sort of) groove with fitness, and my brain started functioning again.  Hooray!
  • I started a group at work to discuss/ and promote family friendly policies in the workplace.
  • I wrapped up my year as a member of the EnGen Leadership program through the Colorado Oil and Gas Association.  It was a fantastic year of working with other young leaders in the Denver area, networking, and learning more about the industry.  I’m so glad to have made some great friends through the program and to have been exposed to high level executive leaders from the C-suites of some major E&P’s here in Denver and nationwide.  What an amazing program!  I’m already volunteering as a mentor for next year.
  • I gained 3 new mentors – they are fantastic and I’m so thankful for the time they spend working with me and helping me progress as a professional.
  • I finished year 1 of a 2 year internal HDR leadership program.  Our cohort has gotten to know each other, interviewed managers across the company, and are gearing up to write a white paper on improving our company’s management training practices.
  • I led an awesome, and first of its kind,  “school ambassadors program” at work to facilitate outreach to non-english speaking populations in Denver.  We worked with high school students who are also bilingual (in this case they spoke Somali, Spanish, or Vietnamese) and trained them to conduct surveys about infrastructure needs in their immediate communities so that we could get input from sources that are typically hard to reach.  It was a total success and a really fun way to connect with the community.  The program ended up being promoted internally across HDR’s company website and the American Planning Association wrote a newsletter piece about it!
  • I went back to Mac for my 10-year college reunion.  I wasn’t sure what to expect but really had a fantastic time.  College, in the moment, can be a weird experience but as we have moved on from our time there I’ve realized just how amazing and unique my peers at Macalester are and I felt very invigorated by seeing so many of them in St. Paul this past summer.
  • Rick, Cody, and our support crew of family and friends rode the better part of the circumference of Lake Michigan this summer on our bikes.  It was a fun and wild adventure.  We learned about some new challenges of traveling with a toddler and we also got nearly two full weeks on our bikes just talking to each other …about life, stuff, our dreams and plans, to think out loud and muse about our surroundings.  As new parents our conversations are often in the weeds of logistics and the time we shared together this summer was magical and renewing. It reminded us both of all the things we love about being together.  It helped remind me of how much I love Rick.
  • We got pregnant with number 2!!  My sister is also pregnant and our due dates are 9 days apart.  It will be a wild ride!
  • I traveled to Belfast and saw Van Morrison live with my family.  It was a special trip as Van has been the soundtrack of so much of our lives together.

There are parts of the 2016 year that I certainly wish had gone differently.  I won’t dive too deep here, but I will say that a close family friend passed unexpectedly this year which left a cloud over me in surprising ways.  It was an honor to share so much of my growing up years with Jo, and when I think about her now it always serves a reminder to live life with enthusiasm, generosity, and with gratitude for what I have.   More than anything, her passing made me think hard about my attitude towards life’s challenges and helped me better evaluate where I want to have spent my time and energy when my time comes.

2016, I bid you farewell and look forward to riding the waves ahead in 2o17.

Brrr

Keeping your 150 year old house at 64 seems like a fantastic, energy-saving idea until the temperatures outside drop precipitously and you realize you’re also freezing in your own house!  I’m wearing a hat, curled up under a blanket, and enjoying a short span of alone time while Rick takes Cody grocery shopping.  I know these interludes of solitary time are rare now, and will only become more so, yet there is something challenging about seizing them for myself.  But, here I’m making my attempt to seize it and document it.

Today I rest at 17 1/2 weeks pregnant with numero dos.  We are due in May and very excited about it.  Yet, as I did with the first, I find myself lamenting the general challenge of being pregnant in our US society.  Many of my complaints are probably a direct result of the fact that I’m a consultant.  I guess this is my own failing in the sense that the world of consulting is typically short on time and high on stress.  Within that matrix, I find myself as a “pleaser” personality occasionally putting in days that start as early as 3 am and go hours longer than they should.  I work my butt off and wait for the pat on the back, but I doubt that’s coming. As a pregnant woman, though scaling back seems natural, I often find myself leaning in – not out of desire, but more our of neurosis.  My brain on pregnancy is a touchy, anxious, and sensitive organ.  It doesn’t function at its best and I’m left scrambling trying to maintain a sense of being on top of tasks that were previously easy to manage.  I oscillate between wanting to prove I can do it all, and wanting to throw in the towel.  In these moments, I daydream about starting my own little company and working a schedule that works for my life, and really allowing myself to savor and experience this second pregnancy.  And savor and experience I should, but it is hard.

Part of the reason I feel so strongly about giving myself time to focus on this pregnancy is the fact that I’m going to attempt a VBAC.  That’s a vaginal birth after cesarean.  For those who don’t know, many doctors recommend that after a cesarean subsequent births be planned surgical births.  There is plenty of evidence to indicate that vaginal births are often less risky and safer overall for the mother, but that doesn’t change the beliefs of many.  So, to plan for and attempt a VBAC is a bit unusual, and certainly mentally challenging.  It is really in many ways an attempt to reconcile and heal past trauma, and it opens you up to the risk and vulnerability of re-traumatizing yourself. For that reason,  I see why people opt for a second c-section.  There is a part of me that gets the appeal.  Hell, I’ve had major abdominal surgery once and though it was possibly overall one of the worst and most physically and psychologically scarring moments of my life, it is over and done now.  I experienced that trauma, and part of my wonders about the value of opening myself up to the possibility that I will go through the trauma of a difficult labor, and lasting damage to my nether regions on top of the scars and challenges related to my c-section,  and then the ultimate possibility that I could end with the same outcome as I did before.   It haunts me a bit, but has so far not dissuaded me from setting myself up to try for a vaginal birth.

In the last weeks, the real need to address my previous birth experience, its lasting impacts on me, and my feelings about this birth have come up.  My midwife, amidst the clamor of Rick trying to corral Cody in the small check up room, took pains to remind me to take time to focus on this baby and addressing my previous birth experience. Nodding and agreeing and as I gently asked Cody not to climb on the examining table, I momentarily saw this for what it was —  and the challenge this midwife must have observed before her.

Hey, I’m trying.  I’ve had Rick set up my bike in the future nursery and when I have a spare half hour I head up there and spin while reading Ina May Gaskin’s book Spiritual Midwifery.  I do yoga and plan to do chiropractic throughout the second half of my pregnancy.  I’m trying to also have an open mind knowing that all the work could still result in an outcome I don’t love.  It’s a real test of the buddhist non-attachment study I’ve done in the past.

Today, I met with a doula I really liked.  She too, reminded me of the need to address the part of me that feels broken after my c-section.  As Rick, Cody, and I walked back t the light rail after meeting her I said something to him about how much I appreciated her acknowledging that feeling, and felt that since Cody’s birth there had been sort of a chip on my shoulder trying to understand what happened and heal my ego.  His response told me a lot. He instantly recognized what I said and noted that he saw it too — that I felt broken by the way things happened.  He felt that I had not been respected by the nurses we dealt with or my doctor, and felt that I had a lot of real reasons that I was still confronting my feelings about it.  That was validating.  I think in the rush of working, raising a toddler, and generally trying to re-engage with friends and life postpartum, there was a piece of healing that was pushed to the side.  Now, I think it is sitting back here in front of me and over the next months I have much work to do to address it.

 

 

Side slanting

Fall time is really the best time.  Once the sun’s rays have to slide across the earth a little ways to reach us they’ve lost their vigor.  Cooling happens, and so does beauty.   It seems my body knows just ahead of the calendar that fall is here.  My mind settles to a less frantic pace, and something seems just a bit more right in the world.  I listen to the Indigo Girls and stop striving.  Plus, I don boots.  And scarves.  And my hair matches the trees.

I could go on for hours about the cool nights and my improved sleeping habits, but I’ll stop here.  Why?  Because it is time to talk of Phish.

Our friends Manuel and Ana bought us tickets to see Phish tomorrow night.  This gift, express to us from them (far away in Brazil), was unexpected but awesome.  Phish feels like a tap on the shoulder from my late teen years.  Hello hippie, Kat. Do you remember the words?  I am tuned to Phish on Pandora and trying to re-familiarize myself with the vibe.  Truth be told, since I listen to the Grateful Dead in my car 70% of the time it’s not a huge stretch.  Oh, to have trendy music tastes… I used to do that once.

In other news, I am slated for a trip to Belfast in  two and a half weeks.  I’ll meet up with my family there and we’ll see Van Morrison live in an intimate show.  This is what happens when you lose a close family friend unexpectedly – you start doing weird stuff like buying tickets to concerts on the other side of the world.  I’m not complaining though this will be my third time to the Emerald Isle.  It will be nice to revisit my old study abroad haunts and recall my crazy life as a student at Trinity College.

Other than that, I have very little else to share beyond generally fawning over the cuteness of Cody at 1 and a half.  It I could bottle his little laughs and listen to is when I’m old I would.  They are the most wonderful sounds.

 

Alone Time

I’m coming to you today from my bed at 8:30 pm.  Let me set the scene.  It’s dusk outside, and so hot it makes my ears ring.  I have a fan pumping air at me on medium, so I can still feel relatively sane but I’m not in a wind tunnel.

I’m worn out.  This seems like the story of my life.  So I won’t bore you with the specific details right now.

Let me instead tell you about yesterday.

Yesterday I camped above treeline on wide, lush, flower-speckled piece of earth that made my heart happy.  I ate dinner from a mug, swatting mosquitoes off my cheeks in the fading light of evening.  I felt the cold air descend as the sun dropped below the massive mountain above us.  I crawled into a small green tent, and put my son into grey fleece pajamas. My husband read aloud to us from my book until our eyes were all droopy.  Then he closed the book, and the last of the evening light faded. We snuggled together – a man, a woman, and a little fleece-covered cherub.  The cold evening air infiltrated the tent slowly, and we pulled our sleeping bags tight up around our shoulders to stave off the cold.  Only Cody’s feet remained uncovered, because they get too hot.  Because he is more than just baby now – he’s a small person with feelings and thoughts – laughter and frowns.  He has answers to questions.  He has urgent need for kisses.  He has to throw rocks.  Right now.  He is id embodied.

I was exhausted and fell into a deep sleep.  I recall nothing until I was awoken around midnight to the sound of a human voice yelling ” Aaaargh!”  My eyes opened and I whispered urgently to Rick.  “What was that!?”  He explained it was two, possibly drunk, hikers coming by.  I sat int the heart-pounding space that one sits in when terror awakens.  I realized that as an individual I’d never been afraid to camp.  I assumed I’d figure out the right move in the moment if anything went wrong.  Now, with a gray, fleece-covered cherub to take into account, my fear was palpable. Things change so quickly.

The gray, fleece-covered cherub fervently held me in the cool night – asleep but still vigilant to stay close.  I nestled him in closer and checked his feet for cold.  I evaluated plans for fighting off unwelcome nighttime visitors with a grey, fleece-covered cherub by my side.  I fell into a new sleep – guarding him closely.

He is my everything.  I fear I don’t know exactly how to protect him – both in the night when strangers yell – or in the world when things feel very dark, and good news feels like a rarity.

I sit here alone tonight, and even in my excitement to be unattached for a few days while the cherub, dog, and husband are away  I am reminding you and myself of how urgently and unquestioningly I love this small being and the others too.  I remind you of the exhaustion, the sweet kisses, the tissue-soft cheeks, and the deep fear that he is too sweet for the world and that I can’t do enough to make the world better.  I remind you of my sadness that our reality will unquestionably dampen the joy he exudes today. I remind you that motherhood is a thankless challenge and also my highest honor.

I miss it

I really love writing in this blog.  It is a chance for me to just openly ramble about whatever I choose without too much concern.  It is also a great little diary in many ways.  So, given these facts, you’d think I would be writing in here a lot in my first year as a mother.  I thought so too.  But, we’re all wrong on this one.

Currently, as I type this, my household is asleep.  I just finished a proposal for work (at 10 pm) and I’m now pumping breast milk for tomorrow because I didn’t get around to it during the day.  I tell you this because it serves as a snapshot of my life as the mom to a 10-month old baby.  I’m sure there are working moms out there who feel like life is a breeze, but I’m not one of them.  I feel like I am a walking PSA to all the friends in my life without kids, telling them that, sure, you’ve heard it can be hard to juggle life with a baby, but I’m here to tell you that it’s HARD to juggle.

I literally have not slept through the night in roughly a year.  This time last year I was pregnant AF, and since that time I have had a baby waking me up at all hours of the night.  Sure, there was that two-week period where Cody and Rick were in Austria, but I was pumping that whole time so sleeping still was not a reality for me.  Only now, at over 10 months postpartum, do I finally feel like I have the energy and ability to reliably think, keep track of the day’s events, work out, and care for myself, Rick, and the kid.  I really don’t know how people manage to have more than a handful of these little monsters.

Complaints aside, 10 months is possibly one of the cutest ages ever.  Cody babbles, says Addie’s name, sings, crawls towards me when I come home, and hangs on to my legs as I walk around.  He is still snuggly but mostly he is on the go, exploring and taking in all that life has to offer.  Last weekend I went horseback riding and we brought Cody to the stables.  To him, horses  were possibly the coolest thing he’s seen yet.  It’s such fun to see life through his little hazel eyes!

He sleeps in his bed for the first few hours each night, but typically still wakes up and needs to feed or be comforted.  At this point, I usually bring him to bed and fall asleep nursing.  When I wake again later, there is this tiny human cuddled up next to me, often with a hand touching me for comfort.  I listen in the stillness for the gentle sounds of his breathing, and if he seems so soundly asleep that I won’t wake him, I often trace my fingers on his soft skin.  Babies are the most incredible things!

I recognize that my conversation has devolved (here anyway) into recollections of moments in motherhood.  In some ways I care and want to preserve this space for a me that is separate from my mother-ness.  That said, there isn’t really a duality in my existence.  I am a mom.  I work.  I catch my breath in my throat when I think of my tiny little son and how overwhelming life and love and motherhood are. These are all parts of me, and so be it if my blog turns into a ramble on this new chapter.

Where has the time gone?

I never thought I’d do this.  But, I’ve done it. For the last few weeks I’ve been participating in an instagram yoga challenge.  Basically, you follow the hashtag, #babybouncebackchallenge and each day all the people participating post a picture of themselves in the day’s designated asana, often with their baby.  You can check them out in the sidebar here.

I always thought yoga challenges seemed to focus on the wrong thing.  They emphasized making a pose look pretty for the camera, rather than the real yoga of accepting where you are and working to fully express the pose for you in the time and place you’re at. But I’ve learned a bit in this challenge.  Because it’s a bunch of postpartum moms, you really get that acceptance of where you’re at more overtly than with other challenges.  For me, it’s been really wonderful to connect with my friends in Australia who have had babies since we all did lots of yoga together years ago.  It’s also great to read about the challenges and joys other moms face with their physical body, their lack of sleep, their stress, and their overwhelming love for their babies.  It helps me remember that, though I don’t have a lot of friends around me with kids, I’m not alone.

Cody is a sweet, wonderful baby.  I’m told there aren’t many like him, and that I shouldn’t expect such an easy-going baby when we go for round two.  And that’s OK.  I can accept that. He is a joy.  His smiles warm my heart, his chatter is so playful ad sweet, and his squishy thighs are my favorite things to squeeze.  He makes me so incredibly happy.  I want a million of him.   But, that doesn’t negate the challenges.  I felt like my brain was running at about 50% for the first 6 months postpartum.  I still don’t ever sleep through the night – even if Cody does occassionaly.  I struggle to manage my time between work, play, Cody, and trying to care for and support myself.  One of the hardest pieces of rediscovering myself amidst all this change has been the issue of accepting myself each day for where I am in my life.  I am still breastfeeding him, and I hope to continue as long as I can.  But that said, breastfeeding poses its own challenges in rediscovering yourself as a mom.   I had heard over and over again before having Cody that breastfeeding just causes all the baby weight to fall off.  I’m here to tell you, that is not true in all cases.  When I got pregnant, almost immediately I put on about 10 pounds.  Maybe it was the hormones, because even though I didn’t eat a lot during the first trimester, I packed on the lbs.  Well, now I think it’s those last hormonal 15 pounds that may not ever leave me – at least as long as I’m breastfeeding.  And, as I’ve googled this endlessly, I’ve realized that there are those who lose weight effortlessly while breastfeeding, and then there are people like me.  We keep a nice literal and figurative cushion for the uncertainties in life, I suppose.  I think as an early human this would probably have been advantageous evolutionarily.  Now, it really just keeps me from fitting in my pants.  It’s not the end of the world, but it gets under my skin and it means that I still don’t really feel like myself yet.  That’s not to say I feel bad – each day I have built in time to snuggle with my baby and provide him with sustenance and nurturing.  Breastfeeding is magical – both because it is such a joy to be with my baby and feel connected to him, but also because it gives me superpowers.  For example, baby is crying and overtired.  He has had dinner, a bottle, had a nice back scratch – but nothing is working to settle him down.  What to do?  Boob.  That’s what.  They are the ultimate baby problem solvers.  As someone who has never had any other real use for these organs, I’m sure thankful for them now.

But yes, the pants thing.  That’s kind of a problem for me.  I work out, yo.  I just rode my bicycle over Trail Ridge Road.  I run like 4 times a week and do lots of yoga.  I just happen to show little to no progress in losing that baby weight.  So, I’m working towards self-acceptance while striving to express myself as best I can in the time and place I’m at in my life.  See how we came full circle with that?  Yoga.  So good.

Ok, off to work.  I can’t believe I hadn’t blogged since June.  Babies…