2016 Resolution Reckoning

I only managed one quarterly check-in this year. Let’s see how I did with the rest:

1. More letters. I’m aiming for a letter each week.

I finished the year averaging just over one/week. Many of those were thank you notes, but they were hand written and went out on nice stationery with a stamp, so there.

2. More books. 16 sounds like a nice round number.

Not so much. I finished 5.

3. More miles. Barring injury, I’m aiming for 750 running and 2000 biking. I also really want this to be my marathon year, but I’ve said that before…

I didn’t come close to my biking goal, but I blew my running goal out of the water: 1000 miles for the year and my first marathon.

4. More movies. We saw a grand total of 6 last year. 12 seems possible.

Hilarious. I finished 3, maybe 4 movies the entire year.

5. Less meat. I’m not ready (or interested, really) in going back to being vegetarian, but I am interested in expanding my repertoire of meat-free meals, particularly since Nicolas has been pescatarian for nearly a year.

This definitely happened. Nicolas still eats fish but generally avoids all other animal products these days, so our diet is dramatically different than it used to be. In November, I fell in love with the My New Roots cookbook, which has been a game changer. I’m looking forward to more vegan-mostly cooking adventures in the new year.

6. Less debt. We’re on track to pay off all of my debt by the end of the year. I really want to make that happen.

Oh ho ho. Instead of eliminating debt, we bought a new car! My student loans are gone, so that’s something.

7. Less complaining.

8. Less guilt and regret.

A work in progress. For the rest of my life.

2016 in Meme

1. What did you do in 2016 that you’d never done before?
Ran a marathon; spent 3 weeks in Belgium; took a vacation with the entire family; launched an intranet; took a bootcamp class; found Divvy Red (twice in one day!); used a hospital-grade pump; facilitated a strategic planning discussion; ran 1,000 miles.

2. Did you keep your New Year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?
For the most part, and yes.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?
Several friends had babies, particularly in the first half of the year, and several more are expecting in the new year.

4. Did anyone close to you die?
I lost friends, but my year was nothing compared to the losses experienced by many people close to me.

5. What countries (or new places) did you visit?
No new places, but plenty of travel: 3 weeks in Belgium, 2 trips to DC/Virginia (conference + friend visit + wedding), and trips to Ann Arbor (wedding), Orlando (conference), Michigan City (family beach rental), Long Beach (friend support), Iowa City (family weekend), and Carlsbad (vacation).

6. What would you like to have in 2017 that you lacked in 2016?
Let’s just carry my 2016 list forward for another year: more dates with my partner, more time with friends, and more sleep. And more dancing.

7. What date from 2016 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?
My marathon, and the day after the election.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
My marathon, obvs.

9. What was your biggest failure?
Same as last year: I’m sure there are aspects of early parenting that we’ll regret. I wish I were more patient, and that I did a better job of communicating at times.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?
A couple of random bugs, but nothing serious.

11. What was the best thing you bought?
I’m slavishly devoted to my Get To Work Book. I also bought a new bike, but I haven’t had a chance to ride it yet.

12. Whose behavior merited celebration?
A lot of people complained about their social media and friend circles becoming toxic during the election. I feel incredibly fortunate that this wasn’t the case for me – and that many of my friends have continued to engage, to push buttons, to keep those of us inclined to armchair activism moving forward in this post-election season.

13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?
The President-Elect and all around him.

14. Where did most of your money go?
Food and drink and rent.

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?
I wouldn’t say that I loved marathon training, but I did love many hours of podcast listening, especially Criminal, More Perfect, and Revisionist History.

16. What song will always remind you of 2016?
We sing a silly song from one of the Winnie the Pooh movies a lot. Otherwise, I didn’t actually listen to all that much music.

17. Compared to this time last year, are you:
i. happier or sadder?
Sadder

ii. thinner or fatter?
Fitter

iii. richer or poorer?
More debt, but also more money.

18. What do you wish you’d done more of?
The same things every year: spending time with the toddler and his papa. Sleeping. Watching movies. Reading books. Dancing. Drinking. Spending time with friends and family.

19. What do you wish you’d done less of?
Driving. Trying to convince someone that he really, actually does need to sleep.

20. How did you spend Christmas?
We drove out to Rockford Christmas Eve, made a quick trip to the Nicholas Conservatory, and had Indian food for Christmas Eve dinner. The toddler got to have a snowy Christmas morning adventure with Pop, and I got in a quick run before Jenn and her family came over for packages and snacks. The toddler absolutely refused to nap and was in complete meltdown by dinner, so he had to miss the delicious food. We headed home on the 26th after a quick trip to the Discovery Center.

21. Did you fall in love in 2016?
With podcasts and early morning long runs

22. How many one-night stands?
Zero

23. What was your favorite TV program?
Game of Thrones, Man in the High Castle, Westworld

24. Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year
Some elected officials

25. What was the best book you read?
Bring Up the Bodies was so good. Fates and Furies was way better than expected.

26. What was your greatest musical discovery?
I really didn’t listen to much music this year.

27. What did you want and get?
Different responsibilities; a good training cycle; new friends

28. What did you want and not get?
More responsibility; a PR

29. What was your favorite film of this year?
I watched maybe 4 movies this year. It wouldn’t be fair to try to pick a favorite.

30. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
I turned 36. I took the toddler to our parent/child class at the Waldorf School down the street, then N treated us to brunch at the Cherry Circle Room. We took a walk and had cupcakes at Molly’s. We had literally just come back from vacation, so a low-key day was just fine.

31. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
Different election results. More sleep.

32. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2016?
Workout clothes + comfortable layers

33. What kept you sane?
My sister

34. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?
So many people lost their heroes this year – I’m afraid to name mine.

35. What political issue stirred you the most?
The entire election was a shitshow.

36. Who did you miss?
My people.

37. Who was the best new person you met?
This was the year that some of my work/professional friendships got real, and I’m so, so grateful for that.

38. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2016:
Listen more than you talk.

2015 in Meme

1. What did you do in 2015 that you’d never done before?
Discovered exactly how little sleep is necessary to function, watched the Hawkeyes go undefeated in normal season play, visited a Baha’i House of Worship, washed cloth diapers at home, drummed up excitement about an intranet, biked 1500 miles, roasted a zucchini inside an eggplant inside a butternut squash, served on a task force that shaped a survey administered by the federal government, mourned the closing of a bar.

Last Night at Neo//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js2. Did you keep your New Year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year? 50/50. Not bad. 3. Did anyone close to you give birth? Still more babies everywhere, though nothing like last year. A dear friend had her second son in June, Nicolas’s sister had a baby in October, and another dear friend had her daughter just a few days ago. Saying goodbye to our old lady this afternoon.//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js
4. Did anyone close to you die?
We lost Pandora in September, not long before my sister lost her Spock and my parents lost their Sasha. And my friend Mark died in January. We were never close, but I’ve been surprised by how much I’ve missed him.

5. What countries (or new places) did you visit?
No international travel this year, though we did spend a great week in San Francisco and an overnight in Michigan. Travel with a baby is harrrrrd. Instead, Nicolas’s mom came to us!

6. What would you like to have in 2016 that you lacked in 2015?
More dates with my partner. More time with friends. More sleep.

7. What date from 2015 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?
My baby’s first birthday was pretty damned special.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
Keeping a small human alive with my body and not losing my mind through months and months of severe sleep deprivation.

9. What was your biggest failure?
I’m sure there are aspects of early parenting that we’ll regret. I wish I were more patient, and that I did a better job of communicating at times.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?
I threw out my back biking in May, and got a nice bit of road rash in June. The entire family was sick in November and then again in December. Nothing serious, thankfully.

11. What was the best thing you bought?
Witch hazel and essential oils for me, stacking cups and a wooden kazoo for the baby.

12. Whose behavior merited celebration?
I am always proud of my sister, but this year she really knocked it out of the park.

13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?
Chicago Police

14. Where did most of your money go?
Food and drink and rent. The usual stuff.

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?
Riding my big.

16. What song will always remind you of 2015?
Jammin’

17. Compared to this time last year, are you:
i. happier or sadder?
Much happier

ii. thinner or fatter?
Thinner than last year, and closing in on my pre-pregnancy weight and shape.

iii. richer or poorer?
Richer both financially and personally.

Family biking is the best.//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js18. What do you wish you’d done more of?
Riding my bike with my baby. Sleeping. Watching movies. Reading books. Spending quality time with friends and family. Drinking.

19. What do you wish you’d done less of?
Driving. Always.

20. How did you spend Christmas?
We drove out to Rockford on Christmas Eve and had dinner with my family, then did brunch and packages the next morning before driving back to the city. I was sad to not spend more time with everyone, but also relieved to be home early and with an entire weekend ahead of us.

21. Did you fall in love in 2015?
With my baby boy and my bike commute and speculaas cookies

22. How many one-night stands?
Zero

23. What was your favorite TV program?
Game of Thrones and Mr Robot

24. Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year
Nope.

25. What was the best book you read?
While I read other books that were more important, I was completely absorbed by Wolf Hall.

26. What was your greatest musical discovery?
My child is a kazoo prodigy.

Medal as big as my face//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js
27. What did you want and get?
My running form back. Professional opportunities and new work friends.

28. What did you want and not get?
My athletic body back. The opportunity to run a marathon.

29. What was your favorite film of this year?
I literally only watched 3 movies this year, all of which were in the last month.

35 years/17 weeks//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js
30. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
I turned 35. We waited around for a good part of the morning hoping the baby would poop (he didn’t) before heading out to Eataly for a late lunch, and then to the zoo for our annual visit to the small mammal house. We had made dinner reservations at Nightwood (RIP) and arranged for a babysitter, but decided that the baby wasn’t ready (we weren’t ready), so the three of us had dinner at deColores instead. Later in the weekend, I went to King Spa with a group of friends. My mom was supposed to come in for a weekend in the city later in the month, but the baby had hit the four month sleep regression, so those plans ended up being cancelled.

31. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
I sound like a broken record: SLEEP.

32. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2015?
Easy access for breastfeeding

33. What kept you sane?
Riding my bike, the friends in my phone.

34. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?
No one in particular.

35. What political issue stirred you the most?
I feel like I’ve learned more about race and privilege in the last year than the whole rest of my life.

36. Who did you miss?
My sister. Our much more flexible life pre-baby.

37. Who was the best new person you met?
I’m thankful for new work/professional/mom friends.

38. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2015:
Ask for help before you need it. Don’t underestimate the detrimental effects of severe sleep deprivation. Everything is a phase. Everything is a season. The only constant is change.

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.

Untitled

Bros

Welcome to Bonnaroo!

 

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

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.

2014 in meme

Unbelievably grateful for the 14 weeks I've had at home with this little guy.

1. What did you do in 2014 that you’d never done before?
Got pregnant, went to Turkey, Belgium, and Las Vegas, gave birth via major surgery, took 3 months off of work.

2. Did you keep your New Year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?
50/50. Getting pregnant dramatically changed my plans for the year. I haven’t yet decided on my resolutions for next year.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?
YES. In addition to our son, born in September, my sister and sister-in-law both had babies, as did Nicolas’s brother’s partner. A number of other friends also had babies. Babies everywhere.

4. Did anyone close to you die?
My friend Janet passed away in May. It’d been a couple of years since the last time I saw her, but I miss her all the time.

5. What countries (or new places) did you visit?
Turkey and Belgium with Nicolas in February and March and Las Vegas for work in June. I also explored new parts of Michigan, Seattle, and Chicago with Nicolas.

6. What would you like to have in 2015 that you lacked in 2014?
A waistline.

7. What date from 2014 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?
September 19

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
Not losing my mind during my pregnancy and postpartum period; keeping a small human alive with my breasts.

9. What was your biggest failure?
I had a hard first trimester emotionally, and that tainted our trip to Belgium and our time with Nicolas’s family. I wish I could do that over.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?
Mostly just normal pregnancy stuff, though I did literally swoon on a street corner in the heat in Vegas.

11. What was the best thing you bought?
Our 12 week Bradley Method course was probably the best way I spent money this year. Also we joined the cult of the AeroPress.

12. Whose behavior merited celebration?
Nicolas is a wonderful father, and I’m so grateful to be parenting with him.

13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?
Grand juries.

14. Where did most of your money go?
Food and drink, rent, clothes that only fit me (or the baby) for a few weeks.

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?
The water taxi.

16. What song will always remind you of 2014?

17. Compared to this time last year, are you:
i. happier or sadder?
Much happier

ii. thinner or fatter?
About 20 pounds heavier, though I will note that I’m at least 30 pounds lighter than a few months ago.

iii. richer or poorer?
Richer both financially and personally.

18. What do you wish you’d done more of?
Sleeping. Taking long walks.

19. What do you wish you’d done less of?
Driving. Always.

20. How did you spend Christmas?
In Rockford with my family. Nicolas made Christmas dinner: stoofvlees, a very traditional Flemish beef stew, which he spent all afternoon and evening of Christmas Eve preparing. All three of us were a bit overwhelmed and overstimulated by the Christmas celebration with the whole family, so I’m glad we kept it low-key at home. In future years, I think I’d like to shift our celebration to St. Nicholas’s Day to space out the crazy and be able to form our own traditions.

21. Did you fall in love in 2014?
With my baby boy, obviously, and even more with his papa.

22. How many one-night stands?
Zero

23. What was your favorite TV program?
True Detective was amazing, and we watched all of Battlestar Galactica during my maternity leave.

24. Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year?
Nope.

25. What was the best book you read?
With the exception of Bill Bryson’s new book, my year in reading was either baby/parenting books or Game of Thrones. One of these days I’ll get around to blogging about things I found useful during pregnancy and “the fourth trimester”, so I’ll save the book discussion for then.

26. What was your greatest musical discovery?
Despite my good intentions, I really didn’t listen to much music this year. I suppose installing SoundCloud on my phone counts?

27. What did you want and get?
A baby.

28. What did you want and not get?
The chance to run a marathon.

29. What was your favorite film of this year?
We didn’t watch all that many movies this year, and certainly didn’t see many in the theater. I really enjoyed In a World and Finding Vivian Maier.

30. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
I turned 34, and did all of the things I shouldn’t have done given that I was 2-3 weeks pregnant and didn’t know it. I worked a half day, then took the train to Lakeview to meet Nicolas for lunch: fantastic burgers and beer at DryHop. We took a cab to the zoo to see the sand cat, where Nicolas surprised me with party hats and cupcakes and candles outside the small mammal house. (The sand cat didn’t want his cupcake, so I ate it later.) We walked to YogaNow in our party hats, and then I got a deep tissue massage, while Nicolas headed home to rest up. Megan, Annette, Stef, and Karina joined me for dinner at Oiistar (sake, ramen with mussels, a tiny creme brûlée), then I met Nicolas at Neo for a long, fun night of dancing and too many strong drinks. Nicolas was supposed to have class the evening of my birthday, so we celebrated the next night – wonderful food and cocktails in the library at Gilt Bar followed by Darkside at The Metro. Three days after my birthday, I found out that I was pregnant.

31. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
Peace of mind. Living closer to the beach.

32. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2014?
Pregnant. Stripey.

33. What kept you sane?
Exercise, friends, and sisters.

34. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?
No one in particular.

35. What political issue stirred you the most?
The Case for Reparations

36. Who did you miss?
Friends in other cities. Our much more flexible life pre-baby.

37. Who was the best new person you met?
My baby, obvs.

38. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2014:
Being a mother is harder and more wonderful than I could have imagined. Parenting involves falling in love over and over and over again with your child and, if you’re lucky, your partner. It’s challenging and humbling and completely worth it. But that doesn’t mean you don’t miss what your life (or relationship, or body) was like before. And that’s OK too.

See also: 2011, 2012, 2013.

This is what maternity leave looks like.

This is what maternity leave looks like.

 

I go back to work on Monday after 3 months at home with my little family. To say that I have mixed feelings is putting it lightly.

I’ve always wanted to have a family, but for a variety of reasons, it didn’t happen in previous relationships. For the last decade, my career was one of those reasons. I could NOT imagine being happy as a stay-at-home parent, and I could NOT imagine giving up the career I’ve worked pretty hard to attain, and I could NOT imagine  (or afford) putting my child in daycare. And so in those relationships, we chose to not have children. That changed with this relationship, obviously.

Family leave in this country is ridiculous in comparison to pretty much any other developed nation, so I feel incredibly grateful to have had as much time as I did: 6 weeks paid, 3 weeks cobbled together from vacation, personal, and holiday time, and 4 weeks unpaid. I kept my benefits during this time, and was able to space out the unpaid weeks so as not to break the bank. We are very fortunate.

But I find myself at the end of my 13 weeks at home with a cooing baby on my lap, wondering how to make it all work. It physically pains me to think about leaving him next week to go to the office. I’ve been crying about it every day for weeks. While it’s been very hard at times, I’ve so enjoyed this time at home with my guys, and I can’t imagine what it’s going to feel like being away from them all day, particularly with the baby growing and changing so quickly.

I haven’t suddenly had a change of heart about being a stay-at-home parent, but I have missed work a lot less than I expected. It’s been a wonderful gift to just turn that part off for a few months. I’ve been checking my email, but haven’t had to really think about it for a long time – which has been good because it’s not like I’ve really been able to think all that much. While I’ve been home, we’ve spent a lot of time talking about what we’d like our future to look like, and where we might go next, and I’m excited about the directions we’ve plotted out together, however far off they may be.

On Monday, there will be a new normal, one that doesn’t allow for extended mornings in pajama pants or cuddled up post-nursing naps. No long walks to the park, or mid-afternoon coffees before a trip to the lake or the zoo with a sleeping baby in the carrier on my chest. It will be hard. But it will be OK.