Becoming My Parents

Growing up I couldn’t have been more embarrassed by my parents. It sounds silly but I know we can all relate to this feeling. It wasn’t my dad’s spandex bike shorts that really got to me or my mom’s cheesiness. It was the small talk. My parents are small-talkers. It didn’t matter where we were they would strike up a conversation with the nearest stranger. In line for the grocery store my mom couldn’t resist commenting on a cute baby or an usual food in their cart. My dad would always ask the server where they were from or talk to store owners about their business. Every time I would duck my head down low trying to hide from the strangers they were talking as well as possible onlookers. I did not want to be associated with these crazy, over-friendly people.

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Don’t be fooled- they’re very friendly. 

As luck would have it now I’m a dang small-talker myself. I should have known it would happen eventually, but I spent so much time being afraid of strangers that I hadn’t even noticed the change. Before I studied abroad my junior year of college my mother secretly got her passport because she was convinced I wouldn’t make it a whole semester away. In her defense, it did seem pretty unlikely. Raising my hand in class made my heart race. Walking a different path around the school filled me with anxiety. I went out of my way to never have to initiate conversations with people I didn’t know. Honestly I preferred not to initiate conversations altogether.

My semester abroad ended up being a wonderful experience but I was surrounded by people in the same situation, looking for friends. It wasn’t until I backpacked alone for a year that I truly put my fear of strangers to the test. This was hard. This was lonely. Some days I had to admit I didn’t have the energy to introduce myself to someone new. I didn’t want to ask them the standard backpacking questions (where are you from, where are you going, how long are you here, are you alone, are you working here, blah), but most days I got over it. If you want conversation over dinner or someone to explore a beach with you have to introduce yourself when you travel alone.

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These are total strangers I traveled New Zealand with. 

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It’s important to have these people to travel with otherwise you have to ask random people to take ridiculous photos of you.

Still it’s not backpacking that I have to credit my small-talking abilities to. It’s the traveling that gave me the practice but my parents showed me how it’s done. As the saying goes, they’ve never met a stranger. At my last Toastmasters meeting I was asked to give a short, “impromptu” speech on whether or not I was the type to talk on an elevator ride. The answer was pretty obvious and the club did not hesitate to tell me so after I spoke. That’s a wonderful feeling to know that I’ve come far from my social anxiety but also that others see it too.

Small-talking is sometimes painful and I just can’t handle it. Sometimes I still struggle when I have do a networking event or introduce myself to others. But I can’t deny that being a small-talker has gotten me travel tips, free drinks, friends and even the occasional job. For all those opposed, I highly recommend you give it a try.

It Takes a Village

This past week has been pretty busy in a great, whirlwind way. All my projects at work made significant progress which made me feel much better about my job. This is something I imagine we all deal with- the feeling that we are just trudging along and to what end? Hitting a milestone is exactly the encouragement I needed to keep going right now!

At home we have been making crazy, progress on putting in our upstairs bathroom. I’ll share all the details on this later, but the gist is we’re going to be a 2 bathroom household! Tyler has been moving this project along at warp speed and it’s getting pretty exciting.

In addition, I’ve had the chance to see my lovely Wilmington friends so much this week! As a boring pregnant lady it’s pretty rare I venture out on school nights  (without drinking happy hour just isn’t the same, ya know?) but it’s been incredibly lovely this week to make an exception. Earlier this week during a birthday celebration (cocktails and sushi – another fun night to be pregnant) I was completely stunned when one friend blurted, “I can’t wait to meet your baby.” She wasn’t the first person to say this but she was the first person to say and mean, “I can’t wait to know your baby.” She wasn’t referring to wanting to know what baby B will look like or even playing and cooing over baby B. She was entirely referring to the person he or she will become and how they will become a figure in our little group of friends.

I was completely overwhelmed by this. Both overcome by the emotion of her statement we dropped the topic to more birthday dinner appropriate things but I haven’t stopped thinking about it. The idea that my child already has true friends waiting on here for him or her to arrive is too wonderful to express. I grew up in a small, quiet family of four that divided and shrunk early on in life. My sister went to college when I went into the third grade and my parents spent most of their time not speaking to one another before they separated when I was twelve. Although we had a few family friends that I would certainly consider part of our family “village” I rarely saw them outside of my mother’s best friend, Ed, who came into our lives in when I was in middle school. Going over to my friends’ houses with larger families and friends always around always left me envious. I would soak up the noise and chaos as much as I did the laughter and excitement. For baby B to experience the love of an extended family would really be a dream come true.

I am also embarrassed to say that I had not yet put a lot of thought into knowing baby B in the way my friend meant. I’ve been entirely preoccupied by the more superficial concerns of being pregnant. What do we need to purchase? Am I eating well enough? Exercising enough? How will we handle maternity leave or daycare? Although I have thought about what this munchkin might be interested in, I hadn’t yet really considered baby B a whole person. There is someone growing right now that I will have a chance to know soon. I can’t even imagine what it will be like to get to know them, little by little, more every day.

Twenty-three weeks, y’all. We’re over halfway and getting bigger every day.

Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop: Human Family

Sometimes, advertising serves a wonderful purpose. It brings to light things we desperately needed to hear.

Human Family – Poem by Maya Angelou

I note the obvious differences
in the human family.
Some of us are serious,
some thrive on comedy.

Some declare their lives are lived
as true profundity,
and others claim they really live
the real reality.

The variety of our skin tones
can confuse, bemuse, delight,
brown and pink and beige and purple,
tan and blue and white.

I’ve sailed upon the seven seas
and stopped in every land,
I’ve seen the wonders of the world
not yet one common man.

I know ten thousand women
called Jane and Mary Jane,
but I’ve not seen any two
who really were the same.

Mirror twins are different
although their features jibe,
and lovers think quite different thoughts
while lying side by side.

We love and lose in China,
we weep on England’s moors,
and laugh and moan in Guinea,
and thrive on Spanish shores.

We seek success in Finland,
are born and die in Maine.
In minor ways we differ,
in major we’re the same.

I note the obvious differences
between each sort and type,
but we are more alike, my friends,
than we are unalike.

We are more alike, my friends,
than we are unalike.

We are more alike, my friends,
than we are unalike.

 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ztMfBZvZF_Y

A Southern Belle, if She Wants to Be

When I was in high school I was given an essential gift for any Southern girl- A Southern Belle Primer or Why Princess Margaret will never be a Kappa Kappa Gamma. My great-aunt Betty gave this to me with her sly sense of humor. I was working on becoming a Southern grandmother’s nightmare. I dyed my hair pink and wore ripped up, second-hand clothes all of which I had either embroidered on or decorated with song lyrics. I didn’t attend church nor hold to their political views. In preparation for our visits to my grandparents’ house I was encouraged to tone down the way I dressed and avoid debates.

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My beautiful great-aunt Betty

I don’t mean to give you the wrong impression. This was a humorous, kind household but it was also all ways Southern. So when Aunt Betty sent me this book out of the blue I was both pleased to have been recognized in my family as having a sense of humor but also as having my own choices. The inscription read:

To Katharine-

A future Southern Belle- if she wants to be one-

Much love, Aunt Betty

I had completely forgotten about this incredible gem of a book until my friend Anita came to visit this past weekend. Being Canadian she gets an extra kick out of reading it and looks for it when she comes to visit. Until we studied abroad together she had not been so fortunate as to have been exposed to some of our lesser known traditions.

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For example Anita did not know that a bridesmaid’s shoes should match the punch nor was she aware of the shame associated in using Miracle Whip. People who use Miracle Whip are clearly from the Midwest (my mother is from Oklahoma so I grew up with this unsavory ingredient).

I read “A Southern Belle’s Ten Golden Rules” and laugh at rules about dating sorority sister’s exes or “Never serve pink lemonade at your Junior League committee meetings. It has Communist overtones.” but in reality there are a couple I would never stray from. I feel very uncomfortable wearing white before Easter or after Labor Day. It’s as though I can tell the Southern fashion police is watching me from afar and taking notes. I also never miss an opportunity for a thank you note. While I have recently been slower with my reply times (enter excuse based on pregnancy here) I never forget to send one. I’m a modern girl and have been known to chew gum in public and once upon a time I also smoked on the street… but I always knew it was extra rebellious to do so.

The best thing about the primer is that some parts are serious. There are actual instructions on how to use a finger bowl and the ten ways to spot a belle outside of the South are spot on. While these all pertained to women like my grandmother and her sisters, only a few are still around with young women today:

  • She calls her father “Daddy” no matter her age (guilty)
  • Iced tea is an appropriate drink no matter the weather
  • Her parties all have themes (I wish!)

Now you can find many books that both adore and lovingly mock Southern culture and in particular Southern women. Most everyone has seen The Sweet Potato Queen books or We’re Just Like You, Only Prettier. Back then this was the first time I had seen such a thing and I can’t help but still love it. I find it endearing and ridiculous all at the same time. When it comes down to it I, too, went to cotillion and wore white gloves. I won’t ever stop referring to my parents as Mama and Daddy and I do believe chicken salad is one of the best comfort foods.

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My grandmother (top) and her sisters

If you’re unfamiliar with all the best parts of this insanity I suggest you buy yourself a copy and watch a Designing Women marathon. You should be set after that.

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The hair says it all.

Bless your heart.

Pregnancy Brain- Fact or Myth?

*No science will be used or referenced in this post. I’m all about the anecdotal truths right now. 

A couple years ago I was on the way to lunch with several coworkers. One woman, a mother of three who I admired both for her intelligence but also for her unfaltering patience, spoke of pregnancy brain. She described a fender bender she was in when pregnant with her third child, a situation that was clearly  her fault. When she blamed it on “pregnancy brain” I scoffed internally. This seemed like people blaming errors on having a “blonde moment” (another thing I take offense to).

Well, skeptics I am here to say I believe. I have to believe otherwise I am losing my mind. Let me present you with the evidence.

Exhibit A: This one is the smallest infraction but I’m building up here. Two weeks ago I jumped in the car with my car-hating dog in the back to head to our dog training class. I was already running late because I hadn’t been paying attention to the time. On the way I forgot where I was going and drove to Harris Teeter. It was when we went over a speed bump and Clara threw up that I remembered where I was going. Other versions of this same situation have happened multiple times. Luckily that was the only time that involved vomit.

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Poor Clara

Exhibit B: Our dear friends were in town and one was describing a recent trip to Vancouver. She was giving us an excited description of a whale tour. As Tyler started to discuss east coast versus west coast whales I got incredibly confused. Why? Because I couldn’t remember what coast he lived on! I kept insisting that it was reasonable to believe that Tyler may have seen the same whales as the on the whale tour. Please note, Tyler and I have lived on the east coast for over 18 months now. It’s not new. It probably took me about 5 minutes to fully digest where I’d gone astray in the conversation.

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This is where I live. It’s called the Atlantic Ocean. 

Exhibit C: Husband Tyler is somewhat colorblind so I am often correcting him in the color arena. That house is green not gray, etc. This past week I mocked him for thinking our dressers were both stained not painted. It took almost five days until I figured out that he was right. We gave away our painted dresser when we moved to North Carolina. Both our dressers are the same identical wood. One is the dresser my parents bought for my nursery. The other my mom bought when I was in middle school. I am very familiar with both of these dressers, and yet it took me FIVE days to come to this realization.

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Also, a fact: I want ice cream right now. Really just every day, all day.

Things Are Better. I Have Hope.

I’m a southerner, but not like a deep-South southerner. I am from a small city of 300,000- small by city standards. I don’t think you can be deep South without being from somewhere off the beaten path. We had a presidential debate one election year for goodness sake. If you are not from south of the Mason-Dixon line you might think that it’s all the same down here. It’s not. North Carolina and Tennessee might find itself with much in common but Mississippi and Louisiana really have their own South as well as their own state cultures. Florida and Texas are both unique personalities onto themselves and yet still southern.

Sometimes I forget all of this, the intricacies of my part of the world. Last night I happened to turn on NPR’s Marketplace and listened to a story on Philadelphia, Mississippi, a place I have never heard of even though it is where three civil rights workers were killed in 1964. The movie “Mississippi Burning” was inspired by the events there. The story discussed racism and economic disparities in the area. It shared viewpoints of residents both young and old. An eighteen-year old contemplated whether she’d come back home after college. A businesswoman discussed the responsibility that comes with freedom. The thing that stuck with me most was the mayor who said, “Things are better. I have hope.” One statement doesn’t go without the other. Things may have gotten better but it’s not enough so we must have hope. We’re not there yet. We must have hope.

It’s not easy to have hope in today’s fast-paced world. We don’t just hear about every tragedy, we hear about it seconds after it happens and we watch firsthand footage. Forget eyewitness accounts. Who needs those? We have cell phone cameras. Stories are received pieces at a time, but we have not learned patience nor forgiveness nor listening to others. Did we ever listen to others? Blogger friend Christine Hennessey recently wrote a post “Listening and Learning” which really resonated with me. She wrote about keeping quiet having spent her time trying-

… to understand the world we’re living in and how to make it better.
I don’t have any answers yet. I suspect it will be a while before any of us do, and that a lot more terrible things will happen before the good stuff makes a comeback. In the meantime, I will keep learning, keep listening, keep trying.
With each day’s news story, I have felt myself shut down a little. I want to retreat from the world. But I live here. I live on this street, in this town, in this state, in this country, in this world. This is as much my community as anyone else’s and I know it is also my responsibility to be an active, positive member. What right do I have to complain or retreat if I don’t also participate?
Each day is a new day and a new opportunity.
Things are better. I have hope.

You Are Clearly Not a Drinker

Pregnancy in the early months is sort of strange. A lot is happening but you don’t feel any fun stuff, just weird things like your organs being in new places or your uterus growing. It is pretty much just uncomfortable.

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As soon as I shared the big news, several women (mostly with grown children) got a little misty eyed over memories of their pregnancies and tiny babies. They immediately told me about baby’s first kick and talked of loving the life growing inside. Women with smaller children still seemed excited for me but wary eyes held back their true feelings. Each congratulations came with a bit of “Oh girl, you have no idea what’s coming.”

I have been so lucky thus far. I did not have morning sickness, just a queasiness that I could squelch with a handful of trail mix or a banana.  To date not a lot of heartburn or other forms of indigestion common in pregnancies. I have the upmost admiration for women who experience this and still manage to function like a human being. The first trimester I laid on the couch so much it practically molded to my body. I would quit eating dinner to slowly slump onto the table. Tyler would put away the unfinished food and put me straight to bed.

I haven’t gotten that burst of energy I am told comes in the second trimester. Phrases like “superwoman” and “nonstop nesting” have been thrown in my direction but haven’t taken root. Regardless I am glad to just feel like myself. I haven’t given up on naps but going to bed after dark no longer makes me feel hungover.

Now that I don’t go to bed at 7 pm I am faced more often with the reminder that I am living an alcohol free existence. For those who say abstaining from alcohol isn’t that bad, I say YOU ARE CLEARLY NOT A REGULAR DRINKER. (Imagine a really loud voice there, not necessarily me shouting.) Yes, it is easy to make the decision not to drink but that doesn’t mean I stop salivating over the smell of my husband’s hoppy IPA. I have to wipe the drool away when I see friends sipping a chilled glass of vino verde. I do indulge in a “taste” of their drinks as there is much evidence pointing to occasional drinking being safe but I haven’t felt comfortable making the choice to go beyond the rare sip.

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I’ve spent the last 13 weeks trying to find fun replacements for my sober drinks. Where once I scoffed at mocktails, now I’m scouring the internet to find them. So far I’ve replaced an evening libation with:

La Croix– It’s an obvious choice. It’s bubbly and has just enough flavor to make you feel like a person who is actually choosing to drink this voluntarily.

Martinelli’s Sparking Apple Cider– This must be served in a wine glass or you will not feel fancy and that defeats the purpose. As a child sparking grape juice was what children were served at Thanksgiving. Always in a wine glass! Even as an adult apple cider is delish and the bubbly takes it to a new level. There came a point where this became a little sweet for me to drink regularly but it made the transition into sober living very helpful.

Izze Sodas– This is another choice on the sweet side but it comes in a glass bottle and in a million yummy flavors. Cover it up with a Freaker and you can pretend you’re drinking a beer like everyone else.

Whole Foods Italian Sodas– Get the blood orange one! It is delicious! It is not as sweet as an Izze but enough that it feels like a good treat.

Flavored waters- I always make flavored waters in the summer to help me increase my water intake but this summer it is especially helpful. Right now I’ve got one small cut up cucumber floating in a large mason jar of water in my fridge. I’ll also be making water with mint, watermelon, lemon, lime and who knows what else! The choices are endless! I can make as many as I want because I’m sober and have a ridiculous amount of time for this kind of thing!

I was drinking kombucha in the early days of my pregnancy but unfortunately the smell puts me off a bit now. I’ve had to take a hiatus from making it. Next time I’ve got a backyard party of some kind I’m going to make a pitcher of one of these drinks I’ve recently discovered. Recently I went to a porch party where they had horchata and kept the booze separate because that’s what the best people every do!

(If you think this was post was sponsored because I am making product recommendations- bless you. Go ahead and believe that. )

Oh tiny, insignificant pregnancy woes! In other news we have a sonogram this week which I’m really looking forward to. We have an app that tells us what size produce the baby is and it is nice to have evidence that our baby is not actually an avocado or a turnip or a sweet potato (current produce size status). I’m having a hard time this week not imagining a Mr. or Mrs Potato Head floating around in there. Also, I felt my very first baby movement which is really strange to wrap your head around but also pretty cool.

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18 weeks bathroom selfie. I apologize if you can tell that I haven’t cleaned the mirror.

If anyone has a pregnancy blog to share with me, I’d appreciate it! Only slightly dysfunctional moms please. I need to be able to relate.