How to Live (and Jog) in a Liberal Enclave

Every Saturday and Sunday morning, around 8am, you'll find me on a 4-5 mile run around my town. I run on weekdays too, but those runs are often done on the treadmill in my basement, which I enjoy a whole lot less than my outdoor runs. Running is a huge part of my life, and most days, I love it. I'm loving it a whole lot less in the last week, though, because the inside back of my left sneaker has worn through and there's plastic poking my ankle. I've taken to taping a cotton ball in there to give the blister I have on my ankle a little relief. I need new running shoes, but I'm trying to do without for now, since money will soon be in short supply with me leaving my job. But that's a story for another post.

The town I live in is the only Democratic town in the entire medium-size city I live in. Other than the city itself, my little town is the only one that is run by Democratic leaders who have been re-elected year after year for quite some time. Our town center, a busy area with many stores, restaurants and schools, is often the site of both rallies for peace and demonstrations supporting gay marriage attended by people from every walk of life, from babies in carriers on their parents' backs to high school students, to empty nesters, to grandmas. And since I travel through this area often, I'm always one to honk my horn in support. These are my people, after all.

Running through my town isn't necessarily exciting (although there was that time I saw someone dumping his trash in his neighbor's garbage cans in the pre-dawn hours), but it is gratifying. Because this is what I see while pounding the pavement each weekend morning.

Imagine. You can support our brave men and women in Iraq by not wanting them to lose their lives for a war we never should have started in the first place.

This sign has been on my neighbor's lawn for over a year. And according to this, as of July, 45% of Americans favor impeaching W. Count me in.

This sign hangs along the roofline of a Unitarian church down the road from my house. It used to hang a lot lower. About six months ago, some psycho tore it down, so they moved it up higher on the building. When they did, they also added spotlights to illuminate the sign at night. Amen to that.

I don't see signs like these anywhere else even remotely close to where I live. Because while downstate New York is liberal, upstate is decidedly not. So while I'd rather be running in Central Park any day of the week, I'll stay in my blue heaven as long as I can.

507 days and counting.

Goodnight Moon, Good Morning Par-tay

Isabella's multi-day birthday celebration began on her actual birthday last Wednesday. Her grammy came in from Lake Placid, and we took her to a nearby town to stroll along the Erie Canal, check out her favorite ducks, and give her her very first taste of ice cream (or frozen custard, to be more specfic). Needless to say, it was a huge hit.

Her mouth opened so widely she could have swallowed my head. If only I could achieve the same result when attempting to shovel in vegetables.

On Friday, her Aunt Karrie blew into town. And with her came the sign she painted for Isabella's Goodnight Moon-themed birthday party. My grandfather, an amazing artist, used to paint signs for each of his 11 grandchildren's birthdays each year. Karrie decided to continue this tradition for Isabella, and this year created this sign for her. The picture below doesn't do her artwork justice. Isabella's auntie created a truly beautiful and whimsical gift for her. It was the hit of Isabella's party, and now I just have to figure out what to do with the seven-foot sign. Ideas, anyone?

To compliment the Goodnight Moon theme and Karrie's sign, we turned my grandma's garage where Isabella's party was held into "the great green room" of Goodnight Moon. My mom created decorations based on the objects in the book. In addition to dozens of red balloons hanging on the walls there was a telephone, a picture of the cow jumping over the moon, three little bears sitting on chairs, two little kittens, a pair of mittens, get the picture.

On Saturday, family and friends packed into my grandma's garage on a hot and steamy day to celebrate Isabella's first birthday.
The birthday girl had a ladybug smash cake that I baked...

and a Goodnight Moon cake for her guests that I did not.
Her 35 party guests gathered around to sing her "Happy Birthday" not once, but twice. And as they did, my girl channeled her inner Paris-Hilton-just-sprung-from-the-pokey persona, as she handled the many camera flashes going off in her face like a pro, clapping her way through the birthday song.
And following an initial hesitation about what exactly she was supposed to do with this cake placed on her highchair tray, she dove in. Literally.

Presents followed cake. And Isabella was a very lucky little girl. She received so many toys that she got tired of opening them halfway through and I had to finish them on my own. I've stashed some in her closet to give her for Christmas. The builders are coming over tomorrow to build the addition onto our small house, which is now necessary to store her loot.
The big toy hit was this Radio Flyer push wagon. It was fun on Saturday...

and it was even more fun the next day.

And from the car on the way home from her party on Saturday, we saw this. A full and complete rainbow.
My sister and mom left this afternoon, Isabella's birthday celebrations are over, and things are going back to normal. My one-year-old baby who is not so much a baby anymore had a wonderful birthday surrounded by so much love. Thank you all for your birthday wishes for her. She's a lucky little girl indeed.
Speaking of parties, Flybaby is turning one year old next week and his fab-n-fly mama is hosting a Growing and Giving contest. Head on over to Growing a Life to sign up to win some super-cute prizes.

Happy First Birthday, Isabella

I woke you up last night when I went in to check on you before going to bed. I didn't mean to. It was an accident, but the light in the hallway must have shined a bit too brightly onto your crib. You immediately sat up, a confused look on your face, and began to cry. I tried to make a quick escape, hoping you would think it all a bad dream and go back to sleep. But you're too smart to be fooled like that. So I scooped you up. You put your little head on my shoulder. We sat in the glider in your room, and I rocked you. I rubbed your back and stroked your fine hair, which is so much like my own. And although it was late and I was so tired, there wasn't a place on earth I'd rather be.

For today you are one year old, Isabella, and holding you in my arms as I did when you were first born allowed me to recapture, if only for an hour, your fleeting babyhood. If only you could stay this small forever.

At 10:30am on this day one year ago, you came into this world amid massive familial fanfare. There were almost 20 people in the hospital waiting room, each of them anticipating your arrival.

But perhaps none more so than I. Your birth made me a mom, which is something I truly thought I would never experience. Your father and I tried for two years to have you. To say you were truly wanted and loved from the second we knew you were on your way is an understatement.
And somehow right before my eyes (and seemingly overnight), you have grown from the tiny baby you were when we first brought you home...

to a very sweet, active, vocal, and opinionated one year old.

What an amazing year it's been.

At one year old, it is clear to me that your personality will most likely mirror my own. You are strong-willed, and although you can't talk yet, you have opinions, and you find ways to express them, most especially by pointing at things with your index finger. But you also have your father's sense of humor. Your laugh is the sweetest sound I've ever heard.

You still don't have teeth, and frankly when you do finally get one and your smile is transformed, I'm not sure I'll recognize you, since I've been looking at your gummy grin for so long. You're standing up without much wobbling lately, and I think in another month or so, you'll be walking. You give hugs now, in addition to kisses, and you've started dancing to music whenever you hear it playing.

And my favorite accomplishment of yours in the last month: you are finally saying "mama" on a regular basis.

You are not the perfect child, contrary to what your grandmas and aunts believe. You hate your stroller, which makes walks and shopping trips unpleasant to say the least. And your eating habits are at times odd. I firmly believe you would be content eating from a cheese board for three meals a day. This is yet another trait you probably get from me.

To celebrate your birthday, your Aunt Karrie is coming to visit from Seattle with a special surprise. Your grammy from Lake Placid is on her way. And your nana from Florida is already here. You'll have a few presents today, but your party in on Saturday. With over 30 people (all but a handful, family members), I hope you're not overwhelmed. Given the crowd that follows your every move, however, I don't think you'll have a problem.

Happy Birthday, my sweet baby girl. Being your mom is an amazing and fulfilling gift. You've shown me what it means to have my heart living outside of my body. Because of you, I now know what the strength of mother-love is all about.

Mine! All Mine! (Again)

And now, another post about breasts.

For the last two weeks, I've been weaning Isabella. After consulting several nursing books, I've decided the best way to do it for us is to eliminate one nursing session per week. Since she was about 9.5 months, I have nursed her four times a day. As of this week, we're down to two: first thing in the morning and right before bed. I selected this method after eliminating the cold-turkey method (too cruel), the baby-led weaning method (too drawn-out), and the mustard-on-the-nipples method (no, I'm not joking, and also, too freakin' weird).

I'm lucky in that Isabella has shown much less of an interest in nursing for the last three months. When she does nurse, it's not for too long. She has far more important things on her activity calendar than to curl up in bed with her mom several times a day. The reason I've chosen to wean her now is because next week, she's turning one (Oh. My. God. How? How is this possible?) and her pediatrician cleared her for cow's milk at that point. Also, I've read some very difficult stories about weaning older babies, and given my fragile emotional state lately, I don't think I could stand it if down the line she decided she didn't want to give it up, even though I was ready to. So now is the time to wean her.

And in a lot of ways, I'm ready.

My return to the land of the caffeinated will happen immediately following her last nursing session. And I do not care if that happens at 8pm on a school night. Have you seen that mattress commercial where the sales guy is gulping coffee grounds to stay awake? That's going to be me. I was a huge caffeine consumer pre-pregnancy, and I've been off the full-strength juice for the past 19 months. Bring it on, baby. Bring. It. On.

I'm also looking forward to losing one of the two sports bras I've had to wear while running for the past year. Soon after Isabella's birth, I came to the conclusion that a single sports bra wasn't cutting it. I am hoping (please!) that the girls shrink. I've read that following nursing, they will either be slightly bigger or slightly smaller than they used to be. Huh?

And finally, I'm looking forward to having my body belong only to me again. For the past year, I've been tied to the wee one with a very short leash. And although in the last few months, that leash has gotten longer, it will be nice to be able to be out past her bedtime and not have to worry about leakage or waking up in the morning as Pam Anderson if I chose not to pump before going to bed.

But as much as I'm looking forward to reclaiming my body again, I will miss nursing Isabella. Being her sole source of nutrition for the first six months of her life was both an enormous responsibility and later, a big accomplishment. She was thriving and growing and reaching her milestones for the first six months because my body was providing her with the nutrition to do so, which is a pretty incredible thing. At six months, her nursing sessions lessened because she was eating solids, but I was still helping her to grow and remain healthy. But as she creeps closer to a year old, she's needing me less.

Nursing my baby has provided an intimate bond that not one of her many familial admirers has with her. Right off the bat, she took to it easily. I, however, did not take as easily to the round- the-clock drive thru window routine. It was exhausting. It was physically demanding. And there were times in the middle of the night when I literally fell asleep for several minutes while sitting up in bed feeding her, Nick at Nite reruns unable to keep me awake.

But then she started sleeping through the night, and we got into a routine. She came to be so alert that the only place I could feed her was in my darkened bedroom. I couldn't feed her in my chair in the living room anymore, because she wouldn't nurse. She'd just turn her head to stare at everything in eye range. So we retreated upstairs. I would hold her close, and she would nurse, playing with my hands, and often falling asleep before her naps and before bed. And then I would carry my sleeping baby into her crib in her room, and tiptoe out without waking her. I can probably count the number of bottles of breastmilk she's drank in the past year on two hands. She never seemed to want to drink from them, so we all but gave up on anyone else feeding her a long time ago.

Sometime in the next three weeks or so, she won't be nursing at all anymore. I'll pack away the Boppy pillow and my nursing bras. I'll unearth the shirts I couldn't wear while breastfeeding that are currently buried in the back of my closet. And a little part of my heart will break. My baby isn't so much that tiny baby anymore. I've helped make her a strong and healthy almost-one-year-old.

And now it's time to let a little part of her go.

I'll Take That Formula Can, Little Lady

Last week was National Breastfeeding Awareness Week. To celebrate, the public hospitals of New York City served up a heaping helping of mommy guilt to many of the women giving birth in their buildings.

The city's Health and Hospitals Corporation has opted to remove formula from the "goodie-bags" new moms take home with them. And in its place? A onesie with "I Eat at Mom's" emblazoned across the front. The idea is that by removing the cans of formula, more women will choose to breastfeed their babies.

In theory, it's a great idea. The benefits of breastmilk for babies are well-documented. However, there are several problems with the action taken by NYC Public Hospitals, namely that not all women are able to breastfeed, and some simply choose not to for myriad reasons.

I received such a goodie bag when Isabella was born. And inside, among other things, was two cans of formula. Over the course of the first few months of Isabella's life, I received cans upon cans of free formula in the mail. They collected dust in my basement until I donated them to a women's shelter. Why? Because I chose to breastfeed. Because breastfeeding was both easy and convenient for me. Because Isabella took to it like a champ at birth. Because I had the luxury of being able to be home for the past year to feed her, without having to pump much at all.

But this isn't the case for all moms. I have friends who wanted to breastfeed their babies, but were physically unable to, either because they didn't produce enough milk, or their babies had trouble latching on, or because they were taking medication that precluded breastfeeding.

And what about the moms who choose not to for whatever their personal reasons may be? Many moms who work for an hourly wage as hotel maids, servers in restaurants, or bus drivers likely choose not to breastfeed because their jobs hardly afford them the time or the private room they need every few hours to pump in order to keep their children on breastmilk. It's just not feasible for many mothers. I know that had I been working in my office for the past year, I would have had to pump in the cleaning supply room or the bathroom because there were no private and unoccupied rooms available, and before my company moved buildings a few months ago, I worked out of a cube. Would I have continued to breastfeed if I had had to deal with these "accomodations" at least twice a day, five days a week? I'm not sure.

Yes, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends exclusive breastfeeding for babies until they are at least six months old. But infant formula is hardly crack cocaine. And let's face it. The last thing needed by new mothers, who are already shaky and uncertain about the care of their newborns, is the guilt that will inevitably come along once they learn that they're choosing (or unable) to do what the health professionals at the hospital think they should if they "really cared about their babies."

Each woman makes decisions that she feels are in the best interest of her own children. What women do not need is a guilt trip because someone else is making a very personal choice for her.

I think we have enough of this kind of problem to deal with elsewhere.

Dream Not Deferred

I spoke to my manager on Monday. I explained to him that I wouldn't be willing to work in the office a few days a week beginning next month, as he had requested, because I wasn't willing to leave Isabella. He told me he didn't want me to leave, and basically gave me permission to write my own ticket. He asked if I would continue working FT from home, if our CEO approved. He offered me part-time work, if caring full-time for Isabella and working FT was beginning to be too much. He offered me contract work instead of FT employment. It was nice to feel valued and respected.

I proposed a job-sharing situation (more or less PT), which after he talked it over with our CEO, he ended up rejecting, because he wants to add another full-time person to our department, not a part-timer. So basically I had two choices: continue doing what I was doing, which is working FT from home, or quitting and working for my company on a freelance basis, while also freelancing elsewhere.

Until 10 minutes before I phoned him with my decision. I had no idea what I was going to do. For all my certainty and resolve, I turned to mush when the time came for the decision to be made. Thoughts of having to weave Isabella clothes out of cat hair this winter and sell my platelets to buy groceries danced around the cobwebs still holding court in my head. I wanted to make the right decision. Not necessarily the one I wanted. But the one that was made with the best interest of both me and my family in mind.

And then I received a sign. Isabella was napping. I got off the treadmill, and checked my email, and there sitting in my inbox was a message from my manager, asking me to whip up a three- page product description document for one of our sales guys to send to a client. He needs it by the end of the day. It represents hours of work and time I don't have to give during Isabella's waking hours. I receive at least one request like this a week- a project that emerges at the last minute and must be completed ASAP. A part of my job that immediately sends me into a downward spiral of stress, frustration, and impatience with my daughter, who somehow never got the memo about staying seated in one spot in the living room, quietly reading books for three hours, while her mommy gets her work done. It's exactly these kind of requests that I will not have to deal with as a freelancer.

So I picked up the phone and called my manager. I told him I'd handle the task, but also that I had made up my mind to leave the company at the end of September and transition to freelance work. He was disappointed, but said he understood. He assured me there would be plenty of work for me to do, and that it would be a win-win situation for both of us.

And so it is. I'm leaving my job at the end of September. I'll continue to work for them as a freelancer. But I'm also venturing out beyond corporate technical/marketing writing into feature-writing. I want to write about things I'm passionate about and things that interest me. Of course, that's what I do here, on this blog. But it would be nice to make a living from it too. And with a little luck, that's exactly what I'll be able to.

Thank you so much for all your support and kind words. It means more to me than you know.


I feel like I've been suffering through a week-long panic attack. There is so much going on in my life right now, I don't even know where to begin.

Work has been exceptionally busy. I've had some crazy deadlines, which has meant some very late nights. Attempting to meet these deadlines while caring for Isabella all week essentially by myself has been a nightmare.

I picked up a freelance job. I've been searching for a few weeks now, and have endured a few rejections. But I was recently hired to do some freelance writing. I didn't expect them to hire me so quickly, and to expect me to start so quickly, but with freelancing, it's "feast or famine" so I have to take everything I can get. I've been working on getting up to speed with this job at the same time I'm working my full-time job.

And oh yeah, I'm also starting a business with a friend of mine, and have been drafting up marketing and business plans, as well as writing the text for our website.

To say that I have been exhausted at the end of day doesn't quite do justice to what I've been feeling lately.

But my panic-fueled anxiety this past week is mostly due to the fact that on Tuesday of next week, I'm going to be quitting my job. I'm first going to propose a job-sharing situation, because really, that would be the best thing for me from a financial perspective. But knowing my manager, and knowing the way my company works, I really don't think he's going to go for it.

I have worked either part-time (through my high school and college years) or full-time (after graduating) since I turned 15 years old. The longest break I've ever taken in the last 16 years was my less-than-two-month maternity leave. I need to keep telling myself that I am still going to be working and making money. Freelancing is not the same thing as leaving the workforce. I will still be making money. I will still have financial security.

As much as I know in my heart and in my mind that leaving my job is the right choice for me and my family, I am terrified that we won't have enough money to live on, despite the careful budget I've created. And I am scared that the rejections will outnumber the successes, and that despite all my efforts, I won't be able to make it as a freelancer.

I've been going through some emotional stuff lately too. While grocery shopping the other day, I saw a tiny baby, probably two-months old, sitting in his carrier in the shopping cart. And it was all I could do to keep the tears back. My baby isn't a baby anymore. Isabella is turning one year old in less than three weeks. She will never be as small as that tiny baby in the cart again. As I pack away the toys she no longer plays with, and the clothes she no longer fits in, as the bags of pureed food I prepared and froze dwindle down in the freezer, and as she achieves some new "big kid" milestone seemingly every day, I am reminded that her baby years are almost gone. And as a result, I've turned into a blubbering, emotional mess. How is it that the past year has passed by so quickly?

But amidst all the chaos of my life in the past week, there has been some good, too. Tomorrow I'll celebrate my 6th wedding anniversary. We're going out to dinner and maybe to a movie, something we haven't done in a very long time. Rich and I have had our fair share of rough patches, but I couldn't have asked for a better husband, and Isabella got herself a pretty great dad too.

If you've read this far, I congratulate you. Now, off you go to read a more cheery blog. Unfortunately, you won't find much of that here today.

Quick Snapshot:

  • 34-year-old writer and
    mother to a daughter
    born in August 2006 following
    IVF and girl/boy twins born in October 2008 following FET. Come along as I document the search for my lost intellect. It's a bumpy ride. Consider yourself warned.

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  • "All journeys have secret destinations of which the traveler is unaware." -Martin Buber

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