New Year, New baby, new outlook

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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.

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Big changes

Outside my window the snow falls in torrents.  I sit in an upstairs bedroom at “The Wolf Den”, the place my mom is renting for the month up in the mountains. (The name Wolf Den was not her doing – that honor goes to the unit’s owners.  I wonder often at who these wolves are in real life.)  Below me are the voices of my mom and some of her oldest friends, all together in Colorado for some hiking and girl time. It’s wonderful.

I feel a fatigue in my bones from a month of hard work and busyness.  I have complained at length on this blog about the tyranny of uncertainty in my life.  Today, I aim not to complain but to observe that perhaps the uncertainty is ending – and feel a sense of gratitude in that.

This has been a week for the books.  Rick and I became the proud Aunt and Uncle to a sweet little baby, Mary.  So, Lisa (Rick’s mom), Rick, and I dropped paintbrushes and sandpaper and flew home to New York for a few days.  Our arrival timed perfectly with the new family’s return from the hospital.  We came, filled up their living room with tears and smiles, lots of cooing over the precious baby, and heaps of freshly cooked food.  Rick and I were so elated to have a kitchen (after months!) that when we weren’t holding the new baby we cooked most of the meals for the family and guests while we were there. We took turns holding the little one in her perfect swaddle and pondered about when this all might be a reality in our lives.  I picked their baby nurse’s brain to learn about the challenges and joys of her job with new families.  I observed the new parents, and watched with such joy as Rick snuggled the newest addition in his arms and gave her lots of sweet kisses.  It was such fun to have a short reunion with his brother and his brother’s wife in this precious time, with the newest little baby, and before they move abroad later this spring.

In addition to this wonderful news, after over a month of interviews with an engineering firm in Denver, I received an offer this week for a position that I am thrilled about.  Though there remains much to determine, it is beginning to look like our lives may take a more permanent form here in the very place that they melded together. It is a welcome event.  Though we have looked in many other places, Colorado feels like home, and fulfills many of our overarching desires for a long-term place to settle.  We are meeting with a realtor tomorrow and beginning to look into giving this move some permanence. Joy!

By way of observation, I have witnessed many friends undertake the unpacking of dreams and plans that follow a marriage.  It sometimes goes quickly and sometimes slowly, but in every case it is fun to watch two souls building their lives together.  It is such a joy to be undertaking this process with Rick – working to accommodate his needs and mine, piecing together the pieces of a bigger picture that only the two of us have a clear vision of.  I find that each day I am floored that I am actually a participant in this process, that I have somehow found myself in this place.  I look at my finger and I am astounded to find that I am married, building a life, and acting the part of an adult, even if I sometimes don’t believe I’m qualified for the title.

 

Honeymoon Part II – The Grand Canyon

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I have to admit it’s a bit funny to still be writing about my honeymoon.  I can’t keep up with myself.  In the last 10 days I have been in 8 states, on the road, traveling by foot, train, plane and anything in between.  My honeymoon was weeks ago, but I still haven’t written about the BEST part of it – our trip to the Grand Canyon.

After two years in Australia with Aussies constantly asking us questions about the U.S. like, “Are you afraid you’re going to get shot all the time?”, and referencing our general fatness, it was hard not to get a little bit of a chip on our American shoulders.  We decided to make our honeymoon a bit of a tour of discovery (mostly for me) of America’s proud landscapes.  Obviously the Grand Canyon was the first thing on the list!

So, the Grand Canyon!  We drove there early in the morning from a weird little town in Southern Utah called Kanab.   Kanab was apparently a mecca for making old western movies back in the day.  Now it appears to host a number of tourists running the gamut between Zion and Grand Canyon – and little else, with the exception of two subpar steakhouses.

We left Kanab, and drove for about two hours before we stopped for breakfast at a charming little diner called the Lees Ferry Lodge, on the edge of the Vermillion Cliffs National Monument.  We sat waiting for our breakfast with another couple and before long we got to chatting about why we were there.  Turns out they were celebrating their 50th anniversary, and there we were about 10 days into our marriage.  They shared a few words of wisdom with us before we went on our way.  It was a special moment, alone in a desert diner, sharing a common love of wild places and the people with whom we explore them.

When we made it to the south rim, we still had much to do before we could embark on our trip.  First we stopped at the visitors center to check out some information, then on to the backcountry office to grab our permits to camp at Bright Angel campground in the canyon’s bottom (secured four months in advance!), then back to our car to gather our backpacks, change our clothes, and then on to a shuttle bus to the South Kaibab trailhead.

The South Kaibab trail is the newer and more rugged tail to the bottom of the Grand Canyon. It’s a bit exposed, and a little gravelly, which makes it a bit hard on the legs for 7 miles of downhill.  I was worried we wouldn’t make it down until dark so we practically ran down,  making it in about two and a half hours with lots of daylight left.  (Note:  There is a severe overabundance of caution from rangers at the Grand Canyon to the extent that their advice is barely even applicable to young, fit, ambitious hikers and should be taken with a large grain of salt.  Had we listened to them, we never should have left the rim! )

I really wasn’t sure what to expect from the hike.  I was actually underwhelmed by the view from the south rim.  It’s too difficult to really understand the canyon’s depth and expansiveness from there, where nothing can be put into perspective.  But, thankfully as one hikes down into the canyon, the depth, color, and topography begin to expose themselves.

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The canyon is absolutely breathtaking, and it becomes more so the deeper one ventures in.  By the time we were within view of the suspension bridge across the river, I was smitten – both with the place and with Rick for bringing me to it.  We made our way down, through the dark, narrow tunnel of rock, and out on to the bridge.  It was an incredible journey.  To stand above the powerful Colorado, watching it course below us, and look up at the fading light in the canyon was pure magic.  I was so entranced by the colors, the warmth, and the welcoming air of this little oasis amidst the starkness of the desert.  It’s incredible.

We wasted no time trotting into Bright Angel campground and setting up a camp next to Bright Angel Creek.  For the next two nights it kept a constant bubbling soundtrack to our adventure.  The noise of water, the sound of deer grazing, and the lushness of the area surrounding this confluence of the Bright Angel Creek (named because it was one of the few sources of palatable water in the canyon) and the Colorado, gave the place a romantic, peaceful aura.  We loved it.

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The next day we hiked twelve miles round trip to Ribbon Falls, a side canyon on the way up to the North Rim.  The hike is beautiful and culminates in a falls that come cascading over the canyon rim above, splattering onto a green, algae covered dome of rock that has been hollowed out by erosion over time.  Though it was cold, I couldn’t resist tearing off most of my clothes and going for a dip, which included ducking into the rock cave behind the falls and exploring.  Nearly hypothermic afterwards, I laid out on the sun-baked rocks until Rick almost lost it worrying about me getting sunburned.  So, off we went.

We decided midway down that a steak dinner sounded preferable to our meal of quinoa, so we swung by Phantom Ranch on our way down, and asked to join the guests for dinner.  Apparently it can be difficult to get a reservation, but when it’s your honeymoon things fall into place a bit more easily. 🙂

We made ourselves comfortable and put away several beers, justifying our growing buzz by telling ourselves the mules that carried down the beer would appreciate our efforts to lighten their load. Then we had a great steak, went to a late evening ranger talk, and toddled off to snuggle up in bed and listen to the creek gurgling beside us.

Bright and early the next morning, Rick and I headed out and up the Bright Angel trail.  This route is the more traditional way down the canyon, originally used by the Havasupai tribe, and then later used as the standard route until the South Kaibab was constructed.  It is a steady climb of about 10% grade for 10 miles.  So, though we made it up relatively quickly, we were pretty tired when we reached the top several hours later.  By that time, we felt fully justified in craving pizza and beer.  We made our way to Flagstaff and found just that.

Flagstaff is an adorable and artsy little college town.  I’m not sure how it never made it on to my radar, but after our time there I would never pass up an opportunity to visit again.  Though we had originally planned to spend the night meditating in vortexes in Sedona, we were easily lured into staying in Flagstaff for the night and traipsing from one outdoor shop to the next with warm drinks in hand.  We decided to spend the night in an old hotel called the Weatherford.  Unbeknownst to us, it did double time as a VERY popular bar. By the time we were heading to bed (8 pm ) the bar was just getting going.  Our “European style” bathrooms were an amusing sight as I waited in line in my PJ’s to use the toilet, surrounded by girls dressed for a Friday night out.  But, even with the noise and the ridiculousness of sharing our hotel floor with a bar, we still had a great time.

The Grand Canyon and Flagstaff were the highlights of the trip to me.  It’s hard not to become reflective when the sandstone walls constantly remind you of your smallness and impermanence. There is something romantic about being in love and happy in the face of such confronting evidence of your own insignificance. With eternity echoing in the stillness all you can do is hold your lover, best friend, and life partner and savor the glory of being alive and vital in the wild, unblinking world.

Full of gratitude.  🙂

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Roaring Twenties revisit

I’m so sore.  From about the bottom of my rib cage to the top of my quads, I feel wrecked.  Absolutely demolished. Hip openers tend to be a bit rough, but this was a whole new level of “ouch.”  Perhaps, it’s the fact that finally, after nearly a year of consistent yoga practice, I’m actually able to lay claim to having pretty open hips.  This weekend’s hip openers, however, may have introduced me to the next threshold in opening those suckers up, and in doing so they unleashed my inner tyrant.

I’ll back up and introduce this a bit.  I have been challenging myself to a personal 30 day challenge with yoga through September- so I’m practicing EVERY day for 30 days.  It’s not THAT far from my norm, but it’s the days when you really don’t have the motivation and HAVE to do it anyway that make the 30-day challenge worth pursuing – so pursue I will! I did the same thing this time last year, and it was a great way to energize and ramp up into spring!  So, about a week into it, feeling good and really happy,  I signed up for a hip and lower chakra workshop with Duncan Peak, the founder of Power Living Yoga, based in Sydney, to challenge myself a bit more and learn more about the chakras (spoiler alert: that last part didn’t happen).

If I’m going to be honest (and I am) I was perhaps a bit motivated to sign up by his poster:

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He’s not the worst person to fixate on for three hours on a Saturday. In fact, I will do extremely long holds of low lunges at his bidding.  I will sit in double pigeon for many minutes.  I will work my lower back and glutes until I can barely walk.  Yes, Duncan, I will.  What’s next?  I am an eager pupil.

But, in all seriousness, despite my recognition that he is well-respected in the yoga community, I definitely prejudged him a bit.  I do that sometimes, with very good-looking men.  I assume they lack substance.  But, as is often the case, I was wrong.  The man has an extensive knowledge of the kinesiology and anatomy that makes or breaks many poses for people.  And he explained it clearly, and with humour!  So, despite the raging ache in my hips and back all day today and the feeling that I might actually or metaphorically tear Rick’s head off if he said the wrong thing (hip-openers arouse latent rage inside me…) I think it was one of the best workshops I’ve been too!  It makes me more excited than I have been in a long time to continue with my teacher training!

I have to admit that in riding the wave of rage/emotion that comes with deep hip openers I found myself wondering at the level of junk we store in our bodies.  It felt to me like over the last few years, my yoga work unpacked emotional stuff relating to my last major relationship – some sad emotions.  But, that had really plateaued as of several months ago.  I was feeling a bit stagnant in my practice.  Breakthroughs were happening with less regularity.

Yesterday’s hip openers, however, took me on a new and different adventure, farther back, possibly into more deeply buried gunk.  I spent the whole day today feeling like I did all through college and in the years immediately following: constrained; wanting to break free; generally annoyed with the requirements of life;  rebellious; hormonal.  There was no apparent cause for this in my life today, so after some reflection I attributed it to the previous day’s hip openers and I decided that rather than risk blowing up at Rick without cause, I’d go take a long walk in the West End. As I was walking with my headphones on I noticed a group of guys at a restaurant kind of looking over at me and smiling.  Now, I have not spent a lot of time on my own in the last few years, and I certainly haven’t been hit on much by other guys – so I have to admit I was kinda digging being the object of their desire for a moment.  It occurred to me that I had better appreciate the moment with my wedding coming up in less than two months, and I flipped the stone of my engagement ring around my finger as I walked, considering the symbol on my hand with a mixture of excitement and trepidation.  What happens if one day I want to be free?  Will I always love Rick as I do today?

Now, I know that I want to marry Rick.  I have no doubt about that. Since meeting him I have had a sense that he was the one for me.  But, it was interesting recalling that the feelings I felt today were reminiscent of much of my life throughout my twenties.  It’s like my hip opening session uncovered a deeper store of pent up emotions from a formative period in my life – my freedom-seeking, angst-ridden, flirtatious, ridiculous twenties.  Ah, how fun they were, and how glad we all are that they’ve passed away into oblivion, only to be recalled in oblique references by my friends in wedding speeches and more obvious references whenever my sisters feel like reminding me of what a colossal pain-in-the-ass I can be.  I fear their reemergence, particularly now.

Perhaps I’m misallocating the cause of my angst.  It could be a biproduct of my overall uncertainty over the course of my life as of about two months from now.  Or it could be a hangover from the book I just finished – The Fault in Our Stars, by John Green.  (If you want to spend several hours crying, reliving the major loves and losses in your life, and reflecting on your general smallness in the larger picture, it’s a great book!  Have plenty of rehydrating fluids handy though.)

All I can say is, something happened to me over the last week (or yesterday) and I got really grouchy today.  I revisited a rebellious, moody, angsty Kat that I haven’t embodied in several years.  There were some moments it was a bit amusing, but mostly as I tried to observe the emotions that were coming out I felt grateful to be in a different, more stable, more happy place in my life.  As I often do, I reflected on that person I was then, back in my mid-twenties.  I recognized how passionately I resisted being pinned to one version of myself, one path forward, or one single person as a partner.  Hell, it was my twenties and that’s exactly what they’re for, but in hindsight I realize that I was a bit of a wrecking ball at times.

I guess I’m glad to be where I am, and I am now definitely a bit reluctant to delve too deeply into the meat of my hips in the near future.  🙂

Thank You, Ever on my Mind

I was storming through the house, burning from some inner fire whose proximate source wasn’t clear to me, or anyone else— ultimately, born of frustration at my day-to-day search for a job, a challenge proving fruitless. And, unfortunately, directed at the person who brought me here, R.

I wasn’t being mean, I was just not being me.  I wasn’t kind.  I wasn’t gentle. I wasn’t laughing or smiling.  I was brusque and distracted.  R left the kitchen, where I was chopping garlic with a focused fury and headed to put on some music to calm the tension.

Moments later, Emily Saliers’ voice cut through the garlic haze, crooning “Least Complicated”, one of my early and lasting musical favorites.  Swamp Ophelia, an Indigo Girls album filled with songs and lyrics that weave a history of my life;  growing up, experiencing love and loss, and becoming who I am, sang out from our stereo.  R’s album. My life. (In an abbreviated and poeticized form— articulated so much better than I ever could.)

As I sung along with the words, the tension eased out of me, garlic chopping turned to slicing, and I fell in love with R all over again.  To know me is to know that Swamp Ophelia will pacify the eruptive fury of my soul.

I have been less than direct in my mission of writing about love on this blog, but as I walked home from an interview today the song Free in You came on my ipod. I was in a good mood.  The interview went well.  The cosmos aligned in my favor momentarily.  As I listened to it, all I could think of was my life right here, right now.

I have been in love before. Deeply.  I walked away from it, in one of the more difficult decisions of my life.  I won’t say I never looked back.  I did.  Plenty.  Perhaps one of the reasons I have held back some of my writings about love in its specifics rather than its abstractions on this blog, was a fear that I was treading into a dangerous and exposed world in publicizing my feelings.

Well, today I am going there.  The song Free in You (video above) perfectly describes how I feel about R.  Love as I once knew it, was like a drug addiction, with sailing highs and torturous lows.  Love as I know it now, is an altogether different being.  I may be unemployed, unsure where I fit into the new world I inhabit, and tentative about my next steps, but I do know how I feel about the man by my side in my confusion.  I am proud of him, I love him, and I want to do what is right by him.  I want him to stick around.  Sometimes I wonder what he sees in the human-shaped chaos that is me, but he reminds me that he sees me. He sees the things I consider weakness and he loves them too.  He believes we deserve each other and happiness.

How he knows so much and articulates it so well when I need to hear it most, blows my mind.  I sometimes believe he is a sage from a different universe, sent here to teach me how to be a better person.  But, then I see that his light shines on other people— cab drivers, coworkers, people in the running club he started, and I know that I am kidding myself if I think that he’s here just for me.  He is here to set the bar for personhood.  If we all strive to be like R, the world will be a better place.

I recently came across this letter, from John Steinbeck to his son. 

He says this about love: “Glory in it for one thing and be very glad and grateful for it. The object of love is the best and most beautiful. Try to live up to it.”

And so today, I am glorying in, and being grateful for what I have.  And daily, I try to live up to it.