Reflection: Growing Pains

2016 might be the most hated year ever. (It’s hard to say though since I’ve only been around for the last 30. Surely the years of the black plague top this.) Despite that I’ve heard many writers online say that while as a whole 2016 was the worst, personally it was a great year. For me, I would describe it as a positive year but overall it was a year of growth.

First off, I literally grew a person. It’s not often you get to use “literally” correctly but I really did. I have the traumatic childbirth memories to prove it (plus a baby).  Growing baby Haines was challenging in unexpected and totally predictable ways. The physical parts are trying- the fatigue, feeling physically weak, being sore in the third trimester, the discomfort of your organs moving to new places in the first. I hated having to slow down my lifestyle and feeling like I couldn’t do the things I enjoyed. Having those few months of discomfort and living in a body in which I felt little control taught me to be more aware and have empathy for those who deal with these issues on a daily basis.

I was surprised to find the social aspect challenging. While I loved discussing pregnancy and parenting with friends, answering overly personal questions to total strangers was frustrating and monotonous. And it didn’t help that many of my friendships have always included a shared love of beer. When one of your favorite social activities is visiting breweries and you’re pregnant, you’ve just damaged your social life.

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My last drinks before we knew about Haines.

Emotionally I struggled with bridging from a pre-pregnancy lifestyle to parenthood. As brain mushed from hormones so did my desire to be creative or try new things. My interest in the world narrowed severely as our little household began to feel like more than I could handle. Even now I have a hard wrapping my brain around all that is going on. Then again, I don’t think I’m the only one.

Second, I became a parent here in the last few weeks of the year. Childbirth followed by a taking a 2 week old to the ER were growing pains that I don’t need to repeat for quite some time. (Of course now baby Haines is teaching me how to handle his first cough/cold which I’m also not pleased to learn about.)  As an unexpected consequence of becoming a parent I’ve also learned that this little guy gives me strength I wouldn’t expect. No, I don’t sleep through the night now but surprisingly, it’s okay. Our trip to the hospital was terrifying, but also, it was okay. As long as Haines is here with us, everything seems doable. Even when it’s terrible.

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Professionally, I also evolved. For the first time I was in a position where I was speaking with high-level executives professionally on a regular basis. After years of experiencing anxiety with public speaking, I became my company’s Toastmasters club president, an organization dedicated to my top fear. It is with that same new confidence that I forged relationships and created programs that I’m proud of. It is also what allows me to feel comfortable taking 12 weeks leave to be with Haines. Thank goodness for that.

I expect 2017 to also be a year of growing pains… and perhaps every year going forward. We are still learning to get through the day and before I know it I will have to learn how to go back to work. I don’t have any resolutions for 2017 but I hope to learn about balance, who I am as a mother and a partner and my son.

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Photo credit: Zachary Sprague

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Post-Vacation Blues

I think of myself as a pretty good traveler. I’m relatively low maintenance. If we need to stay in a ten-person dorm to make our trip happen, then by all means let’s do it. I can spend all day walking around a city or trying new food or meeting new people. No itinerary necessary. I love it all! Recently I’ve discovered; however, that I am not a good person for coming home. Many people rejoice at the idea of sleeping in their own bed and being able to just grab something from their own fridge. That’s all good and well but that coming home slump is unavoidable for me. Even at 32 weeks pregnant when I really need my own bed and walking around a new city is more tiring than exciting, coming home is still tough to handle.

The last day of our honeymoon, a road trip back to Texas from our wedding in Virginia, Tyler woke up eager to get the long 8 hour drive out of the way. I cried all through breakfast and most of the way home. Sunday when we came home from a wedding in Georgia followed by a one-night “baby moon” I sat at the kitchen counter staring at my to-do lists just sinking into my disappointment at being home.

It’s not so much being home as it is being back in real life that gets me every time. It’s meal planning and no longer being able to buy things with the exclamation, “Who cares, we’re on vacation!” It’s setting an alarm for 6 am but hitting snooze and feeling bad for not walking the dog. Work days just aren’t nearly as exciting as vacation days. Bah.

We set out for Milledgeville, GA last Friday to see one of Tyler’s best buds get married. When they weren’t fishing on salmon and halibut boats he and Rex lived in a trailer together in Alaska on a 9-hole golf course. They worked and lived together for 7 seasons. Every year that Tyler and I were dating, I would go up for a week and stay with them. It was awesome to see them together again after these last two years apart.

Unfortunately we encountered several delays on our way to GA and the during the day before the wedding was a rainy mess so we really didn’t get to explore the town. We drove by Andalusia (inspiration for many a Flannery O’Connor story!) and walked into a couple cool shops. The rest of our time was spent watching one of the Steve Jobs biopics in the hotel and doing wedding activities.

Being sober at a wedding is not something I’ve ever wanted to experience, but I’ve now done it twice this year. It’s not so bad when there’s really good music! We were treated to a Motown-style band from Atlanta that truly killed it. They did an awesome job and while my dance floor time has been severely reduced I have managed to create a pretty sweet belly dance. Don’t be jealous.

The day after the wedding we met the bride and groom with some of their friends for a late breakfast at IHOP before heading down to Savannah. Flooding and downed trees had made the inland journey to GA pretty difficult so we opted for the coastal route back with a stop to celebrate our 2-year anniversary!

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We stayed at a very basic, but totally adorable place called the Thunderbird Motel. It was decked out in retro colors, super affordable and right on the edge of everything. We would have stayed in an Airbnb but we couldn’t find anything with that didn’t require a multi-night minimum without a pricey cleaning fee. Next time we’ll just have to stay for longer! Regardless, we weren’t disappointed. Our room came with 2 RC colas and 2 Moonpies. Um, amazing.

This was an incredibly short trip (less than 24 hours) so we saw the slightest peek into Savannah. We were able to walk the river area (pretty touristy), through Colonial Cemetery and down to Forbush park. So beautiful! Later I read a guidebook in our hotel room that informed me of the numerous dead bodies under the sidewalks surrounding the cemetery (apparently they needed the cemetery to be smaller- why not just pave over it, right?!) and the yellow fever victims buried in Forbush Park. Next time, I definitely want to do a ghost tour! I love learning about all that kind of stuff.

The houses and parks were incredible. It seemed like there was a small, green park with beautiful live oak trees every few blocks. While it would be hard to trade our yard and quiet street in I was definitely pondering whether or not it’d be worth it to live in an old home in Savannah where you could walk everywhere.

Savannah is also a food destination and I feel like we hit two awesome spots. We stopped for an appetizer at Public to fuel us up for the evening. I broke the rules and shared a salmon bruschetta with Tyler. We’re talking soft, lightly toasted bread with Boursin cheese, fig jam, smoked salmon and caramelized onions. Holy moly! I wanted it to last forever. Unfortunately our appetizer really set the bar too high and dinner didn’t compare. We ate dinner at Jazz’d, an Americanized tapas bar. Meh. I won’t waste time on it here.

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Breakfast was another story altogether! We splurged on a fancy breakfast at the Collins Quarter. Totally worth it! The owner is Australian so he offered coffee drinks like the flat white and breakfasts that included grilled tomatoes and baked beans. It’s been quite a while since I’ve seen a menu like that! We sipped on a vanilla milkshake with espresso (not me) and homemade chai (yes, me!) while raving over our meals. Tyler ‘s breakfast was buttermilk biscuits with a link of chicken apple sausage, a smoked bacon gravy, fennel-apple slaw and poached eggs. The weirdest part? It didn’t leave him in a food coma. My meal proved the impossible- vegetables are for breakfast too!  I ate squash and broccolini, ya’ll. For breakfast. And I loved it. It was braised short rib over potato hash cakes with avocado smash and sautéed squash topped with over easy egg and chimichurri. There was broccolini on the side as well. Life-changing.

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It was a wonderful trip. We got to see two incredible people get married, explore new areas, eat incredible food and be all lovey-dovey all over the place. And now that we’ve been home a few days, it turns out it’s pretty nice to be home again after all.

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I know I’m biased but he’s a pretty cute date. 

A Little Trip to the Lone Star State

This past week I got a chance to travel for work. It’ll be last non-local travel until I’m back from maternity leave so I had to take advantage of it. I’m not often given the opportunity to travel outside the state (but when I do it’s dangerously close to my due date and I have to refuse- er!) so making the most of each trip has been key.

This time I was being sent to Fort Hood (Killeen) Texas for a career fair. In case you don’t know that’s delightfully close to Austin. To make the most of a trip to Austin you must do two things. 1. You must eat very well. 2. You must go swimming. Otherwise you may not survive. And you just don’t know what you’re doing.

Austin Eating:

Snooze-

Snooze is a relatively new “A.M.” eatery which basically means it’s a breakfast/brunch place. I thought it was delicious and adorable but my eating companions did order various types of eggs Benedict and they were all- tiny. So just don’t get that.

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Eating BBQ was a priority for me this trip. After an afternoon of swimming we weren’t interested in driving all over the countryside. Luckily since I’ve left Austin some of the best hill country restaurants have opened up locations in town, including Black’s! We all ordered way too much food and ate until our eyes bulged. It was totally worth it. This is the BBQ way.

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Juiceland-

So many delicious smoothie and juice options in Austin! Why don’t we have this in Wilmington?

Kebabilicious-

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Sa-ten-

I worked here one afternoon and really enjoyed it. By chance, my brother-in-law was also working remotely there. I sampled his lunch and it was insanely delicious. I have to figure out how to recreate it.

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We ate from the Vera Cruz food truck at Radio during bluegrass night which was delicious but didn’t rock my world or anything. The music and beautiful outdoor area there is awesome though.

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So glad I didn’t leave Austin without a ladies night out dinner with Via 313. I would have certainly regretted it. That is a pizza with balsamic reduction and PROSCUITTO. Get overwhelmed.

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Swimming:

McKinney Falls is a nice, although more expensive alternative, to Barton Springs. We weren’t prepared for the line or the crowds so we headed east instead of into town for this swim time. I’ve gotten a little spoiled now that my swimming life is almost entirely in the Intracoastal Waterway or the ocean but this dip saved me from insanity. Texas, you are too damn hot.

Baby Love:

The best part of my trip? I experienced my very first baby shower as a mama-to-be! It was incredible. I can’t express how loved I felt.

There were peanut butter chocolate cupcakes, baby rubber ducks floating in mocktails, only ONE game and it wasn’t embarrassing in the least AND it was co-ed. Perfection.

I wish Tyler could have been there and that I could have spent more time with everyone who came. It was incredibly special.

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Like a Kick in the Gut

I think it was around 17 weeks that I started feeling kicks. They weren’t real kicks yet since presumably the baby still had little t-rex arms and itty bitty legs. They were flutters. A friend said it best when she compared it popcorn popping. It is a gentle burst of movement. The movement is brief, light and airy but undeniably there. Although I had been nervous about feeling like there was an alien inside, I cried when I when I felt the first movement. I felt totally overwhelmed and without words.

I have not yet reached the stage where a kick is clearly a kick or I can recognize an elbow from a foot. Munchkin is still small enough to do somersaults which are a move that stops me in my tracks. I hold my breath until it has finished, unable to do anything on my own. Equally there are kicks and stretches and what feels like drum practice. I watch my belly move now. I spend time picturing a baby inside so I don’t focus on this scene too much.

 

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I know, gross. Sorry.

 

When I was in high school (or earlier?) I read Summer Sisters by Judy Blume over and over. This is one of Judy Blume’s adult books and it focuses on two friends. It’s a story I am more familiar with now and recognize in other books. There are two girls- one is more outwardly wild, obviously beautiful, mysterious and attracts all the boys while the other is quiet, always watching with strengths and beauty she had to work to recognize. The teenage girls become adults, wives and mothers. I can’t remember what became of the quiet friend, what her hardships were as an adult or her successes. The wild one sticks out in my mind with her affairs and her gypsy life. She became a mother but in name only. Her lack of connection to actual mothering and the lack of relationship with her children stuck out to me then as it does now, like a song I can’t get out of my head. It is a terrifying idea- that you might have children but never commit to the job, never connect with your children, never really get it.

Among the many fears I contemplate- some irrational, some not- this is one. It’s not one I put a lot of stock in. I compare it more to fearing ghosts or something else that could totally be real but probably won’t affect me. Still it is the change in kicks that is the most reassuring. At first every kick was a curiosity but now it makes me laugh. Watching my belly move and feeling so many little movements immediately throws me into the giggles. I try to hold my breath to not miss feeling everything but I am too tickled to be successful. Tyler has missed many a good kick because I can’t stop laughing long enough for him to get his hand on my belly. 14 more weeks y’all!

Can’t Stop Won’t Stop: Feminist Punk

Earlier this month Pitchfork came out with The Story of Feminist Punk in 33 Songs. I don’t reach Pitchfork but theriotgrrlproject  has been posting a song on a day on Instagram which I have loved following.

Unfortunately my time spent with feminist punk music was somewhat short lived and mostly in the early 2000s so I’m less familiar with some of the older and newer songs on this list. But challenge accepted! Sorry workmates, this is what I’ll be listening to all day today…if not all week.

A couple of my favorite artists from the list:

 

Kim Gordon’s new memoir is still on my to-do list!

The baby is really kicking as I write this so must be a she, right? Little riot grrrl rocking out!

In this same music vein, Tyler and I watched the Los Punks documentary earlier this week which was pretty good. In my very uneducated opinion a lot of the music was leaning more towards metal than punk but it was a really cool look into the backyard punk scene in mostly Hispanic areas of Los Angeles. I wish it had gone a little farther back into the history of punk in the area.

If anyone knows of a good documentary on punk music, please share! I’ve already seen The Punk Singer on Kathleen Hanna (loved it!) and I’m in the mood for more.

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.

Exploring Wilmington: Coastal Hikes

Fourth of July has taken a different path since coming to Wilmington. It’s Tyler’s busiest weekend of the year with sold out boat rentals and all the crazies on the water. The beach traffic on a regular weekend makes me hesitant to head towards the ocean so 4th of July weekend is even less appealing. Luckily my dad came into town for the weekend and he has no desire to hang out at the beach. It made our options a little simpler.

Instead of packing our beach chairs and fighting for a space on the sand we got up unreasonably early each day and found some walking trails. It gave both of us an opportunity to explore new territory and get moving before the heat and humidity fully set in. Although with the mornings starting in the 80s, “fully set in” is a phase with little meaning.

Fort Fisher Basin Trail

This is a quick and easy trail, although will little shade and high humidity, I was surprisingly wiped out after this 2 mile out-and-back jaunt. It’s primarily on a well-kept dirt path or boardwalk through marshland parallel to the ocean. It ends at an overlook with views of the Inter Coastal Waterway. We spent quite a few minutes watching the ferry boats and kayakers go by and could hear chatter from a nearby small commercial fishing boat.

This is a great little walk which I think would be especially fun with kids as it was full of bird sightings, little lizards and fiddler crabs. I forgot to take a picture so my thanks to NC Parks for this one.

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Photo credit: NC Parks

We ended up walking through a market at Carolina Beach Lake Park afterwards which was a fun treat (as was the lemon bar we shared) and spending the afternoon buying used furniture for my porch! A very successful day.

There’s still a little work yet to be done…

Brunswick Nature Park

I have to admit, I wasn’t sure about this park. Although Tyler had already visited and had plenty of good things to say about the mountain bike trails, I somehow doubted that the walking trails would be anything to get excited about. Not surprisingly… I was wrong. The park is only a short drive from Wilmington and very easy to navigate. We ended up hiking two out of the three trails with the Dogwood trail being my favorite. You can’t beat the river views! It was much more scenic than I could have anticipated. I’ll gladly keep this in mind for any time I need to get out of the city for a short reprieve.

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Hikers!

Carolina Beach State Park

I was hesitant to drive towards the beach on the 4th of July but at 8 am, it was insanely easy. Having hiked a small portion of this park before it wasn’t the one I was most looking forward to. At the visitor center we grabbed a trail map and I was shocked to find out the park had way more trails than I had remembered with a total of six miles throughout. The park extended farther south than you might guess from a passing glance. We choose a 3 mile loop that would take us up a dune and past three ponds. While there was nothing epic about the dune overlook or the ponds we visited, it was an incredibly pleasant walk. The path was fine, white sand covered in pine needs, soft and springy below. The short oak trees still provided a beautiful overhang, protecting us from the sun. Despite being a popular park, we ran into only a handful of people on the trail. It was quiet and serene.

There were quite a few road cyclists zooming around on the park roads which means I will be looking to come back out with another activity in mind. And in a few months, I’ll be able to stop back by the park’s neighbor Good Hops Brewery! I really can’t imagine anything more perfect than a brewery across from a state park. Great job Carolina Beach folks!

So next time I’m missing the mountains and all the hiking I’d like to be doing up there, at least I’ll know a few options to explore in these parts!