Speed On.

I turned 35 on Friday. 35 doesn’t feel old enough to have friends with cancer. 35 doesn’t feel old enough to lose friends to cancer. At least not friends my age.

My friend Mark passed away this morning. He filled his last months with all of the things he’d always wanted to do. The last time we chatted, he was brainstorming menus for the bar he recently opened, and I told him how much I was enjoying following his “fuck cancer” adventures. He turned 40 last month. I don’t even know what to say.

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Bros

Welcome to Bonnaroo!

 

Mark, I hope that paddle boat we always talked about stealing is waiting for you wherever you end up.

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Five Minute Reviews: FitBit Surge

For at least a year, I’ve been looking to replace my not all that trustworthy Garmin Forerunner 305. I kept putting off the purchase because I couldn’t find a watch in my price range that had the features I wanted: specifically, multisport capacity that included cycling.

Enter the FitBit Surge, the new high-end fitness tracker from FitBit. It promised multisport capacity in addition to the step and sleep tracker features available in the previous generation of FitBits. Lots of my friends have FitBits, so I was excited about the ability to compete for steps in addition to the training features. I set aside my Christmas money and waited for the release announcement.

My FitBit Surge came in the mail last Friday, and I happily strapped it to my wrist and started obsessively checking my steps. Here are the things I liked:

  • The watch is slick. It’s not a giant clunky thing, like my Garmin. However, it is on the big side, particularly if you’re not used to wearing a watch.
  • The interfaces for the watch, the mobile app, and the website are clean and easy to use.
  • The silent alarm is great, particularly if you don’t want to wake a sleeping baby.
  • The fitness tracker is easy to operate, even with giant lobster gloves on.
  • The GPS seemed to pick up more quickly than my Garmin, even in Hyde Park.

Things I didn’t like:

  • Multisport does NOT include cycling! !!
  • The heart rate monitor portion poked into my arm uncomfortably.
  • The sleep tracker is not granular enough to give really useful data.
  • I thought the step tracker would update automatically as I walked around; instead, I seemed to have to have my phone on me as well.
  • After 2ish days of wear, I started having small muscle spasms in my wrist in proximity to where the watch sat. NOT GOOD.

So unfortunately, my FitBit Surge is going back! Sorry, FitBit!

Five Minute Reviews

I’m back at work and trying to get into the groove of professional writing, and it’s hard. My posting here has fallen off to the point that I’m still trying to get through posts about a trip we took a year ago. For the last few months, most of the writing I was able to accomplish was done one-handed on my phone while feeding the baby or in the stolen moments while he was napping and I really should have been napping as well.

I’m trying a few things to flex my writing muscles again. Most nights I’ve been able to take a few minutes before bed or before work to write a couple of paragraphs in a paper journal. I’m chipping away at the backlog of real emails during my pumping breaks. And I’ve been keeping a running list of things I want to write about here.

As an experiment, I’m going to try to write five minute reviews of whatever: books, movies, products, recipes, food trucks, etc. I will set a timer and write for five minutes, and whatever I get down (plus photos and links added after) is what I’ll post here. I’m going to try to do this weekly. Wish me luck!

This is what is different.

Today is the end of my second week back to work. Now that the holidays are over and everyone is back in the office, I’m being asked regularly how it is to be back, how we’re managing, what life is like as a working mother.

I’ll tell you:

There’s all the normal day-to-day stuff from before: waking up with an alarm, making coffee, hunting for parking, endless meetings, trying to avoid ordering take out at the end of a long day, wanting to watch another episode of something but giving into sleep instead.

Add to that a layer of baby activities: nursing before getting out of bed, changing two diapers in the hour before work, keeping the baby entertained while trying to make coffee so that Nicolas and I are both a little more awake before I leave, rushing home to happy snuggles and more nursing, hoping the baby doesn’t fall asleep for the night an hour after I walk in the door.

Also add the angst of separation. And the weirdness and frustration of needing to fit 2-3 pumping sessions into an already busy work day. And half a dozen photos or video of the cuteness (and crying) happening at home. And the constant calculation of whether anything extra – a doctor’s appointment, stopping for groceries, a workout – is worth the extra time away from the baby.

It’s amazing how quickly your priorities change. I was told this would be the case, but I didn’t understand it until I experienced it.

We’re in an incredibly fortunate situation: I like my job, and my salary is enough that Nicolas can be home – full time and indefinitely. We don’t have to bundle the baby and all of his accouterments off to daycare in the morning. Nicolas is great with the baby and also isn’t subject to the sort of cabin fever that would be killing me right about now. Pumping is easy for me. My employer is supportive of families and has a very flexible leave policy. I get to work from home one day/week.

It’s hard to be back. But it’s also good to be back. And there’s not a damned thing that will get between me and the door at the end of the workday now that there’s a sweet little boy who needs his mama waiting at the other end of my commute.

Books about pregnancy

As you might expect, I did a lot of reading in anticipation of the arrival of our son. Some of it was very helpful. Some of it I will need to revisit in 5-10 years. Some of it was pretty useless. Here’s what I found useful during my pregnancy:

Opting In: Having a Child Without Losing Yourself
I read this before I got pregnant. While other friends hated it, I appreciated the discussions of the various waves of feminism, our relationships with our mothers, the decision/value of returning to work, and the challenges for couples who choose or embody different gender roles. Good if you’re still trying to wrap your head conceptually around the many ways having a baby will change your sense of self.

Expecting Better: Why the Conventional Pregnancy Wisdom Is Wrong–and What You Really Need to Know
If you only read one book about pregnancy, let this be it. This book should be REQUIRED READING for any expecting parents, but will be of most interest to those who are at least a little skeptical of the advice and warnings doled out by books and other media related to pregnancy. The author and her husband applied their training as economists to analyze the recommendations she received from mainstream and hippie sources, as well as from their doctor – which was of particular interest to me as she provided enough detail to make it clear that she went to the same hospital we used. Their findings? Some of the well known recommendations are supported by good data. Many are not. Some are based on frankly terrible science, or on studies that haven’t been repeated or updated to reflect current medical practice. I finished this book feeling a great deal more confident in my ability to trust common sense, good nutrition, and my body – and a great deal less paranoid about the occasional drink, sushi roll, or falling asleep on my back at a time when sleeping in any position is kind of a miracle.

Mayo Clinic Guide to a Healthy Pregnancy
This was my mainstream medical establishment guide of choice. It seemed to be less alarmist than What To Expect When You’re Expecting, though it did still present a lot of recommendations that we flatly ignored. On the whole a decent reference book. I also consulted Your Pregnancy Week by Week, which I picked up for $1 at a conference, and got at least that much value out of it.

Real Food for Mother and Baby: The Fertility Diet, Eating for Two, and Baby’s First Foods
I loved Nina Planck’s first book and actually bought and read this long before pregnancy was on the table. I talk about this after talking about the Mayo Clinic book deliberately because it contradicts and complements the recommendations made therein. While I’ve softened my stance on supplements over the years, I still greatly prefer to get what my body needs from whole foods – and that’s what Planck does here, talking about what your body needs and where to get it – from conception through your child’s first foods. I worry a little that the data supporting her recommendations is selectively fished out of the great ocean of dietary advice, but it’s hard to argue with her simple, clear, time-tested advice that doesn’t rely on highly engineered products to support something we’ve been doing quite well for millennia.

The Pregnant Athlete: How to Stay in Your Best Shape Ever–Before, During, and After Pregnancy
Including this more as an afterthought – I picked this up at a conference after I’d had to stop running due to Braxton-Hicks contractions and general largeness and discomfort. I wish I’d read it earlier, as it does a better job than any other book I saw at addressing training during pregnancy – not just taking a walk to stay active.

2015 Resolutions

Part of my day job involves making sure that goals are specific and measurable. Here are my attempts at specific and measurable resolutions for 2015:

The fun:

  1. Run a marathon. I really wanted to do this last year, but pregnancy got in the way. I’m planning to run Chicago, with Detroit as my back-up choice.
  2. Read 12 non-parenting books. I read (most of) 17 books last year, but really only finished 12 in their entirety, and the great majority of those were parenting books. I’d like to read more for pleasure this year, but am setting my sights low.
  3. Complete 12 more items on my Chicago Bucket List. I knocked out 17 items last year, and added a few to the original list.
  4. Keep a journal. My grandpa kept a daily journal for years. It often wasn’t much more than the weather (including on the day of my mom’s wedding!), but that’s more than I’ve managed. I’d like to remember more about my baby’s first year than the milestones. I hope this will help.

The practical:

  1. Rebuild my savings. I took 4 weeks unpaid during my maternity leave, and that took a good chunk out of my savings. I’m far short of the recommended 3 months’ of living expenses, and don’t think I’ll get there this year while also reducing debt, but 2 months’ worth of living expenses in savings seems reasonable.
  2. Reduce debt. I wanted to eliminate my credit card debt last year. That didn’t happen; in fact, I’m right about where I was last year, though I’ve paid off two cards. I’d like to cut both my student loan and credit card debt in half this year.
  3. Take better care of my skin. For many, many years, I have done nothing on this front. Moisturizing daily will be a start.
  4. Start flossing. The dentist yells at me about this every time I go, so I need to either start flossing or stop going to the dentist.