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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Diversionary Tactics

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

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

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

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

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

 

Rumbles

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

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

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

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

Pregnancy Reflections

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

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

Windshield Time

I spent four hours today staring through a windshield.  I have a friend who travels a lot for work who calls this “windshield time” and I like the phrase.  It’s a contemplative time, but one that allows for multitasking  – namely moving from one point to another while thinking or talking.  Today our point A was Fruita, Colorado – an adorable town on the western edge of the state.  Our point B was Denver.  So our morning was spent traversing the state, quietly, together with Adelaide in the back seat – her eyes fluttering in and out of sleep.  We were all contemplative – Rick was doing some reading for school, Adelaide was dreaming (I imagine)  about the pasture she in which she woke this morning, with purple wildflowers and heavy dew shimmering in the early light of morning.  I was listening to “Going Driftless: An Artist’s Tribute to Greg Brown” and staring out at the buttes and mesas of Western Colorado, to the twang of a slide guitar, contemplating the trajectory of our lives.

Tomorrow I start a job that I am thrilled about.  It is a unique and special opportunity and I’m very thankful that the stars aligned for my resume to fall into the hands of the right person who could offer me a chance to combine my background in natural resources with a stronger communications role and an opportunity to be at the cutting edge of natural resource conflicts.  I am thrilled to begin a new chapter, and to take a slightly different angle to the natural resources issues I have been working on for several years now.  I cannot wait.

That said, it is sad in many ways to bring this past six months of transition to a close.  Since we left our jobs in Brisbane, Rick and I have travelled throughout much of Australia, moved back home to the United States, travelled the country searching for the right place for us to settle long-term, spent time abroad, and after much deliberation, some drama, and a bit of soul-searching we found ourselves right back where our story began in Denver.

After much contemplation, our perfect path was the one of least resistance and the one that led us to unpack our boxes in a peach stucco home flanked by flowering cherry trees in Lincoln Park.  And in settling here, we opened so many new doors – jobs, a home to expand in, and an opportunity to look at each other and be thankful for our many blessings.

So, this morning I was reflecting on everything that brought us to this point, and I won’t lie, I did a bit of happy crying.  As I steered our way back and forth over the frothy brown Colorado River, under the watchful sentinels of the rust-colored buttes, through Glenwood Canyon and on I-70 into the snowcapped peaks of Summit County, the light from the east cast shadows over the dusty slabs of mesa and snowcapped mountains in the distance.  Rick and I reminded ourselves to never become immune to the beauty of this place we live.

So often as I drive I listen to music, really listen, and try to take in a timely message and there were so many today – Greg Brown’s songs are raw and raw was in perfect tune with my heart today.  Raw and joyful.  We are burgeoning into a new phase of life together and so many small changes are happening daily that indicate we are in the right place and doing the right things for ourselves.  This morning we woke in a three person tent in a dewy field with our puppy snuggling between us. We all grinned and murmured in the orange light of sunrise knowing our first night camping back in Colorado (with puppy) was a success. Tomorrow I begin a new job and Rick begins the hunt for teaching roles – a whole new ballgame for him.  Our lives which have felt so in flux are finally setting down roots.

If gratitude ever gets old on this blog I am sorry, but I have never felt more blessed than over the last week.  Thank you for sharing it with me.