Thursday, September 21, 2017

How to be One of the Boys

Earlier this week I read Amber Tamblyn's piece in the New York Times detailing her struggle in dealing with sexual harassment. It's brilliantly written and spoke to me. While I don't think of myself as a victim it's because dealing with harassment has become so commonplace that I sometimes don't even always notice it. And that is perhaps the saddest point of all.

Tamblyn's op-ed spoke to me. For the last few days I've been thinking of the myriad times in my career in which I've had to deal with inappropriate touching, comments, and uncomfortable situations. It's happened over and over again. I wish I had a manual for how to deal with it. I wish I could tell you I fought back with words every time. Neither of those things are true.

I waited tables and college and became friends with one of the male servers. Once he smacked me on the butt in the kitchen in full view of everyone else. I said, "Hey stop. Isn't that sexual harassment?" He laughed and said not if I liked it. I said I didn't, but everyone laughed. There were no consequences. 

In law school I worked at a law firm. I reported to two junior attorneys, but the managing partner loved me and would sometimes pull me aside to talk. On a regular basis as I was talking to him he would reach out and tuck my hair behind my ear. It still gives me a shudder to think of how intimate that move was. And it was done in the hallway in plain view. Should I have said something? Of course. But I was 23 years old and needed the job. Besides he hadn't really done anything, right? This is a question I would ask myself over and over and over again.

Early in my career I worked for a guy who said, "When men look at something there are three options: eat it, f*ck it, or kill it." I had a man in a position of authority who would discreetly pat me on the hip. When I reported it to someone (another man) who I trusted, I was told nobody would ever believe me.

At that moment, at the age of 25, I decided I'd deal with it differently. I'd face it with humor and laugh it off. I decided I would become one of the boys. Look - I'd be a hypocrite if I told you I didn't contribute to locker room cultures throughout the next 15 years. If I was one of the guys and tossed in the inappropriate humor and jokes it wouldn't be targeted at me. If I let it roll off my back nobody would see when things bothered me. I'm sure I offended others, and for that I'm sorry. I took the line of what was appropriate and sprinted past it all in an effort to not be part of the "problem". I didn't want to be one of these women who complain and are "too serious" and "can't take a joke".

Somewhere along the line, much more recently than I'd like to admit, I have gone in the other direction. I've hit the brakes long before the line of inappropriate, and I find myself cringing and more importantly speaking up when something is inappropriate. I've had young female friends come to me recently for advice in dealing with an inappropriate boss and asking whether to apply for a job working for someone about whom they had reservations. I had a city manager tell me last winter that I was doing a great job mentoring young female managers, and they were taking in everything I said and did. It was one of the best professional compliments I've ever received, and it's a responsibility I take seriously.

I'm nearly 40 years old, and I wish I had all the answers or the perfect response to each inappropriate quip. I told a young friend a few weeks ago that it's not something that will stop happening. Last week I was at an event in East Lansing. I had on a new dress that made me feel amazing. It wasn't revealing or inappropriate, but it was flattering. I felt good. Then I had a prominent businessman shake my hand and kiss me on the cheek (something I still don't appreciate unless I know you well). Then he leaned in and whispered "God you look good. You know it too." It's not the first time this man has made inappropriate comments to me. And I'll sheepishly admit I didn't say anything because I honestly didn't know what to say. These kinds of comments throw me off my game and make me self-conscious and uncomfortable. I probably should have, as my husband suggested, told him to f*ck off. I regret that I didn't because he thinks it's okay. And I'm sure I'm not the only woman he says things like this to. Even a week later I still don't know the right response other than telling him to f*ck off. But like I told my husband I don't get to do that in a professional world where this man is someone I regularly see professionally. 

This is certainly not to say this is every man or even close to it. I hope it's a small minority, but that doesn't make the incidents less real. I have been lucky to work with so many men who respect women. They can have a woman disagree with them without it threatening their very sense of manhood. I've also surrounded myself both personally and professionally with strong women who are a resource for me. Every single one of them has an example of one of these things happening to them. It's not unique to me. And while there's no manual, we can help support one another and surround ourselves with both amazing men and women.

I've decided I no longer want to be one of the boys. I can hang for sure, and if I'm tailgating for a football game or out with friends I absolutely can throw out the most inappropriate comment. But I no longer have patience for it in the work place. Perhaps this makes me a hypocrite because I did for so long, but people are allowed to change. I've been accused of seeing the world only in black and white, and the people who see me this way have never understood me. I am well aware that the world is almost entirely grey (hence why I didn't punch a guy in the mouth last week), and it will continue to be. My grey, however, is broken up by the beautiful sunshine of the awesome women and men with whom I've surrounded myself. And that is how we will make a difference.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Am I a Hipster?

Recently I was complaining about something everyone else seems to like, and my husband said I was such a hipster. At first I was irritated, but then I wondered if he was right? I did a little research in what it means to be a hipster, and it was fascinating. Merriam-Webster defines a hipster as: "a person who is unusually aware of and interested in new and unconventional patterns". This definition does seem to oversimplify the hipster counter culture. While overall I don't think I'm really a hipster (although my sassy short haircut can be fashioned into a wicked man bun), I do often like to shun mainstream things even without necessarily understanding or having experienced them. Over the last week I've been making a list of things that are popular with the mainstream that I don't understand. 

A disclaimer: if you like these things, that's totally okay. This is not a slam on you. Reasonable people can agree to disagree. These are things that I don't understand, but it doesn't mean you can't like them. I had someone recently say that I made people mad with what I wrote in my blog because they didn't agree. I like to vehemently dislike things. It's what I do. I also love to passionately love things. We're all grown ups. We can disagree and like different things. It's okay.

Glasses, check. Man bun, check. 
And now to the things I don't understand:

  • Pumpkin spice lattes, followed by pumpkin spice anything. First I should be honest and let you know I don't like the flavor of pumpkin. Pumpkin spice lattes were charming when they first became a thing. It's one of the first signs of fall. Now I'm bombarded in the grocery store by pumpkin flavored things. It's too much. Too much.
  • Cities everyone else loves. I'm looking at you specifically San Francisco and Austin. And here in Michigan? Grand Rapids. Too shiny. They seem to...finished. They bore me.
  • Musicals. I don't understand them, and with few exceptions I don't enjoy them. I don't even like movies like Mary Poppins. I've never seen The Sound of Music. I have zero interest in it. 
  • Hamilton. It's apparently a musical (which makes me already not like it) with rapping about Alexander Hamilton. The more hype it gets the less I want to see it. This is specifically what made my husband call me a hipster. No I haven't seen it, so I could totally be wrong. But given that 1) I don't like musicals and 2) I generally think if something has this much hype it'll never live up to expectations, I think I'm all set.
  • People wearing headphones everywhere. Why do you need to wear headphones in the grocery store or while you're walking the dog? Maybe just enjoy the world around you.
  • Disney World. I hate theme parks. I hate crowds. And I hate artificial places. I've never been to Disney, and I would be thrilled if that never changes. I may acquiese if Will really wants to go once he's old enough to ask.. But if I'm spending that kind of money on vacation I don't want to spend it surrounded by so much of...America.
  • Shirts with the shoulders cut out. These are a thing. Everywhere. I don't understand why they're so in. I'm kind of baffled by it. We were at a concert a few weeks ago and nearly every woman was wearing one. I asked my husband if they were selling them in the parking lot. And again if they're that popular even if I liked one I'd refuse to wear it.
  • The t-shirt from the vacation you're on while you're on it. I'm not big on vacation t-shirts anyway, but I specifically have never understood wearing a vacay shirt while still on vacation. This also goes for shirts like our senior class shirt in high school.There was zero chance I was going to wear it to school ever, but particularly not the day after they were issued.
  • LuLaRoe leggings. I kind of don't understand this phenomenon of your friends trying to sell you stuff in general, but that's another blog entirely. I have friends who wear the shirts, skirts and dresses, and they're pretty cute. But the leggings? Please, stop. We all know how I feel about leggings in general. Last winter my friend and I took our kids to the science museum. I'm pretty sure every mom there other than us was wearing some hideously patterned legging as pants, and it was shocking. I said to her, "LuLaRoe leggings are ruining America." It's the kind of thing I imagine I'd see at Disney World.
Clearly I am in the minority of not liking the above listed popular things, but it turns out I may be kind of a hipster. Although the internet tells me hipster women generally wear leggings. Now I'm just confused.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Mirrors (and Photos!) Don't Lie

I'll be honest - I've never struggled with my weight. I was 19 years old when I got sick with Crohn's, and this disease is its own weight loss program. Before that I was really active and never stopped moving. I was told once I had the metabolism of a hummingbird. For most of my life that's basically been true. So none of what I write in this blog should be taken as my thinking I have a weight problem or that I'm fat (I know that to be objectively untrue), but for the first time in my life it's gotten harder to take off. Let me rephrase: for the first time in my life I can't just eat and drink whatever I want and expect to not gain weight. It's an adjustment.

I've always loved exercise. I remember copying my older sister and doing workout videos from the time I was 11 years old. I was a cheerleader from third grade through high school. I took tumbling classes and added running to the repertoire once I was joined the track team in 9th grade. In college I joined a gym and went to the gym at 6 am five days a week...you know, like normal college kids do. I started running half marathons eleven years ago and I've never looked back. Given that level of activity I could eat a burger or drink lots of wine and never have issues. In 2014 I spent a month in the hospital and lost 30 pounds. It was a fun mission to gain weight. That is not the case today.

I've barely run for ten months. The abscess I had last year sidelined me, and I find other forms of exercise don't burn calories the same way. Add a persistent Crohn's flare to the abscess and exercise has been a challenge. At first I wasn't gaining weight, but I noticed my body changing. My clothes were fitting differently. Now that my Crohn's will support my running I have a pretty significant knee injury that has me in physical therapy and limits what exercise I can do. It's a pain. 

Icing my knee at PT. At least I feel like an athlete.
My clothes don't fit. For real. I was preparing for a meeting this morning and tried on nearly every dress in my closet. Most of them do not fit right now. I know how to dress my body, and I've been able to creatively hide my weight gain. But I have gained about 13 pounds in the last year, and I'm at my heaviest weight. Thirteen pounds is a lot on a 5'4" frame. It's not the end of the world, but now my clothes don't fit. I love my clothes. This, my friends, is a situation.

I asked my husband for a juicer for my birthday. I've always struggled with nutrition, and my Crohn's limits the amount of fruits and vegetables I can eat. So I'm going to try to eat more healthily. Not in an annoying way, but I've got to do something if I can't work out like I want to. I've also discovered that meat has been upsetting my stomach, so I'm going to limit it a bit. I'm not giving it up entirely but just making better choices. I still want to be able to drink red wine and down pasta on the regular. Really I'm just making choices so I can still do those things.

There's seriously apple, celery and lime in this profane cup.
Running is my stress relief. Although I've been swimming and doing other forms of cross training it's just not the same, and I'm desperately rehabbing my knee in hopes that it will get better. I need to run. Not just so my pants fit but so I'm a sane person. And so I can eat more pasta.

Recently I saw someone on Facebook asking for advice on how to lose weight. I'm a smart woman. I get the formula: calories in versus calories out. It's not a secret. I'm not getting younger, and it's never going to be easier to be in shape. And while I know objectively that I'm not overweight, I'm not happy with myself. That's unacceptable. I love my curves, and I don't want to change them. But I'd like them to be a little less aggressive so I can wear my favorite pencil skirt. If that means having an apple, celery, lime juice instead of a different snack I'll do it. That pencil skirt is worth it. 

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Twilight

Today I turn 39 years old. According to lore (i.e. from my mom) I was born at 8:17 a.m. at the end of the hottest summer on record following months of practicing my cheerleading moves in Mom's belly. I made my debut nearly two decades ago, and I don't think I've stopped moving since.

Four years ago I wrote a blog on my 35th birthday. I didn't have all the answers then, and I sure as hell don't have them now. But in the four short years since I wrote that blog my life has been turned on its head and back again in all the best and worst ways.

I am a mom now. It's been nearly three years and I still feel the words "I'm Will's mom" gush out of my mouth like it just happened. It's the best job I've ever had. My husband and I are stronger than ever because that's what change and challenge will do to you. There has been so much joy the last few years with my family and friends. Our friend group has expanded and changed and is even more wonderful than it was four years ago. I am so grateful every day for my amazing friends. 

The last few years had a lot of change: parenthood, a new house, new jobs for both of us. It held a lot of sorrow in losing my dad and our pup Murphy. I've been hospitalized three times and had three surgeries and a blood clot. I've spent nearly two months of the last four years in the hospital, and that's crazy. When I look back at the photo I posted of myself four years ago I think wow, that woman had fewer wrinkles. She had much less to worry about. But I wouldn't change a single thing. I've earned every single one of these wrinkles.  

Wouldn't change a wrinkle.
I also ran so much and fell in love with so many new races and cities. And I got faster. I set PRs in every race distance including finally breaking two hours in the half marathon (a feat that I couldn't accomplish for years). According to my (very) quick research in four years I've run 2 marathons, 9 half marathons, 4 10ks, 19 5ks, 2 ten-milers, 1 8k and a sprint triathlon. 
Running the New York Marathon was a running dream, and the experience was made even sweeter by my awesome cheering section, my husband and two of our best friends. It inspires me to see this and know that I'll be back to running soon even if it's been a slow year.

My 2½ year old son has been to 22 states meaning that I have also been to 22 states in four years. We've been on on a cruise and spent a cold weekend in Toronto. I fell in love in Montreal, Quebec City, Portland, Oregon, Philadelphia, New York (again), Marquette, Michigan (in the winter!) and so many other places. I feel like I've lived a lifetime in four years, and what makes me so excited is knowing that while I'm in the twilight of my 30s, I'm just getting started. The extraordinary joy of this life outweighs any challenge. I have so much for which I am grateful, and I have to remind myself to express gratitude every day. Cheers to 39! May this year be even more fabulous than the 38 before it!

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Parenting Post Pacifier

I love being a mom. Even in the hardest moments I find joy. I make myself find joy because I wanted this. Not only did I sign up for this, I wanted it more than anything in the world. I let Clomid ravage my body and my psyche. We went through an agonizing process of background checks, fingerprinting, classes, and waiting...the God awful waiting...to have a child (all the while teenagers can be parents without any of this. Amazing). I couldn't hear news of other pregnancies without a good cry. My heart's greatest desire was to be a mother, and it's glorious. Even in the most difficult moments on the toughest days I love it.

That doesn't mean it isn't challenging. We landed in Detroit a few weeks ago after our vacation (on a Tuesday), and I noticed my son had bitten through the end of his pacifier (or "mimi" as he calls it). This isn't the first mimi he's bitten through. My son had a collection of Wubbanub pacifiers from birth. (If you aren't familiar these are the pacifiers with a stuffed animal attached.)  The original five (elephant, dog, dinosaur, lion and monkey) lasted for two years. We lost the lion, but he bit through the others. He bit through the last of the original five, the elephant, in December. But he wasn't ready to be done with his mimi any more than we were ready, so I had a backup. His elephant also became a blankie of sorts. We cut off the actual pacifier, and he carries it around and snuggles with it. 

He bit through two more backups in the last eight months, and we were on number three on vacation. My son didn't know that I may have purchased another backup, but we didn't give it to him. On the drive home from the airport we talked about how his mimi was broken and how we weren't going to have it anymore. We cut off the end and placed it on the bookshelf in his room. 

It seemed to go almost too smoothly. The first few days were pretty easy. On Thursday my husband left for another trip, and I marveled at how easy those first few mimi-free days had been. And then came the weekend.

My son was slightly obsessed with his mimi. He had it all the time, and he used it to soothe himself incessently. If he was mad, sad, tired, etc, the mimi was his tool to calm down. With my husband out of town I quickly realized it was going to be a long weekend of learning to self soothe without his mimi. 

It was a weekend of tantrums like he'd never thrown. I quickly realized he didn't know what to do without his mimi. In his frustration he'd cry or hit me (or both). It was a trying weekend for both of us and tested my patience repeatedly.

On Monday morning I was getting my son dressed for school. He hates getting dressed, and it's a regular fight. I often have to chase him (a game he finds much more amusing than I) and then basically wrestle him into clothing. On this particular day he upped the ante, kicking and hitting me over and over as I tried unsuccessfully to put shorts on him. How are small humans so strong? I threw his shorts down and walked into the other room, taking deep breaths with tears in my eyes. I was the grown up in the room, and I had to calm down. He's a two year old.  It's not the first or last time he'd test my patience. It's kind of his job. 

We finally got dressed that morning, and when I dropped him off at school I burst into tears while talking to his teachers. The test of wills had drained me, but my overwhelming emotion was guilt. I was so frustrated and he knew it, but I should've kept my cool. It's only dressing a toddler, right? How can that drive me to tears even later in the day?

My husband returned home that night and confirmed that an alien was clearly inhabiting the body of our usually lovely child. Life after mimi was going to take some getting used to. He's a strong willed boy, and he doesn't like not having his way (I mean who does?) The difference is at two and a half he doesn't know how to express it and isn't sure how to calm himself either. Quite the conundrum.

The last week has gotten much better, and my son is finally figuring out how to manage life without his mimi. I know this is only one of so many challenges that we will face as parents, and I'm also fully aware that it's small in the scheme of things. I continually remind myself to seek joy in the face of frustration. 

I hate advice from other parents because I think so much of it is negative. When Will was a baby I was told I was "lucky" he was a good baby but that meant he'd be a "terrible" toddler. I don't know why someone would say that, but it's not true. Children aren't terrible. My son is stubborn and strong willed and cuddly and loving and hilarious. Being his mom is the greatest joy of my life, and I wouldn't change even the toughest moments. I think I'm sadder for the mimi phase to be over than my son. It's the end of a baby era, and I see him growing up. He's got his own opinions (so many!) and a fantastic personality. Getting rid of the mimi is only a step of growing up, and I look forward to every other step along the way...even the moments accompanied by tantrums. 

This face. This joy.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

How's my Butt?

If you're looking for a post that's not TMI, move along my friend. Let's be real though - you wouldn't even be reading my blog. I have a good friend who's periodically asked me how my butt is in the last year, and I always find it a hilarious way to ask how I'm feeling. And it gets right to the point really. Last January I wrote a post talking about some of the more frustrating things I've been facing, so I won't get into all those details again. It's been a rough 18 months, but I think the end is near.

I had an abscess drained back in October, and for ten months I've had an actively draining wound. It's as fun as you imagine an actively draining wound would be. Last Tuesday my doctor removed the drain. I didn't realize how frustrating and how uncomfortable it was until it was gone. Now I feel like myself again. It's incredible. 

Despite nearly two decades of having Crohn's it's taken a long time for me to acknowledge, even to myself, that I'm not a well person. Crohn's is a progressive and unpredictable disease. I had 14 good years of remission, and I'm finally back there again after the last year and a half. I started new meds back at the end of June, and they seem to be working (knock on wood). I'm still taking antibiotics every day and will be for the foreseeable future. People who are well don't take a ton of meds, but it's my reality. That being said I am so grateful that my Crohn's is treatable. Even on my darkest days I feel hope and joy for how blessed I am, even during the last ten months with a butt drain (the sexiest two words ever paired together).

I'm also so excited to really get back into running. I've run a few 5ks this summer, but I haven't been able to really get my groove back. Now that the drain is gone I'm itching to start logging miles again...except I have this teeny little knee issue. I have inflamed cartilage under my right knee cap (seriously...my body hates me), and I started PT today. Hopefully a few weeks of PT will get me back out on the trail injury free.

Nothing some anti inflammatory meds can't help!
It has been a long road, but I've learned to be kinder to myself and take things one step at a time. Once again I've realized how amazing the human body is, and how I am stronger than I ever knew. Crohn's is an absolute asshole, but it's taught me so much about myself. I'm looking forward to getting back to half marathon shape and to focusing on world domination in a few months. 


Love this pic at a concert last weekend. Cross training is working...now back to cario!

Sunday, August 13, 2017

To Philadelphia with Love

Finding a new city is up there with my favorite things. It's like reading a book you love and discovering the author has a dozen other books you haven't read. It surpasses wonderful things like a good race medal or a delicious glass of Pinot Noir. Discovering the joy of a new city is magical.

My husband attends a lot of conferences, and sometimes I tag along. For months I'd planned to join him in Philadelphia, and he found out more recently he had a conference in Austin immediately before Philly. Given that my best friend (and my son's godmother) lives in Austin, there was no question that we'd join him in Austin as well. 

I loved visiting my bestie, but as I opined back in April Austin does nothing for my cityphile heart. A bartender in my hotel who was new to Austin complained to me that downtown Austin felt "corporate". I couldn't agree more. Given that temps were hovering around 100 degrees the entire time we were there our options were 1) swim or 2) do something inside. 

We visited the Texas Capitol, a civic institution I'd never visited despite my many times in Austin. When I lived in Texas we would often go to Cisco's for breakfast after a raucous night on the town. I talked my husband into going, and it was as divey and delicious as I remember.

Delicious.
We did swim a few times including visiting fantastic Barton Springs. The natural spring fed pool has a natural rocky bottom and cold water (68-70 degrees) that was perfect on a 100 degree day.  

Skyline in the background. I love an urban park.
I was able to find fun in Austin, but the city does not resonate with me at all. Its downtown is mediocre at best. And even the neighborhoods that have cool stores and restaurants like South Congress have five lanes separating each side of the street. I really don't get it. 

Austin was also one of the toughest trips we've ever had with our son. At one point I seriously considered canceling the second part of the trip for my son and me and going home. He has never, ever been that challenging, and I wasn't sure I could do more of it.

Thankfully in Philadelphia he was back to his normal easygoing self (with a few exceptions). As much as I love historic east coast cities, Philadelphia has never been on my list. To be honest if it weren't for my husband's conference I don't think I would've gone there at all. I've never heard much about it either positive or negative.

Someone is not a fan of history.
Philadelphia was an extraordinary surprise, and I absolutely love everything about it. Traveling with a toddler is different, so we found some really cool playgrounds including one of the original eight public spaces designed by William Penn complete with a carousel. My son and I walked a mile and a half to Markward playground one day only to find a really vibrant urban space with dog parks, fitness trails and the playground. I was in love. 

Our hotel was across the street from the Reading Terminal Market which is, I will declare, the best public market we've been to. We make it a point to visit markets in cities we visit, and we've been to some fantastic ones. One of the disappointing things about visiting markets as a tourist is that there's usually no way to take advantage of the delicious produce, meats and seafood on display. Many markets have eateries, but Reading Terminal Market took the cake. There were so many different and interesting restaurants. We ate there for breakfast and lunch every day on our trip. I had delicious gumbo, cornbread and sweet iced tea. I had a huge turkey deli sandwich. I had shrimp and grits benedict (insane). The market was extraordinary, and I could visit it every day and not tire of it. 

Speaking of extraordinary we wandered over to Rittenhouse Square one day to find a dynamic square with people everywhere. There was a farmers market lining the square on Saturday morning. Kids were running around. People were sunbathing or just reading on one of the many benches. Adjectives fail me to describe how much I loved this park.

Rittenhouse Square. Amazing.
As is usually the case we visited some great places to eat and drink in addition to the market. We had dinner at Jones, a cool restaurant decorated like it's 1975 complete with shag carpet in the sunken part of the restaurant. We had authentic tasting poutine and sliders at Shoo Fry. We spent my son's nap time (he was in the stroller) at McGillin's Olde Ale House, the oldest continually operating tavern in Philadelphia. It boasts that it opened the year Lincoln was elected (1860). 

We did the obligatory touristy things like see the Liberty Bell and the square where Independence Hall lives (our testy toddler made a tour a bad idea). We stayed right near Philadelphia's city hall which is phenomenal. It's everything a public building should be and more. There was a splash pad outside city hall in Dilworth Park where my son darted through the water with kids from all over the city. 

It's not a secret that I don't like cities that have it figured out. Philadelphia is gritty. There's a significant homeless population. It's not extremely clean. But I love that. I love that it's got moxie and personality. It doesn't hide its imperfections but rather lives with them and tries to make them work. 

Vacation was a wonderful reset made even more wonderful by my complete adoration for the city. Thank you, Philly, for the parks, the history, and the grit. Thank you, Philly, for being wonderful you.