Monday, August 30, 2010

A Woman in her Thirties Reconstructs

Remember when apartment and/or house hunting consisted of you, your friends, and a lease that did not include a sizable security deposit? I miss my twenties sometimes. Now, as a woman in her thirties and SEVEN MONTHS PREGNANT HOLY COW, my priorities have changed. L and I bought our first house last year, and buying a house built during the years of Prohibition comes with its challenges.

It would be safe to call this the summer of reconstruction. It's just too bad that the planned portion coincided with the unplanned portion.

I will admit that everything I know about construction can fit into one Chinese New Year hong bao. Here's what I knew going into it: Our master closet situation was not working.

Here's a 'before' view from the front:
And here's a view from the back:
If you can tear your eyes from the cutest dog in the world, you might notice that there are no rods in the closet. No shelves. No drawers. Basically, our master closet has been a secret passageway to what will be the baby's room for the last year.

Where did we hang our clothes, you ask? We hung them here, in the guest room:

I am hardly Carrie Bradshaw when it comes to needing closet space, but this was less than optimal. Especially at 5:15am, when I'm feeling my way through the house without my contacts in to pick my outfit for the day.

Any woman in her thirties knows that there are easy ways and hard ways to do things. This woman in her thirties often chooses the easy way. Without boring you with plans, ideas, and quotes, let's just say that L and I decided to fix the closets the hard way. It involved sealing off a wall, creating a wall, creating storage, and adding doors to THREE rooms in our house. And while I did spend the majority of the month of August ready to scratch my face off, I'm pleased to say that we're finally done.

Here's the finished product:


(Chewy's room)

(Guest room)

It is a very woman in her thirties thing to get excited about closets, but I am, in fact, a woman in her thirties. And as of today, finally, an organized one.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

A Woman in her Thirties Sees Angels

I'm not a big 'guardian angel' kind of person, but I think that happens with age. A woman in her thirties likely believes more in the healing powers of Oprah than some other-worldly presence. This week, however, I've changed my tune a bit. 'Cuz I saw me some angels.

Angel #1
Saturday evening, waiting in line to board my plane to CA, holding my ticket with my middle seat. Middle seats are never optimal, but considering I get up to pee every 20-25 minutes (not joking), this was not going to work. The attendant at the gate took a look at my tummy, probably seeing the pee welling up in my eyes, and said, 'Oh, no honey. Let me see what I can do.'

She gave me first row, bulkhead, aisle, with a promise not to put anyone in the middle seat. God, it's good to be pregnant sometimes.

Angel #2
The girl sitting in the window seat on my flight had her leg in a brace from a recent knee surgery. If there is one person gimpier than a six and a half month pregnant lady, it's a woman who's just repaired a torn ACL. A (gorgeous) guy about our age was helping her load her crutches into the bin and said, 'I'll be back later to check on you.'

Turns out this guy happens to be a masseuse. Who charges $250 an hour for massage. Who is in his last year of med school, specializing in acupuncture and sports therapy. When he saw my neighbor waiting to board the plane, he offered (FOR FREE) to massage her leg to bring the swelling down. Who does that?

He sat with us and chatted for awhile. He is married with kids, not creepy at all. He just wanted to help when he saw someone in pain. And when he got up to leave he turned to me and said, 'You're just about the cutest pregnant lady I've ever seen.' Yeah. Needed that.

Angel #3
Because I booked my flights using miles, I had limited options for flying home. The only flight I could get was going to take me from SF to Phoenix, Phoenix to Chicago, and Chicago to Pleasantville. This flight sucks if you're not pregnant, let alone dealing with an achy back and feet that won't stop falling asleep. I was hopeful I could pull the preggo card and work something out at check-in.

Let's just say that didn't happen-- at first. When I printed my three boarding passes and asked as sweetly as I could if there was anything possible that can be done, pretty please my baby thanks you, I was told, 'No. Sorry. Next time don't travel when you're pregnant.' (Yes, she really said that.)

I walked dejectedly to the gate and found another angel waiting for me. I prefaced with, 'I already got rejected downstairs, but...'

Within seconds, my boarding passes were ripped up in favor of a direct flight leaving in twenty minutes. 'I've had two kids,' the attendant said, 'and you are getting a direct flight home.' And yes, I had an aisle seat.

So a woman in her thirties sees angels, if she looks for them. This week mine came in the form of a few strangers, L, my family, my girls, and Gina at United.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

A Woman in her Thirties Goes to her Happy Place(s)

Since this summer did not turn out to be the leisurely experience I was hoping for, I put a lot of expectations on this week to make up for what the last month has lacked. My agenda included Wallace Stegner, lots of yoga, and a few naps on the couch with my Dan.

That... um... hasn't happened. I will spare the gory details, but between the 7:00am construction calls, paint-picking and re-picking, and a lemon-poppy muffin debacle, it's been a little chaotic. Special thanks to Kim and Heidi, who have taken the brunt of my tears of frustration. Your fruit baskets are in the mail.

So for this week's post I'm going to do what the yogies have been suggesting all summer, which is visualize my happy place(s). I was thinking about it this morning, and a woman in her thirties has likely collected quite a few in her years. Here are a few of mine:

This photo was taken on the deck of our hotel room the first time we went to Thailand. Because L was a member of the you-travel-way-too-much club at the Sheraton, we got the kind of room featured on MTV Cribs. At this moment, I was laying on a lawn chair reading A Tree Grows in Brooklyn for the first time. I remember thinking, 'Okay, God. If you're gonna take me, now might be a good time.'

This is the sun rising over the Great Wall. I had just rolled out of my tent after sleeping on one of the watchtowers at Jing Shang Li. I am shocked my legs held me up to take the photo-- that's how sore I was from the previous day of hiking. But man, was it ever worth it.

This is the Maltese Grandfather I never met, strolling through Chinatown. I can't explain what happens to me when I look at this picture, except to say that I'm pretty sure if I look at it long enough he will walk right through the paper and into my living room, saying something like, 'Hey-ya, kiddo, we've got some catching up to do.'

No commentary necessary.

And lastly, for those of you who have never seen the face of yours truly, me. (Circa 1985...) I distinctly remember wearing socks and dirty sneakers with this dress, which was pinned on me since it kept falling off my shoulders. Usually pictures from elementary school send me into fits of hysteria, but this one is different. Check out the sun bleached hair. And that GRILL! This is a girl who knows nothing of the curve balls life will throw at her, who couldn't care less about anything past today's recess. A woman in her thirties should re-aquaint herself with that girl sometimes. Today's that day for me.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

A Woman in her Thirties Needs (some) Explanation

I'm amazed by the generosity of people. Since announcing my pregnancy, I have been overwhelmed with hand-me-downs, advice, books, and gifts for Chewy. I know these acts of kindness are less exciting than, say, Lindsay Lohan's drug addiction, but I really think Dateline should do a story on nice people every now and then.

What does a woman in her thirties do for someone who does something kind for her? She does something kind in return. I decided yesterday on the way to book club to stop and get couple bottles of wine for some especially generous friends.

One thing I can't seem to get over about living in the Midwest is the absence of alcohol in grocery stores. We are hardly heavy drinkers, but I get annoyed every time I'm shopping for a dinner party and realize I have to make another stop at the liquor store for alcohol. Especially now, when I can't even enjoy a glass of whatever it is I'm purchasing.

This was the thought in my mind as I placed two bottles of Merlot on the checkout counter at Pleasantville Liquor. And then I looked at the people around me, who were staring alternately between my booze and my giant preggo-belly, and realized this was one of those situations where things were not what they seemed.

'It's not for me!' I cried, loud enough for the people in the back of the store to hear. 'I swear to God!'

The people behind me snickered and gave me a sympathetic look, but I was not convinced.

'Seriously! It's a gift! See? I HAVE GIFT BAGS!' I held them up, like trophies. Like this was the evidence that was going to exonerate me.

We all shared an uncomfortable laugh, smiled and nodded through the obligatory 'When is your due date?' conversation, but I still left a little shaken. A woman in her thirties should not, as a general rule, have to explain herself, but this was most definitely the exception. Maybe next time I'll get cupcakes-- a pregnant lady needs no explanation with those.

Monday, August 9, 2010

A Woman in her Thirties Ignores her Expectations

When I first moved to China, I developed a series of expectations about what it would be like. My expectations were based on SF Chinatown, The Orient Chinese restaurant in Carmichael, California, and the one Jackie Chan movie I'd ever seen.

To put it in the largest understatement ever, I was incorrect in many of my expectations. I thought the food was going to be the hardest thing about living in China. I've been home for two years now, and not a day has gone by that I haven't missed Beijing cai. I had heard about the pollution, but didn't think it was going to be that big of a deal. The pollution was, by far, the hardest part about living there.

What I'm saying is that a woman in her thirties has expectations, but they are often... wrong.

So it has been with pregnancy. I knew to expect certain things, and have been reading books catered to understanding those expectations, but in the end it's all been pretty shocking to me. And continues to be:

1. Weight gain.
Isn't this supposed to be the time when you are encouraged to 'eat for two', pack it on, and enjoy that healthy I-just-stuffed-my-face glow? No. Gaining weight has been one of the most emotionally taxing parts of this whole process. And speaking of emotions...

2. Uncontrollable crying.
I cannot watch 'A Baby Story', 'The Today Show', or several other TV shows I'm too embarrassed to mention without shedding a tear. Or a hundred. Thousand.

3. My eyes.
That's right. My eyes have changed shape. My contacts don't fit right. It's like my eyes have become pregnant, too. With little eye-babies.

4. My feet.
My feet haven't grown, as many of the books have warned me they might. Instead, they fall asleep if I'm sitting for more than... five seconds.

5. My teeth.
I have the kind of oral hygiene that should be documented in dentistry textbooks. This woman in her thirties has never had a cavity. However, pregnancy has made my teeth sensitive to hot things. So I buy Sensodyne and ACT and hope the checkers at Target aren't judging me.

Alright, universe, I get it. Life cannot be scripted. A woman in her thirties must roll with whatever comes her way, no matter how unexpected. And when it comes to Chewy, and all the expectations I have for her, I promise to keep it in check. If she doesn't want to pursue medicine at Harvard, fine. I'll settle for Yale. If she doesn't become a concert pianist, it is cool. The cello will do.

See? I'm learning.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

A Woman in her Thirties Can't Plan Anything

I am a planner, and I think many women in their thirties can relate. My to-do lists are long and plentiful, and I derive great joy by checking things off one by one. This goes for tracking meetings and yoga in my iPhone as well as such lofty long-term goals as 'learn to cook more than three things' and 'develop an appreciation for British literature'. (Sorry, Dickens, but you bore me.)

I've always been this way. When I was a kid my life plan included a career in TV news journalism, a completed family by the age of 28, and a house in the Bay area because that's the only place in the world. But things don't always go according to plan, as any woman in her thirties can also relate to. A move to China? A first baby at 32? Brad and Jen split up? None of these things would have been fathomable to me ten years ago.

However, despite knowing in my head that life doesn't always follow the plan you lay out for it, my heart still has a hard time computing that message. Case in point: at my last ultrasound the tech told us that my placenta is too close to my cervix (sorry for all the yucky girly-words, guys reading this). It's not a big deal, it could still move on its own, and the worst case scenario is that I will need a C-Section. But here's the thing: a C-Section is not part of my plan for November. Here's what I'd envisioned:

Nov. 1-19- Continue teaching, comfortably. Swollen ankles are not going to work for me.
Nov. 20- Manicure, pedicure, haircut. Leisurely dinner with family. Maybe a movie-- I'm flexible.
Nov. 21- Water breaks in the morning, in the bathroom, so as not to damage the hardwood floors. Go to hospital. Labor for 15-20 min, then become 'comfortably numb'. Push twice. Out comes our perfect, potty trained child.

I am kidding... kinda. What I'm trying to say is that I have all this mapped out, and I like the way I've got it in my head. So today, at another ultrasound when the tech said my placenta still hasn't moved to the right spot, I got that familiar surge in my gut that said, 'Wait! This isn't part of the plan! There must be some way you can control this!'

Of course if a woman in her thirties knows one thing it's that there are many things in life she can't control. I never would have thought I would become a teacher, and yet it's the one career I've had that I feel really good at. I never would have planned my time in China, but in many ways it made me into the woman in her thirties I am. I'm not preaching about some Great Being here, I'm merely reflecting on the smallness of myself (despite gaining 19 pounds as of today).

So a woman in her thirties doesn't put away her to-do list, she puts it in perspective. My birth plan is now revised:

Today: Be thankful for this little face:

Tomorrow: Repeat.