Three For the Road

Matt has been nervous since Arden was born. Nervous that we’d never trek again.

The summer before I got pregnant we hiked 200 miles across Spain in what was  the most challenging and most thrilling thing either of us had experienced at that point. (And to date it’s probably a toss up between the Camino and childbirth for the most thrilling/challenging/awesome thing we’ve ever done. Of course childbirth was more rewarding, but it couldn’t have been a whole lot harder…it only lasted about a tenth of the time and I was never offered an epidural in Spain.)

While Arden has rearranged our life in some pretty significant ways, it’s been wonderful (and quite a relief) to see him acclimate to some of our routines – like Saturday brunch at Foode, frequent trips north or south along the 95 corridor and frequent strolls and hikes.

Hiking with a baby is hard, though – unlike a normal pack which gets lighter throughout the day (as you consume supplies) babies are getting heavier every second. Since we’d like to tackle some more ambitious treks as a family we decided to upgrade from the Ergo carrier (which I still use for trips to the grocery store and when afternoon clinginess coincides with dinner prep) and purchased a fancy Deuter Kid Comfort carrier.

We think Arden approves.

We spent Sunday afternoon on the 6.3 mile loop around the James River. It’s a lovely walk that feels a bit European route as pop in between views of the city’s squat skyline, seemingly dense nature, the gorgeous river, multiple cemeteries, and active train tracks.

Aside from being a thoroughly enjoyable outing for all three of us, Matt and I learned a few things about hiking with a baby:

  1. It’s not the sameAs a hiking pair we like to haul ass, generally shaving an hour or two off a trip’s projected duration. With a kid: get over that. Not only is there a freeloader to carry and all his supplies, there is the need for frequent stops to feed or change or reapply sunscreen.I thought this change of pace would be especially hard on Matt (who at the end of a 15 mile day would probably lament not making it an even 20) but with 25+ lbs on his back, he was not complaining about the ample breaks.
  2. It’s not the same You’ve got your kid with you who is seeing the trees and the river and the trains and the ducks for the very first time. If that doesn’t make you want to slow down and smile what will?
  3. Stay HydratedIt was pretty hot when we were out on Saturday and we realized quickly that I’d have to feed Arden more than every two hours in order to keep him well-hydrated.* Luckily, I didn’t have a problem feeding whilst standing in the dump behind a cemetery (incidentally, those are the saddest dumps).

    Check out the tiny pack I got to carry.

  4. Be adventurous We’ve learned this from past trips: don’t be afraid to deviate from the plan. When we ventured into a lonely ancient cathedral in Spain we ended up getting a tour of the relic filled attic entirely in Spanish. When we opted to stay in an abandoned hostel, we made friends with a group of middle-aged Valencians, one of whom we almost named Arden after.While it’s good to have destination goals, we try to be of the “getting there is half the fun” (or MOST of it) mindset. The James Loop wasn’t quite as exotic, but it had a few surprises like the opportunity to walk through a drainage tunnel and happening upon the RiverRock festival and scoring a free Body Armor SUPER Drink…which Matt loved…he said he really needed the antioxidants.

We had a great day, Arden was amazing, and we can’t wait to do it again.

*We realized shortly into the walk that we should have brought a baby bottle filled with water. We’ll do it next time.

Two More Days

I’d originally planned to work up until my due date and shortly after school started I edited that to make my last day the week before. But last week was a bitch, y’all. Though certainly not aerobic, teaching middle school is physically demanding. And while it is incredibly hard to guess when I will actually go into labor, I decided to risk taking off too much time and being too rested in favor of going into labor after 6 hours of restless sleep and 9 hours of herding middle schoolers.

So,  I am throwing the swollen, achy pregnancy towel in this Friday and starting maternity leave.

Teaching’s been hard for a while for a variety of reasons, most of which have nothing to go with my pregnancy. That has made it easy to focus on this incredible relief I feel when I think about being done for a while. But a part of me  grieves, especially yesterday when my long-term sub was shadowing me and I realized that soon they would be “her kids” and not mine.  And that greatest collection of colleagues I’ve ever worked with will be her’s too. Nuts.

Staying home with my kid for a while is a whole new, uncharted territory. I am excited. But as hard as it has been to get up and go to school some mornings, I can’t help but feeling I am giving up a piece of myself.

This is my next big something

It’s been ages since I posted something here. The site actually died for a while when I failed to pay for the url reregistration. I heaped a lot on my plate in the last year and my waning commitment to regularly posting made this the logical thing to let fall by the wayside.

But now, since I am 34 weeks pregnant, I think things are finally going to settle down and I’ll have time for all my little side projects. That’s how it works, right?

As my due date approaches (41 days?!?), Matt and I find ourselves incredulously exclaiming with words we wouldn’t use in front of our mothers. How can this actually be happening? And so very soon? I actually still forget that I am pregnant on a daily basis only to be reminded when I open the car door on myself or smack a 7th grader in the back of the head with my enormous belly. (I’m still teaching but keep hoping my doctor will order me off my feet…she won’t she says, at least as long as I am still attending spin classes.)

This next big something on the horizon is the biggest something and yet all I can think about is all I’m giving up: my job – at least temporarily, our mobility, every Saturday out, the freedom to buy boots on a whim…but I recently remembered a quote from the Madeline L’Engle passage my dear cousin, Linda, read at our wedding:

If we commit ourselves to one person for life, this is not, as many people think, a rejection of freedom; rather, it demands the courage to move into all the risks of freedom, and the risk of love which is permanent; into that love which is not possession but participation.

Oh god, parenthood still feels like such a rejection of freedom but marriage with Matt has been exactly what L’Engle promised. It’s the best adult decision I’ve ever made and we’re a pretty good team – having his kid can’t be too bad.

Nothing to Fear

I told a version of this story at this month’s Tell.

Ted Bundy lured women to his Volkswagen Beetle. Innocent, unsuspecting girls who were mostly just trying to help a guy they thought was in need.

I wasn’t thinking about this as I drove, alone, down a rural road after 10 on a Thursday night. It seemed like I had just past the civilization of suburban strip malls, as if on cue everything grew darker in at the exact moment my gas light came on. I had 80 more miles to go. I would have to stop.

I didn’t know that route and was weighing my options in my head when I spotted an off-brand gas station on my right. Without hesitation I pulled in.

By the time I was born, Ted Bundy was in jail and would stay there until he was executed shortly after my eight birthday. I can tell you for sure that I knew nothing about him during that period when we were both alive at the same time (because my parents were doing their job sheltering me) but Ted Bundy like all the other threats to young women – real or imagined – becomes part of our culture, our collective conscious. He’s the reason we receive forwarded emails from the older women in our lives cautioning us to walk to our cars with our hands balled in fists. Or, in the presence of a would-be assailant, try to gnaw on your shoulder because rapists and murderers don’t like crazy people.

The gas station was pretty well-lit, standing in sharp contrast to the dark nothingness that surrounded it on all sides. I got out, clutching my cell phone, and opened the fuel tank when the engine of a van suddenly cut on and rolled towards me.

“Do you have a credit card?” shouted the driver – a man in his late forties.

“No.” I responded, holding my credit card. I paused. “I mean, yes. But, it’s mine.” I knew the situation was strange and had I actually read all those forwarded emails I may have been scared, but in the moment, I didn’t want to be accused of being a liar.

The thing that’s most terrifying to me about Ted Bundy is that he used people’s kindness against them. He’d often don a sling or use crutches and then fumble with books or a briefcase and ask his victim to help him carry his things to his Beetle where he’d budgeon them with a crowbar and stow them in his car.

“We don’t have a credit card,” the van driver went on. “We just got out of orthopedic surgeon’s -”

“I had foot surgery!” a younger man suddenly appeared in the passenger’s seat.

“We didn’t realize the gas station would be closed and we need gas. Could we give you cash and use your credit card?”

“How much do you want!” The young man opened the door and leaped from the cab. “Ten dollars?” he asks the driver.

He hobbles towards me, left foot in a bandage and shoves two worn five dollar bills into my hands before I can say no. Then he sits down on the curb, tells me his foot hurts and begins unwrapping the dressing from surgery.

“Get back in the car.” the driver says sternly. And the young man does.

I finished pumping my gas. I walked over to his pump and swiped my credit card. I stood there to make sure he only got $10 worth of gas, and that I think, is the strangest part of the story.

He pumped the gas and thanked me. We got into our cards and drove away. And that is when I thought of all the things that could of happened all the ways that that night could have gone terribly wrong. But, they didn’t. And I wasn’t scared.

There will always be Ted Bundys. Real monsters out there to be scared of. But there will also always be strangers in need. I’m not trying to be careless or naive, but I’ll chose to not be afraid.

In and Out of the Ashram

Is it embarrassing to admit that until I read Eat, Pray, Love three years ago, I didn’t really know what an ashram was? (P.S. I recently saw the movie…zzz…)

I hazily remembered book’s description of an ashram – a quiet, secluded compound full of people meditating and observing silence and doing karma yoga (read: free labor). It was pretty accurate. And the part I forgot, the near-worship of the spiritual leader, was there at Yogaville, too. It was that aspect of my experience that I had the hardest time making peace with – I felt, sometimes, that when people were saying “Swami Satchidananda” they meant “God” and sometimes when they were saying “God” they meant “Swami Satchidananda”. It was hard for me to swallow.

You’ll get no argument from me that the Swami was an incredible man. On a personal level, his creation of Yogaville, this place for spiritual study and retreat, allowed me to spend this beautiful month of my life redefining love and compassion and spirituality. There I laughed more than was appropriate, forged deep and sustainable relationships, and healed parts of myself that had been cracked for a while.

Through the our readings and study, the truth that I came to believe (and delight in) is that God, or whatever you want to call it, is within all of us, it is a light we all share. And people like Jesus and Ghandi and Mother Theresa and Swami Satchidananda were just more in touch, more tuned into that truth and therefore better examples of God. I guess it makes sense to want to worship people like this but I think it ends up absolving us of our own responsibility to work harder to grow the light within us.

Now that I am away from the safety and boundless love of a place dedicated to nurturing that light, I feel that my own is barely flickering. Before leaving the ashram everyone all of us new teachers lamented our departure (no matter how happy certain ones of us were to return to certain muscly husbands). It’s hard to keep your heart so opened and your thoughts so positive once you return to the “real world” and the ashram is not the real world – at least it isn’t for me – and the real world place I am in now is still lovely, but there are stressers abounding. I think I’ll stay here, though.

HA HA HA

This morning I did laughing yoga and meditation (Hasyayago). Dudes, at first you feel like an idiot but then it is amazing and your body is filled with some POWERFUL joy. Laughing releases endorphins (big time), even fake laughing, and it reduces stress and anxiety,  increases oxygen intake and makes you feel awesome.

I’ll level with you, I’ve done some weird things since I got here – things that would make you go “hmmm” – but I cannot urge you enough to find 5 minutes to sit in a room and laugh for no reason. Like this guy:

Breaking Bad

Wine. Beer. Coffee. Chocolate.  Oh how I love each of you so so much. I’m also pretty chummy with Salt and Sugar and Fat (especially in the form of an Oreo McFlurry), but we will be strangers for the next four weeks.

I am actually not really missing those old frienemies…the food at the ashram is fabulous.  Maybe it’s a new foe since I think about breakfast through morning meditation and lunch (big, filling, fabulous lunch) through the latter part of noon time meditation. Guys, I try really hard to think focus on a mantra but my mind wanders and my mouth waters.

It’s easy to break your unhealthy diet habits when you are in such a structured, controlled environment. It’s easy to eat well when that is your only option. When I return home I will not eat this well…I will probably eat better (much better, even) then I did before I came here, but this diet is effortless – I feel like I am a child being cared for and fed.

The worse habit I am in the process of breaking is my tendency toward tardiness. I know how loathed this trait is…I know that prompt people see it as a great afront, and though I never ever mean to be inconsiderate, it happens. I was early for registration and early for everything since then – I think “they” say it takes three weeks to undo a habit. Look out prompt friends…prepare to be respected.