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.

 

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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.

 

 

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.

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!  🙂

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!

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.

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. 🙂