Monday, November 7, 2011

I'm really not a risk taker...

I tend to mock the superstitious: too quick to trust, to believe; too quick to comply with the mystery of the faith. Yet I must admit to looking constantly for cosmic signposts – not the ones posted for everyone to follow on life’s journey, but the ones that speak only to me. And I find them like detour signs in a song I can’t get out of my head, or they find me like oracles appearing in my dreams.

My flying dream evolved from my falling dream, which has been a recurring one since I can ever remember, as clearly as I remember being paralyzed by my fear of heights in my childhood. It isn’t new that I should experience the rush of a great fall to be awakened in a nervous sweat or in tears, but it isn’t as common as the more recent form of the dream where I sooth myself in the endless fall and remind myself I will not be hurt, a dream cannot hurt me, until I gently wake up. And I am no longer that child who held her fists clenched like rocks around the guard rail of the basket on the parachute ride or who passed the entire helicopter tour hiding her face in her father’s shoulder. I’m just the one who grew up to mock superstition and ride roller coasters.

Still, it wasn’t so long ago that I lost count of how many times I met the sensation of freefall with the desire to wake up and escape the fear. That was until the last dream started differently from others – instead of sudden realization that I had lost the ground underneath me, I found myself stepping toward the edge of a tall skyscraper’s rooftop looking for the bridge that would connect me to the next rooftop. At first I found a weak trellis that although would connect to a nearby rooftop, would not support my weight if I tried to cross it on foot. So I searched and spotted a sturdy foot bridge at the far end of the building. I pointed my feet toward it and felt my legs move in step, though I didn’t move closer but further from the bridge. As I looked behind me I realized I was drifting closer to the edge where the trellis stood as though it was pulling me with its gravity. So I walked faster, or tried, and even pumped my arms as though to run with my whole body, but no use. And I looked down to see my feet so close to the edge. That’s when I realized that my feet had not been touching the asphalt roof at all. And when my legs stopped pumping, I drifted with the wind, until I turned my head and leaned into the direction I wanted to drift and so I did. I said to myself, finally I can fly. My heart started beating faster, I felt my face smile, and then all I felt was the wind as I floated up and through cold clouds and then head first down and faster up and down again, and as I found my ability to turn into the wind and pull wide into the opposite direction. And the release of the fear that had earlier gripped me, when I thought I was being compelled to plummet, and the joy of flight combined, flooded my eyes with tears.

I woke up to check my cheeks but they and my pillow were dry, I had left the tears back in the dream. I told the first person I saw about my flying dream, yes I finally had one! Then I told everyone, especially the ones who had shared their previous flying dreams in the forum where people posted stories like that. And then I woke up again and realized I hadn’t told anyone about my flying dream because that was a double dream.

Not so long after that I read a story about 2 fish, or were they birds? And something I’m sure about breadcrumbs and far away peaks, and it reminded me I wanted to tell you about my flying dream.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

fat tuesday... a kind of anniversary

When ever this day comes around I think of sacrifice. And ashes. On foreheads. And the ritual deprivation that cleanses the soul. Not really, I think about the eve of Noah's arrival, that night in the family birth center. But I'll get to that in a minute. A friend mentioned this the other day, it's been baby fever everywhere lately. Congrats new moms, and hang in there mommies to be. So in your honor and because the day brings nostalgia, here's a birth story from an old website. He was born on Ash Wednesday. Sorta gave new meaning to the name Fat Tuesday.

best laid plans
The closer we got to Noah's due date, the less we thought about the problems we had earlier in the pregnancy. Except for the whole cervical incompetence thing, complications were minimal, so it seemed natural to form some expectations.

My birth plan wasn't too complicated. I wanted the support of both Todd and my mom in a natural birth without the aid of pain medication. Timing is everything, though; and we knew if Noah came early, plans might just go out the window.

I had gone back to work on February 10, and the plan was to work part time until the cerclage was removed on March 14. We figured another week or so would follow and Noah would be born. Plenty of time for my mom to arrive, right?

Tuesday morning, March 4, I arrived late to work after a morning of irregular contractions. By 11 o'clock, the contractions were ten minutes apart and soon I was on my way to meet Todd at the Birth Center (a convenient walking distance since I work at the hospital).

I joked a little with the nurse about needing to have the baby on my lunch hour so I could get back to work, but they gave me a dose of something that stopped the contractions. So I went home and Todd went to work. A few hours later, the contractions resumed, but again at irregular intervals. It wasn't until after 10 o'clock that night that I was feeling more than six contractions in an hour, so we got out of bed and headed back to the hospital.

This time, medication didn't work and contractions kept coming. They decided to admit me and remove the cerclage the following morning. There's no stopping this baby if he's determined to come out! Meanwhile, Todd and I waited a few more hours in the observation area. My bed wasn't so comfortable but at least I had one. Poor Todd tried to rest sitting in a chair, curled up on a small bench, even on the floor. No luck. He was exhausted.

early labor
I loved being pregnant with Noah--even with the challenge of bed rest. While I was home, I got a daily dose of Discovery Channel shows like Maternity Ward and Birth Day so between that and the labor and birth class, we were ready for any possible scenario in the delivery room. I just wasn't ready for any of it to happen that day. But there we were, at 6 AM, with a doctor I hadn't met before about to remove the stitch from my cervix. The next instant, it was dilated three centimeters. This is the real thing, alright. Labor officially begins.

We dug in and accepted the situation. True, we got caught off guard, but we might as well go with it. The priority for the moment was for both of us to catch up on sleep. We did just that, resting between contractions.

About eight hours later, when they told us that my cervix was dilated to eight centimeters we expected things to move pretty fast from there. Maybe it was the shift change and the introduction of a new nurse, or just the anxiety of being so close to the delivery, but my labor suddenly slowed. The new nurse was telling me I was only seven centimeters. Deirdre, the resident MD attending my labor, confirmed it.

don't push
They called Dr. Saner, my obstetrician, for instructions and she started me on pitocin. It didn't change much, so soon after, Deirdre came in to break my bag of waters. Still, my cervix had suddenly become stubborn. In fact it appeared a bit swollen as though it might hinder labor a while longer. The next thing I tried was standing, though with the intensity of the contractions at this point, it wasn't comfortable to stand more than a minute. I guess that's all it takes.

By around 5PM when Dr. Saner arrived, I could feel the urge to push intensify, but at last check, my cervix was not in a position for me to start pushing. Each time someone told me not to push, I thought, that's like telling me not to have a heart attack. I went from breathing through the contractions to being overwhelmed by them.

For the next twenty minutes, Todd stood by me massaging away tension wherever he could. At one point, I looked at Deirdre and said "I CAN'T" and she snapped into coach mode, drilling me through breathing and visualizing through the end of the contractions. Meanwhile, Dr. Saner convinced me that an epidural would ease the urge to push. I didn't feel like my body was giving me a choice so I agreed.

An anesthesiologist was setting up outside the door and I was still using all my energy trying not to push. The contractions were coming so close together that I knew my body was pushing whether I told it to stop or not. Again I looked up at Deirdre and shouted, "I feel a HEAD." Dr. Saner seemed to doubt it but checked anyway. The next voice I heard was hers, "Cancel anesthesia, we're having a baby!" Ten minutes and three contractions later, Noah was born.

On the topic of childbirth...
My mom says it was the worst pain imaginable, but it wasn't that bad.
The thought of having my mom attend the birth gave me an extra sense of security. Just thinking of all her experience was calming - so imagine the fear that struck when we realized she couldn't make it in time.
I didn't have time to regret our decision not to find a doula or midwife for labor support. Todd and I were on our own, knowing that my obstetrician would only come in at the time of delivery and that supportive nurses were subject to shift changes.

the resident
Relief came unexpectedly. She was hardly a maternal figure, younger than I am and a first year resident from OHSU. She came in and asked if I would permit her to attend the birth and I almost said no. Even though I understand that medical professionals need opportunities to learn, I wasn't so willing to be a training topic. Still, I considered any extra support at this point most welcome.

The resident, Deirdre, seemed friendly and soft spoken and had attended more than a few births. Most important, her shift started that morning so she was a constant presence, checking up on me until the following morning. We got to know each other during the preceding ten hours of contractions and she never questioned my desire to give birth without pain medication. I really started to appreciate her when labor got more intense and she was there to actively encourage me.
It took about eleven hours for my cervix to dilate eight centimeters, revert to seven, and, after having my water broken and introducing pitocin into my IV, dilating to eight again. Next thing I knew, I was standing and trying other positions that might help labor progress.

It wasn't long before I felt the urge to push but was told I couldn't or my cervix would tear. That's when I couldn't have been more grateful that Deirdre was there, talking me through the last few contractions, helping me fight the intense urge to push. When I thought my body was completely out of my control, she held on and gave me a focal point and just enough strength to get to the end of the contraction.

no coaches here, only active birth partners
If you had asked Todd before the birth if he was ready for the big day, he had no idea. We had gone to our labor and birth classes, read the books, and practiced some relaxation techniques, but was it enough? How would he react under pressure? What if I transform into an ax-wielding, hair-pulling, profanity screaming nightmare wife?

He didn't know it, but he was about to be thrown into action, ready or not. The results were pretty impressive. Todd hung in there, offering support despite the sleep deprivation that started the night before, and he remained attentive through the entire labor.

When we practiced relaxation massage (homework from the labor and birth class), we weren't so sure Todd knew what he was doing. No, really. But as labor progressed, he surprised me with his care. He held my hand, actively listened for what I needed, and was by my side to offer every comfort.

no cell phones in hospital rooms
Just about the only time Todd wasn't in the room was when he was calling friends and family. He would have stayed with me and made those calls but the hospital has that crazy restriction on cell phone use--something about interfering with monitoring equipment.

Most of the nurses didn't seem even slightly phased when Todd used his phone, but maybe that was just because they knew the cell phone nazi was coming on the next shift. As soon as she arrived, Todd had to make his calls out in the rain.

Friday, December 10, 2010

really should start speaking again. where's my voice at?

It started with a Facebook link to someone's year in status - a collage of her 2010 status updates: some interesting and cryptic, some delightfully self-absorbed, some just hilarious but only if you knew she wasn't joking. I thought of trying it but I'm a little anti-FBapps. Still, if I look back on the year I am annoyed with this abbreviation of my own thoughts. Status updates are fun like haiku is fun, but so limited. Where did my voice go? Most of my statuses were my self-conscious attempts to express by way of omission.

I know why I abandoned the whole inner dialog and moved all my stuff to ~140 characters. When I realized blogging about work could put my job at risk, I censored myself. It left me with little more to say than the most sarcastic sentiments that fit neatly in a couple of occasional lines on FB or Twitter. I still feel the same about not work-blogging, especially after replying to a friend who tweeted #worksucks.

I could post a few words instead about Kina Grannis, and I probably will later. Ok, I will now. It's just that I was knocked out by her ability to reply to 160+ comments on a link she posted a couple hours ago. I feel like I could only fail if I tried to describe why and how much this impresses me. Yet how rare is it that you witness someone take the time to hold a hand out to a few hundred strangers and make them friends? How often do we dismiss it as an impossible disposition to adopt with any honesty?

The point? It was a prompt to hold up a mirror and ask myself if I like who I am. I can say that I do, but I don't say it. I waste my words on what I don't like about myself or what I do or for whom I do it.

So... if I can get a little head start on my 2011 goal, today I make an effort. I want to have a little heart, or a bigger heart, and share it. My tendency toward introversion should provide some challenge, or at least maintain realism in my goal. I don't intend to make every stranger I encounter a friend, but I do intend to make my family, my friends to know how dearly I value them. Perhaps this year my circle will grow, not superficially but to the depth that makes it worthwhile. So there you go, a message from my heart. I'll listen to it, see what it makes me do and let you all know how it turns out.

Friday, February 19, 2010

oops, you're a stalker

When I realized somewhere in the weeks between Christmas and Super Bowl XLII, that I had been voting online vigilantly each day for my favorite Youtube video, the only thing that seemed appropriate was to keep it to myself. Who was I kidding - wasn't I too old, too serious, for this fangirl thing? What does this behavior say about me?

That was a little over 2 years ago when 10 top finalists, narrowed to 3, competed to air their music video during a 60-second Super Bowl ad spot, courtesy of Doritos. Imagine the glamour, the instant exposure that would come of winning such a contest and its prize of a record contract. Well, expectations are funny, aren't they? You can wiki or google Kina Grannis these days and get all the chronological details of how she campaigned and won, and how she later took a leap of faith and parted ways with Interscope Records.

Or, you can take a listen to Stairwells, the singer's independently produced painstaking effort, global release on February 23, 2010. As I write these comments, she is (I hope) taking a break to stretch, or else suffer writers cramp from autographing batches of pre-ordered CDs. If you want to know her story, listen to "The Goldfish Song" and experience the music recording industry from the perspective of a goldfish put out to sea. You'll hear a little doubt in her verse, then in a moment she reflects on the conflict of her decision. By the end, confidence emerges and she declares "This matter is mine... I'm not going to give it up."

The girl has integrity. I've learned that following her journey this far. My opinion of Kina and her music is far from those first 2 weeks of voting. I thought I shouldn't really like her much. She's far too pretty and sings songs with hearts in them - more than one, actually. And what is that, like perfect pitch? Not qualities that ordinarily draw me. Yet who would find it possible to resist?

I hesitate to let Kina know some of my reflections on her music. I think it's an unfair burden to go to the writer of a lyric and demand, how did you know, how did you write my song?! Well, she probably didn't. She wrote her own song. True enough for anyone who feels the guilt of disappointing others, then listens to "Delicate." I listened to her moving song, yet to be titled, and it's haunting refrain (also its working title) "when everything falls away from me..." And still, I wanted to ask her how my thoughts became her words?

There are no prerequisites for enjoying this CD. If an enchanting melody and gorgeous vocals are what you seek, they're in there. "Valentine," "Back to Us" and "Stars Falling Down" are so filled with the eternal optimism of love that I embarrass myself singing their lyrics. "Strong Enough" and "World In Front of Me" act like bookends holding together the chronicle of her quest to finish this body of work.

Well, she did it: crossed another finish line, only to find another race is ahead. Tour, tour, tour, Kina! I will see you in Portland at your next sold-out show.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

if i could host a break-up party

As for my own break-ups, I'm the last person who can give advice on the topic, but I can say they've all led me to become who I am. But what do you say to someone you know is going through a tough time?

For my friend and fellow blah(g)er in Alhambra, you know who you are... 

I just saw Starlee Kine performing a new story in the live This American Life show I posted last week. The first story I ever heard her tell was on a TAL podcast where she takes us on her quest to write the perfect break up song. Sit back and relax for this one, it's a little more than a half hour long. It's followed by 3 short acts from other perspectives. I feel like the little girl in the next story, I still don't know what I would say to help her get through it. It's impossible to let go of the moment you're in and imagine how this will make you stronger, wiser, some day in the future. 

Maybe I'd want to hear a happily ever after story, like Greg Behrendt tells in "She's Just Not That Into Me". From a guy's perspective, a break-up story is at once a little terrifying and little hilarious. Brace yourself, he admits to being a borderline stalker, but I think it's just a good story of being inexplicably love sick. 

I am a big fan of spoken word as an art form, although storytelling I think is never more compelling than through a song. So, as though I didn't need another excuse to post another Kina Grannis song, here one that gives some purpose to breaking up. Kina, if you're listening, please release "Give Me Back" on iTunes so we can play it on repeat and go running. 


Thursday, April 23, 2009

this life

Ooh, date night! Todd and I almost never have babysitters for Noah. We don't have any family living close by and have a hard time getting referrals. So what a treat to have a night out. Together, that is. Usually we're limited to family friendly destinations. You know, the farmers market, the big park, the little park, G-rated films... even Ikea for Small Land. I can't believe just a few short years ago we mocked our friends for these things. You heard me. But dare I say it, we may have turned a corner on this babysitter thing. What did parents do before texting? And nanny-cam apps on their iPhones? Ok, no cam (yet). It was a lovely, worry-free grown-up night out. Could be habit forming. 

The venue? Some of our favorite storytellers from This American Life were live on stage... somewhere far away. But with a little satellite magic, we watched the live broadcast at a movie theater in Portland. I try to listen every week and even go through their archives of the last few years to hear another great story. Who can resist a well told story? Once in a while, host Ira Glass takes his show on the road. Absolutely worth catching. A rebroadcast of the show is in theaters again May 7th. Support public radio! 

Thursday, April 9, 2009

the way i am

Todd, Noah and I were having breakfast at iHOP last Saturday, the first warm [70' F] sunny day in weeks. They were planning their boys' day out... would it be fishing? video arcade? dog park with Misty? Oh all 3, why not? I would be driving to Seattle later, sending them tweets and pics from Kina's show.

We remembered that Easter is coming up and Noah told us a story from circle. It was about a bunny, he didn't want to be a bunny anymore so he went to live with other animals and be like them. At the end he wanted to be a bunny. Well of course.

I knew this story, I told him. Yeah, Todd said, it's a great children's book. No, I said, and looking at Noah, it's like when I was little like you. I didn't want to be Filipino so I would go to my friends' houses and try to be like them. In Alhambra my playmates were from Cuba, Mexico, Korea and Taiwan. So, after learning about all the other cultures, I realized I just wanted to be Filipino. And I am. Ha.

And Noah got it. Todd shook his head. But I love him anyway. He gets it, just thinks I get a little too introspective. That's what children's stories are for, aren't they?

I looked up the title, "It's Not Easy Being a Bunny" by Marilyn Sadler. I love a story that ends up with the hero finally liking himself for the way he is. Perfectly imperfect.