Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Unexpecting: The Eve of Battle

I've never been very good with pain. Not that I've had to deal with a whole lot of it in my lifetime-- I've never really broken a bone, had major surgery, stitches, or lost any extremities.

I do hav
e a memory of soaking in the bath tub for hours, anticipating the pain of pulling off what must have been 30 band aids lining my little 6yr old leg. Our first grade class had been out in the school yard playing kick ball, and one of the monstrous, mature 2nd graders tripped me into the gravel, scraping up my legs into what my little mind believed was a deforming injury. The school nurse picked gravel out of my gaping wound with her 6inch long pink finger nails, and fixed me up with every band aid in the box.

After a shameful am
ount of time, my parents finally convinced me that I had to remove those band aids-- even if it pulled off some of my leg hairs & hurt worse than the original injury. I sat in that tub soaking, with tears in my eyes, sick with fear over the impending pain. From what I hear, I was still crying "Don't do it, I'm not ready!" long after the band aids had been removed.

Like I said, I'm not so good with pain-- or the anticipation of it.

Throughout my pregnancy, I've wondered what it would be like to sit & wait for labor to come on, knowing that at any moment, I will experience the worse pain of my entire life. I envisioned those band aids waiting to be ripped off. Even more than that, though, the image that came to my mind was from Lord of the Rings. There's a scene when all the men are preparing for an epic battle (one of many), knowing that their odds are hopeless, that they are outnumbered, and that most of them will die. They sharpen their swords, put on their armor, and wait all night for the orcs to come.

I wondered if the coming of my due date would feel like that. I wondered if I could start the epidural a few days before I go into labor, just to make sure. I wondered how someone like me could actually make it through an ordeal like child birth. From what I hear, it kind of hurts.

Surprisingly, though, as I sit here on my due date, I feel no fear. I don't know what has gotten into me, but I am actually hoping for contractions to start (I know, I know-- once they do, I will change my mind... but there's no turning back then). I'm not under any delusion that it will be easy, quick, or painless. I'm pretty sure it will be the hardest thing I've ever done. I suppose the same hormones that have made me cranky, nauseated, irrational, sleepless, etc. are also injecting in me some insane courage, strength or carelessness that my cautious self has never known.

This afternoon, once we realized that we were not making a trip to the hospital, Chris & I took the pup down to the beach, where it was strangely warm, sunny & beautiful. We walked for miles, watching the dog ooze joy while splashing in the waves, and took a deep breath. After a while, we sat in the heated sand and prayed together-- prayed for our delivery, for our little boy, for God to be a part of all of this. As we prayed, two dolphins jumped out of the water, higher than I've ever seen in the wild. It was so beautiful, it was almost cliche. I felt full, content, refreshed-- anything but the fear & anticipation I thought I would have.

I can't explain the sudden calm & confidence as I stare down something as intense as child birth, but I'll take it, nonetheless.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Unexpecting: First Sight

I can remember the first time I laid eyes on Chris. I saw him from across the crowded ball room-- sparks flew, heart beats quickened, and thought to myself, "I've got to meet Ryan's friend."

Sadly, w
ithin about 30 seconds, I decided that he was a twelve year old, trapped in a college student's body, and was embarrassed that I had even been attracted to him. Oh, and the crowded ball room was also an ugly conference room in an outdated hotel, filled with loud, hyperactive college students. Not quite your Cinderella moment. It wasn't until two years later that I lay awake in my bed, realizing that I was in love with Chris Kernaghan, and it would be another three years after that until I actually married him.

Sometimes Love at First Sight takes a long time to develop.

Now, I'm told that I am about to experience a love like I have never known before. They say that all the pain, exhaustion, and trauma of labor (yikes!) simply evaporates the moment that little bundle of joy hits your arms. It's difficult to imagine.

When I first saw those two pink little lines on the home pregnancy test, I didn't feel much-- except for maybe a slight "Oh God, what did I just get myself into?". I assumed that in nine months of pregnancy, I would develop a love, excitement & bond with the little critter growing inside of me. But, although there have been moments of connection & tenderness, for the most part, I would still say that it all feels pretty surreal.

The thought that in a few days time, I will experience an insane "First Sight" kind of love seems hard to fathom. It took me years to fall in love with Chris, and I'm told that, within a blink of an eye, my entire life & identity with change-- that somewhere inside of me is a capacity to love something like I've never loved anything before. Where is that, I wonder? Where does it come from, and how does something so intense sprin
g up in an instance?

As my discomfort increases and I tick off the days until my due date (which I'm told is only a time line for disappointment, when you crawl your way right past it), I have to remind myself that I'm not waiting to be un-pregnant-- I'm actually going to have a child. It still makes my head spin.

I tried so hard to keep my feet on the ground when, after my years of waiting, I finally snagged that guy I saw from across the crowded "ballroom". Sadly, I have to admit that I was a ridiculous mess. I was smitten, twitterpated. It was disgusting. It was wonderful. And so I apologize in advance for the obsessive Romeo & Juliet fog that I am about to enter. From what I hear, that's just the way is goes with Love at First Sight.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Mallow Nirvana

Some of the greatest merits of making homemade cookies are as follows: eating the cookie dough out of the bowl, the smell & anticipation while the cookies are baking, and that first bite of an [almost too hot to handle] mushy, gooey cookie straight out of the oven. Plus, everything just tastes better when you've made it yourself.

Now, I have to say that I'm pretty passionate about my chocolate chip cookies-- they're tough to beat. That's not to say that I'm not willing to branch out and take some risks in the cookie making department (I know, I live life on the edge). However, sometimes I surprise even myself.

My new favorite-- you might even call it a bit of an obsession, as I have made them twice in the last few days, and am contemplating making them again-- is a cookie that: 1) You can't eat the dough, 2) You can't smell baking in the oven, 3) You can't eat hot, and 4) Doesn't even involve butter. I know, you're less than intrigued, aren't you??

These mysterious new gems that have found a soft spot in my heart are meringues called Nighty
Night Cookies-- something that my mom used to make, and for some strange reason, I used to turn my nose up at.

You preheat the oven, whip up the batter just before bed, throw them in & turn off the heat. When you wake up in the morning, it's tough not to eat a dozen cookies for breakfast. They are like marshmallows that have died & gone to heaven-- glorified & perfected little soft, crumbly vanilla pillows, flecked with chocolate & nuts (if you want-- and trust me, you do). They are light, amazingly delicious, simple and addictive. In fact, I think I'm going to stop writing about them, and go eat one-- there's only 4 left, and I don't want to give Chris the satisfaction.

Oh, and here's the recipe:
-2 egg whites
-a pinch of salt or cream or tartar
-2/3 cup sugar (I like to use just a little less)
-1tsp vanilla
-2/3 cup chocolate chips
-2/3 cup chopped nuts (walnuts, pecans)

Preheat oven to 400. Spray/grease a baking sheet (2 if you want to double the recipe-- which you do). Beat egg whites on low in a clean mixing bowl until foamy. Add a pinch of salt/cream of tartar. Beat on medium until soft peaks form. Keep beating, adding sugar, one Tbs at a time (about 20 seconds in between each addition), until stiff & glossy. Add vanilla & beat about 20 more seconds. Gently fold in chocolate chips & nuts. Drop batter in Tbs sized mounds on baking sheets (with about 1 inch in between). Throw them in the oven & turn off the heat, leaving the cookies overnight, or for at least 6hrs. Don't peak or open that oven door!!

Tuesday, June 29, 2010


I admit that I wandered into pregnancy rather blind. While it's true that I have had plenty of friends & loved ones close by who have experienced this maternal bliss themselves, I supposed I simply wasn't paying attention to what they really went through. Either that, or there are certain unspoken aspects to pregnancy that people just don't talk about.

I'm actually going with Door #2 on this one.

Maybe I didn't ask, but at the same time, no one told me about some of the crazy idiosyncrasies of being pregnant.

And so, I am here to bring them to light. I'm not really sure why. Does anyone really want to know all the ridiculous things they will experience when they are pregnant? Doubtful. But there are definitely some things that would have been helpful to know ahead of time, without reading the entire fear-inducing "What to Expect When You're Expecting" from cover to cover.

So, rather than what TO expect, I thought I would share just a bit about what I didn't expect in little installments throughout the summer.

Here's the first-- enjoy...

Unexpecting: Feathers

Although each of these symptoms were somewhat familiar with me beforehand, it's the combination that has got me wondering.

First of all, I have started waddling. Now, I have seen enough pregnant women to know that The W
addle was inevitable. Earlier in my pregnancy, I realized that The Waddle came partly from the inability to keep a pair of pants around my waist (the reason being that I no longer have a waist). I discovered that if I walked with a bit of a swagger, my pants wouldn't slide off quite as easily. Now, it's the stiffness in my back & thighs that has me looking like John Wayne, fresh off the saddle.

Second, I have duck feet. It was about a month ago that I went with my mom for a pedicure, and noticed that my outstretched extremities would be classified more as cankles than ankles, and that my feet were much, much puffier than normal. The problem has gotten worse since then, and recently, it seems that no matter what I do, I look like Fred Flinstone. When you put together the fat feet and the waddle, that's when things start to get interesting.

Third, I am nesting. I've heard this term before, and assumed it meant that women just get a little more homey-- organizing & decorating, and the like. But it's more than that. In the last few days, I've baked pies, made cookies (twice... each), tackled homemade ice cream, organized a closet, made dinner for two other families (who recently had babies), and have tried countless new recipes. Messes are starting to make me crazy. I want to preen-- um, I mean clean-- everything. Nesting...

Fourth, ever since our trip down to Southern California, where we stayed at the in-laws, I have been dreaming about floating in their pool. It was glorious. I felt weightless. I could lay on my stomach. I could swim around and actually exercise without the nagging reminder that I am twenty pounds heavier than normal. Now, when I lay awake at night, I fantasize about floating. I close my eyes, feel the sun on my back, and remember that weightlessness.

Now, put all of those observations together: waddling, paddle feet, nesting, and floating-- and I'm starting to wonder. Come to think of it, I would love to migrate somewhere a little warmer, as well. I suppose if I start sprouting feathers, I should call my doctor.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Windmills and Giants

Fight or Flight. There is a philosophy that an animal, when faced with a potentially dangerous situation, will either turn and fight, or turn and run. I actually tend to fall under a third category that some might call the "Deer in Headlights" syndrome... or possibly the "Pull the covers over my head" response.

There hav
e literally been times when I have been woken up in the middle of the night by gunshots or fights, and have laid paralyzed in bed, not willing to move, believing that if I just stay right there under the covers, everything will be okay. It doesn't work in horror movies, so I don't know why I would try it out in real life, but it seems that that is my natural response.

While gunshots in the middle of the night are startling and scary, I have to admit that there are
few things in the world that scare me more than Failure. I suppose we could spend some time psycho-analyzing me, sticking on labels like post-it notes saying "Fear of Abandonment" and other official sounding terms, but we can save that for another night.

When faced with a Fear-- especially a potential failure, or when a past failure has been exposed to harsh sunlight-- I tend to freeze up. I want to crawl in bed, pull the covers over my head, and pretend it doesn't exist. I notice that tendency especially when it comes to finances, and as I mentioned in my last post (about a hundred years ago-- my apologies) avoidance always seems like the best policy... which is exactly how I ended up in the mess I'm in.

As I mentioned before, the issue of my credit score came up in buying a house. Now, a Fighter would attack that credit score with everything he had, and change his situation. A... Flighter(?) would run away from the whole situation and claim that he didn't want the house in the first place. But me, I just stare at that number, and it feels like a failure the size of a house is staring back at me. I squirm under the discomfort of that gaze, but am stuck with my feet cemented to the ground.

An image came to mind as I looked at that credit score, with eyes the size of saucers. I thought of Don Quixote charging full-force into a
windmill, believing all the while that it was a giant. And I wondered if maybe, just maybe, all the mountains of failure that I had always been afraid to face might actually turn out to be mole hills. I thought of other times that I had the courage-- or confidence, or rashness-- to take a swing at those giants, and how usually they really were nothing but windmills.

In this particular story, I sat down with the lender, talked through each
of the failures, written out in black & white, and found a way to contest them. The final score is still yet to be seen, but there was something so very satisfying in taking a swing at that giant, only to find that it didn't fight back. In fact, the whole process was a lot easier than I thought it would be-- it was just that initial step, and bringing my fears & failures into the light that was the scariest.

It feels good. And in the end, whether my fears were founded or not, Don Quixote makes a much better story than some little girl hiding under the covers.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Ghosts of Payments Past

There's this pit in my stomach that has nothing to do with pregnancy nausea. It feels a little like remorse, and a little like shame, and a lot like kicking myself. I'll tell you why:

You see, there's this Dream House-- a house that, for months, I've been decorating in my mind during sleepless nights; a house that has taken up much conversation between Chris, myself, and some good friends.

It's a 3-story Victorian house, in our neighborhood of which we hope to one day be the proud co-owners. There are a lot of details and small miracles that go into the story of how we came to even dream that we-- the tight-budgeted, always-broke, non-profit workers-- could one day own this house, but I'll save that for another time.

The story I'm thinking of today goes back to about 5 years ago, when I
walked into a U-Haul rental office, couldn't find my ATM card, and rented a truck on an old credit card that I hadn't used for ages. Fast forward 4 years to a collections agency sending me an $800 collection for this silly little rental bill, that somehow never found it's way to our new mailing address. Yuck.

Weeks of terrible phone calls, confusing numbers, and even tears resulted in paying the stupid bill, with a serious ding to my not-exactly-flawless credit score. And that insignificant little number-- that tiny little forgotten detail-- is what is haunting me this afternoon, causing the pit in my stomach & the lump in my throat.

Chris just got home from a meeting with a lender, working out the details of buying our dream house. And, as fate would have it, the one thing holding us back-- 22 little things, to be specific-- is my credit score. Vomit.

No, it's not the end of the world, and no, it doesn't necessarily mean that we can't get the house, but it most likely means (best case scenario) that we will have to wait another month before we can find out. And waiting another month translates to moving in right smack on my due-date. It also means starting off the school year, and welcoming a team of new staff and interns into the busiest season of the work year while moving, painting, cleaning, remodeling, and adjusting to life as new parents (i.e. sleep deprived zombies). If that's not enough to put a pit in your stomach, I don't know what is.

Not only that, but it pokes at a soft, squishy part of me that I would rather keep hidden. It's the
part of me that Chris saved when he married me & took on the financial responsibilities of our lives. Quite the knight in shining armor, when you consider all the forgotten bills, the late payments, and the financial chaos I so often found myself in during my college years. There is something about financial shame that is so... well, shameful. And now, all those skeletons in my closet are dancing around out in the open, affecting not only myself & my wonderful husband, but also our dear friends that we are trying to buy a home with.

I might have spent part of the afternoon in the bathroom crying. It's possible that I made a giant bowl of chocolate pudding, and ate said pudding straight out of the bowl with a serving spoon. I can neither confirm nor deny this story, and feel that I have already done enough confessing for one day.

At the moment, I am working hard to remember Grace-- not the person, but the concept. I am trying to remember that if God wants to provide us with our dream house, He's not going to allow 22 little points on a credit score to keep that from happening. I am trying to remember that my worth & identity is not wrapped up in a number. I am trying not to eat the rest of that chocolate pudding...

Saturday, May 8, 2010


There comes a moment in everyone's life where you cease to be cool. Wait, I think I need to qualify that-- obviously there are some people who were never cool to start off with, and there are some (like James Dean) who die young and are immortalized as cool. Then there's the once in a lifetime types (like Clint Eastwood) who manage to hang on with a death grip to their coolness, even in old age. But for the rest of us, there is this invisible barrier, this tiny thread we cross over one day, somewhere around middle age, where "cool" is no longer an option.

I remember being in high school, pondering an elderly woman. She was stuck, in her fashion,
somewhere between the 60's and the 80's, with polyester pants, the standard old woman helmeted & permed haircut, and those cushy nurse-looking "comfort shoes". As I took her in, I wondered, At what point do you just stop? When does fashion & pop culture and relevancy sort of float out the window, and you just don't care?

Of course, in high sc
hool things like fashion, pop-culture, and relevancy matter very, very much. Everyone knows that Beyonce makes the world go round, and that skinny jeans & Tom's define your worth & identity. But when is that magic day when you realize that you just don't care anymore-- when you get old?

My theory is that most people pick a date and stick with it. For most, that date coincides with the year printed on their high school diploma. Or maybe college. There's this moment where keeping up becomes all too tedious, and those flannels & jeans in the back of your closet just seem so comfy-- and, well, they were cool once, right?

Chris & I recently had a revelation that pointed to the fact that, if we hadn't crossed that line yet, it was coming soon. Although I have never really been "into" music-- I don't have a
n ipod, and have probably owned less than 50 CD's in my lifetime-- he was pretty up on the music scene ever since 5th grade. But the frightening revelation was that, in the past 10 or so years, most of our new music wasn't actually "new", but just recent albums from the same old bands we'd been listening to since our teen years. Then I noticed that our car radio was either set to the news, classic rock, or the "new" 90's rock "flashback" station that Chris recently discovered. Uh-oh. Que the funeral music.

I've also noticed that lately, my cute, punk-rock hubby has taken to wearing running shoes with
his 501's & baggy flannel-- and has been accused by several of our students of being "90's grunge". Oh man, it's begun.

One of the really great things about crossing over that line, though, is the simple fact that you really don't care. As a teenager, the idea of
not worrying what other people thought of you was almost inconceivable, and with that reality came a constant self-consciousness, a slight discomfort in your own skin.

A student was teasing me the other day about trying to pass me off as 19yrs old, to fit into the dorms. But as I thought about it, I realized that I would much rather be 31, having no idea what was playing on the radio, yet at home with myself. I think I like Me better at 31 than I did at 19. Besides, there are few things more tragic than someone who's past their prime, trying to keep up with the young whipper snappers. ;)

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Surreal Saturday

[I apologize, but Blogger is being screwy with pictures. Here's one to whet your appetite-- you'll have to use your imagination for the rest! And, yes, that man is wearing a tweed crab on his back!]

It's been a long run, to say the least. I realize that I haven't exactly "arrived" anywhere (still pregnant, still busy, etc), but I feel like I'm getting a bit of a half time, or a 7th inning stretch, or whatever the sports analogy might be. And let me tell you, it feels great.

Ever since November, I've gotten the one-two punch of pregnancy illness and excessive traveling. There were literally some months where we never bothered to put the suitcases away, and it seemed like if I wasn't on a plane or in a car, I was plastered to the couch moaning about nausea.

But I'm not here to tell you about being pregnant. I'm tired of that topic. I want to share about my weekend-- that glorious weekend that was a big, deep breath. The weekend that marked the (momentary) end of huge responsibilities, and the beginning of Spring Break-- which technically doesn't mean vacation, but at least it means getting our ducks in somewhat of a row again.

Chris & I were faced with an entire Saturday with absolutely nothing to do. It sounded glorious-- the sky's the limit!-- but somehow the thought of all that open space scared us a little, like a big black hole that might suck us in. After a huge crepe breakfast in our PJ's, we looked at each other and asked, "Now what?"

With just a little internet research, we discovered "what": The Old Fashioned Tweed Ride in Berkeley. What better way to spend a sunny spring Saturday than dressed up like a turn-of-the century British golfer, riding our bikes around one of the kookiest towns in America with a band of complete strangers??

[If at this point in the story, you are wondering WHY would a group of people dress up in tweed & ride their bikes around together, let me spoil it by telling you that there is no reason. Some things you just don't question] ;)

After discovering that impromptu costumes are trickier than they seem when you're 5 months pregnant (and also discovering that Chris was actually meant to be a Newsie-- he looked perfect!), we lugged our bikes onto BART, crossed the Bay, and bumped into about 80 other cyclists who looked even more-- in fact much more-- ridiculous than we did. We were dull & clean cut compared to this crowd.

As we joined the bike procession, we took over the streets at a leisurely pace, and soaked in the perfect sunny day. At one point, as we were entering a park that sits on right top of the Bay, overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge & the City, we came upon big rolling green, windswept hills and dozens & dozens of kites flying overhead. Just at that moment, one of my fellow Tweeders passed me, pulling behind him a wagon with an accordion player in tow, serenading us. For a moment, I felt like I was in the movie Amelie... and a little bit like I was on drugs (but in a pleasant sort of way).

We ended our ride at the pinnacle of the park, right on the water, where the accordion player was joined by the rest of his band. I took in the scene around me: an eclectic group of steam punk musicians played everything from a xylophone (with spoons), a ukulele, a plastic keyboard with a mouth piece, and sang into a "microphone" made of a bull horn taped to a mic stand. All the while, a band of gypsies (really, I don't know how else to describe them) danced in little circles around & around a picnic table-- one wearing a top hat, antique aviator goggles & a (real) giant flared mustache, his dancing partner in a leather corset & knee-high lace-up boots. Let me tell you, it was surreal.

I'm sure that part of the experience was the feeling of release, knowing that we had made it through the busiest, hardest stretch of our year. But it was also rather magical about being a part of something so very "other". It was lovely.

We discovered that there is another Tweed Ride scheduled for San Francisco in April, and I can assure you that we will be there. Until then, I'm on the search for tweed maternity pants and a bubble pipe.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Hostel and Hospitality

The truth of the matter is that we happen to live in one of the most fantastic cities in the world. I'm just saying. The up-side is a list so long, I won't even start counting (I really do love where I live). The down-side, however, is that the rest of the world tends to agree.

We also happen to work for an organization that is incredibly well connected-- where you can meet a stranger from the other side of the world, and chances are, you know some of the same people. It happens all the time, and it's really fun.

Well, when you put those two wonderful ingredients into a recipe together, what often happens is that we get requests from people we've never met, asking if their student, their brother, or they themselves can come and stay with us as they visit one of the most fantastic cities in the world.

It's a dilemma.

I'm not saying that it happens every week, but I do have the sneaking suspicion that if we were the loving, open, generous people we should be, our air mattress might never get deflated, and our living room/dining room/office/family room/foyer would be converted into a guest bedroom. Or a Bed & Breakfast, minus the payment.

I realize that I sound like a horrible person. At this particular moment (after sending an email off to a friend of a friend in Germany whose student is visiting San Francisco), I feel rather guilty. My assumption is that these lovely people who send these requests would offer up their homes if asked. I imagine that they already have a menagerie of international students & friends crashing at their house even as they write their email to San Francisco.

I also have this deep belief that one of the keys to life is being generous with what I have been given-- being open with my life, my home, my possessions & my time. I have a romantic image in my mind of becoming the type of little old woman who opens her arms to the people around her, and spends her days making cookies for the neighborhood children. People say that I am a gifted hostess-- sometimes they even throw in the term "Spiritual Gift", which makes the guilt all the greater each time I send off an email politely saying "No".

But the truth of the matter is that we are busy. Our jobs require a ton of emotional & relational energy, and oftentimes, when we get home at the end of the day, we really need some time & space to ourselves. Our little one bedroom apartment sometimes feels cramped with just the two of us (and the giant pit bull) in it, and living in a loud urban environment transforms the relative quiet of our home into a sanctuary.

Within the next year or so, we are hoping to move into a bigger home. We have big dreams of even having a guest bedroom (imagine!). But the question popped into my mind, that if and when we do have this dream bedroom, what will we do with the requests from friends of friends of friends who are stopping by our city for a week and need a place to stay? If we were given a gift as big as a guest bedroom, can we in good conscience politely suggest a local hostel?

When I ran these plaguing questions by Chris this morning, he decreed that it was too early to be thinking about something that distressing. I suppose we'll have to cross that bridge when we come to it. I do, however, want to grow in generosity & openness, and to be gracious even with the little space that we have.

Maybe next time... ;)

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Timshell: Thou Mayest

There is the kind of person who, when they walk into a room, a certain energy or presence seems to follow. There are people who just seem set apart-- a little different from the rest of us, and although we are taught to believe that we are all special, there's something about those people who are somehow more special.

One of my favorite literary characters is Samuel Hamilton, from the book East of Eden by John Steinbeck. Now, if you haven't read the book, I forgive you-- but only if you run out immediately and read it. Go ahead, I'll wait. [And, No, watching the movie does not count. It's terrible.] ;)
As I was saying, Samuel Hamilton is the kind of person with which you just want to sit down and share a meal. He's the kind of person who would make me a better person, just by spending time with him. In the book, Samuel talks a bit about greatness-- how he could have become a great man, but was afraid; how he watches his own son struggle with greatness, and how it pains him.

The thing about greatness-- about those people who seem set apart, who were meant to change the world-- is that it comes at a cost. There is a comfort, a sense of belonging when we are average, when we don't set our sights too high. The heroes of this world are lonely; they struggle and strain and sacrifice. And although we all love a great hero movie-- and although we'd all like to think, at one time or another, that we could be that hero-- very few of us are actually willing to step out from the crowd.
All these thoughts came to me a little while ago in a rather round about way. Although it doesn't happen as often as I like, I try to pray for the little peanut growing inside of me. I confess that most of my prayers are motivated by the fear of loss-- illness, deformity, still birth, and all the horrible, worrisome thoughts that will inevitably plague my mind from now into the rest of motherhood.

Usually, once I've finished praying for the basics-- healthy kid, two arms & legs, and all that-- my mind wanders into the more abstract. What will he be like? Can I pray for his personality, his soul?

I found myself wanting to pray for his happiness-- that he would live a life of contentment and security. Who wouldn't want that for their child? But what about greatness? What about the kind of man who would actually change the world around him, who would be willing to sacrifice for others? I confess that, as much as I would want someone like that in this world, it is a difficult thing to pray that for your own child.

It made me wonder about the things that I really value. To a certain extent, I want to be that kind of person-- the kind who choses that which is difficult, and who is willing to sacrifice because there is the higher value. I want the students that we work with to posess those characteristics as well, and I want to be a part of something that is worth the sacrifice (as I believe I am).

But for some reason, this new entity has sprung up inside me that is afraid to pray that for my own child, and I wonder why. What do I really value? How much am I willing to give?

In East of Eden, Samuel Hamilton unwittingly reveals to his friends the meaning behind life. It comes in a Hebrew word, Timshell, which means "Thou Mayest". As he and the characters in the book wrestle with this idea of greatness, they discover in an old Bible story this word Timshell-- the ability to choose between greatness & mediocrity, the earth & the stars. Most of us live in limbo between the two, paralized with the fear of the decision, as Samuel was. We are never really fully alive while we hover in indecision, but I can feel the fear and hesitation inside of me each time the choice is given.

I still haven't quite had the courage to pray that my little 10 oz. baby would one day choose the greater. It's a big hurdle to cross, mentally. But I suppose that each time the decision is laid before me, it gets me a step closer. Greatness may not be in the cards, but there's always potential. As Steinbeck says, "To the stars, on the wings of a pig."


Sunday, February 7, 2010

Poverty Mentality

I realize that this is not a foodie blog (despite how much I love to read them), but with a new-found ability to eat (hooray for the second trimester!), I find myself thinking about food... a lot. Actually, to be totally honest, I have been thinking about food more than a healthy, normal person ever since getting pregnant-- especially during those long, sleepless nights after not being able to eat all day.

I lie awake and plan dinner menus, think of restaurants I want to spend
fortunes on, and come up with elaborate party themes (and of course, the food I would serve at them). It's kind of sick, like food pornography playing in my mind.

Sometime around last week, I realized that I was able to eat little bits of
food that I hadn't been able to before (which had been a list about a mile long, consisting of about everything that wasn't a cracker), and my little mind went crazy. Oh, the joy of cooking, and even better, the joy of eating. A combination of refraining from food for so long, and my hyper-sensitive pregnant nose seemed to make everything I ate taste like the nectar of the gods. So, of course, I have this poverty mentality ingrained in me now, and every time food is within reach, I try to eat everything I can-- until Chris notices & scolds me for making myself sick.

And of course, after feeling like a hermit from being confined to the couch for so long, my very first instinct is to throw a party. My first desperate clutch landed on Super Bowl Sunday. Nachos,
homemade pizza (Chris makes a mean pizza), little brownies shaped like footballs... just thinking about it made me salivate. The problem is that we don't have a TV (that is, we don't have a TV that actually shows TV), and no one we knew was having a Super Bowl party.

Well, not to worry. The plan is to scurry out after church today and buy a set of rabbit ears. If it works, well then, we're watching the Super Bowl [commercials], and having ourselves a party. If not-- no problem, I am determined to make (and thoroughly enjoy-- and probably get sick from) a huge platter of nachos, brownies shaped like footballs, and homemade pizza.

You're welcome to join us, and cheer for Saints. Or the... Colts(?). Or the nachos, as I will be doing.

Best Ever Nachos:
-1 16oz. can Ducal re-fried black beans*
-1 bag Casa Sanchez thick & crispy tortilla chips**
-1 carton Casa Sanchez salsa verde**
-1/4lb. cotija cheese, shredded or crumbled*
-1 tomato, diced
-1-2 avocados
-1-2 limes
-teaspoon ground oregano (approx)
-teaspoon salt (approx)
-small bunch cilantro, chopped & 2 green onions, white parts diced (optional)
-sour cream (optional)

-Pre-heat oven to 200
-Spread 1/2 of chips on a large, oven-proof platter
-Dollop 1/2 of black beans & cheese over chips
-Cover with remaining chips, black beans & cheese
-Place platter in oven for about 10-15 min, or until cheese is melted & chips have browned slightly
-Slice avocado, scoop out flesh into a bowl, and mash with a fork. Add lime juice, salt & oregano to taste. If desired, add chopped cilantro & green onions
-Remove platter from oven, & top with guacamole, sour cream, diced tomatoes & salsa.
-If you prefer a meatier version, grab a rotisserie chicken, chop up some of the meat & fry it in lime juice. Add to top of nachos at end.

*available at Latin markets
**sold in San Francisco at grocery stores, Latin markets, and at their restaurant on 24th & York
Post Template

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Kitchen Window

So far, it's been one of those mornings where walls seem to bump into me, objects seems to fall out of my hand, gravity seems a little stronger, and things that I dig through cabinets to find were sitting on the counter staring at me. Nothing tragic-- just one of those mornings.

how I managed to work about a 14hr day yesterday, and decided to treat myself to the morning off. As I shuffled around the kitchen in my slippers, I fumbled through the process of making bran muffins, and watched the world pass by outside the window.

Living on the ground floor of a corner apartment means that there's a lot going on right outside the kitchen window. I've woken up to a homeless man bathing outside the window, seen
drug deals against the window, heard all kinds of interesting & colorful conversations through the window, and waved at neighbors with purple rubber-gloved hands while doing dishes & looking out the window. But of all the sights & sounds that window provides, my three favorites are Bob, The Cuban Basset Hound, and The Cheerleader.

Bob lives on the far end of our block, and if I had to make a guess, I would
say he is an Italian American in his mid-seventies who grew up in Jersey. Or maybe Brooklyn. On sunny days, he opens his garage door and sits in a lawn chair, watching the neighborhood change around him. Rumor has it, he built his house house back when our rough Latino neighborhood was made up of Italian & Irish families. I honestly wouldn't be too surprised to see him in his lawn chair with a rifle spread across his lap, muttering racial slurs, like Clint Eastwood in Gran Torino.

The Cuban Basset Hound, as we call him, doesn't actually have much to do with my story, but I just have to mention him because of the intrigue he brings from the kitchen window. "He" is actually an old wrinkly man with almost chocolate brown skin and white wavy hair, along with his wrinkly, saggy waddling basset hound that shuffle at a snail's pace up & down our block. Together, they look like they look like one entity, dragging their feet towards death's door-- that is until another dog walks by, and the comatose basset hound lunges for a kill, and the grumpy old Cuban breaks into a huge smile and laughs. Quite the transformation.

And last, but certainly not least is the Cheerleader. Every morning for several years, like clockwork, we heard the Cheerleader's singsong voice float through our window without actually seeing his identity. The morning routine is as follows: a middle-aged Asian woman half-jogs, half-walks in tiny little bouncy steps around & around our block, and is always inevitably intercepted right at our corner by The Cheerleader.

"Here she comes! Here she comes! Here she comes!" chirps The Cheerleader in a little song, shrilly squeaking out the "Here" part of the sentence in the same way every day. "You're looking good, you're looking good, you're looking good" rolls up & down like the chorus, followed by a big Mwaaaaaw of a kiss. Usually I hear through the window enthusiastic compliments & small talk, as the woman politely responds in a light Chinese accent, but obviously wants to continue her "jog". It's an adorable little interaction.

Well, the big plot twist, surprise ending to my little neighborhood tale came about a year ago, when the Cheerleader & The Jogger happen to collide a few steps earlier than normal, giving me the opportunity to finally see his face... and it was none other than Bob, the crotchety looking Clint Eastwood of our block. I almost fell over.

I have to say that listening to The Cheerleader/Bob has been one of the best parts of my morning, and as silly & repetitive as he sounds, I sometimes wish that he would follow me around the kitchen, cheering me on, and telling me how great I look at 7am.
I think we could all use someone like that, every now & then.

Sadly, it has been months since I've heard Bob's sing-song voice floating through our window, and was reminded of the fact this morning as I stumbled around the kitchen and saw him slowly walk around the corner. My guess is that his jogging friend moved away-- as I'm sure most of his friends have done over the years-- and that he has no one to cheer on as they fight their way through the morning. He looks a little less bright as a result, and I miss his encouragement, even if it wasn't intended for me.

I remember one morning Bob deeply apologizing to The Jogger for missing her the previous day. He explained that his son had called & wouldn't get off the phone in time for Bob to come to the corner. I don't know that she minded-- she might have been grateful for the uninterrupted lap around the block. But I do know that Bob needed someone to cheer on.

And I suppose we all do-- we need to clap & cheer for & compliment others just as much as we need a standing ovation every now & then. I think it sort of keeps us alive. It almost makes me want to take up jogging, just to give Bob someone to cheer for again.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Dear John Letter

We've all seen them: those turbulent on-again, off-again relationships, full of drama and passion and pain. It's the kind of relationship that outsiders shake their heads at and wonder "Why can't they just end it? They'd be so much happier." But from the inside, it's not so easy.

I discovered this recently, and for the last several months have been trying to extricate myself from a passionate love affair with food-- not completely, of course, and not f
orever. I've been writing a "Dear John" letter in my mind for a while now, that I seem to be unable to deliver. It goes something like this:

Dear Food: cheese, delicious desserts, all things fried, yummy & flavorful,
spicy, rich, sweet and aromatic,

I need a break-- just some time apart. It's not you, it's me. I've tried to make it work, and I just can't right now. Please understand, and please don't whisper my name from the fridge anymore. I'm leaving now, and hopefully I'll see you again in August.

Deepest love, Christine

this alien being living inside-- this little parasite intent on stealing my energy & health, and sometimes even my sane & rational thoughts & emotions-- is a jealous soul. Or maybe just a sensitive one. I try not to blame him/her, try to look forward to a day when all the nausea and issues will subside... try not to cry every time I see a block of cheese.

For now, I am settling into a bland marriage of energy bars, crackers, fruit, dry cereal, and other safe and wise choices. Occasionally, a pickle will saunter into my life and cause my heart to quicken, but only when security is lax.

This pregnancy thing is not for the weak of heart, however weak my stomach might be right now. But I keep pressing on, looking forward to Thursday, when we will get to hear the heartbeat for the first time. I imagine all will be forgiven then.