The Chief


Tonight I brought the baby to my grandparents house. The TV was tuned to PBS and highlights from Antiques Roadshow were playing. A gentleman presented a woven garment in monochromatic stripes of black, blue, and white. I felt it was special. It turned out to be the original Navajo chief’s blanket, valued at up to half-a-million dollars.

We were there to cheer up Nanny. Because, yesterday, Pap-pap passed away. Suddenly, the world become a diorama of Before and After.

I don’t know how to sum him up in a neat package of words. All I can say is that he and Nanny were 50-years in to their marriage, and they ran an Exxon gas station for nearly as long. He grew up around the business, having inherited it from his father who passed away in 1954.

He was the Chief. Because at 91 years old, he was the oldest person close to me. He was my age in 1958.

Today I pulled out the one frozen meal at work. It was a red wine braised beef meal – the very thing I wanted to give him at Christmas. I found a beef tender enough that he could eat practically without chewing.

And of all days of the year, the Exxon Mobil statement arrived in the mail. So there I was, with a meal intended for him, and the Exxon mail opened on my desk.

He was with me, there is no doubt.



Staying Safe in an Unsafe Virtual World

I will not post anything about my daughter on Facebook.

I lose ownership of the photos once they are posted to the site. Other people with ‘public’ or less safe privacy settings can share my posts. One doesn’t need a Facebook account to see Facebook content. Unsafe, anonymous people use the internet. And what is posted and deleted by the user can be shared, screenshot, or downloaded by others. It never goes away, and can never be undone. Even if all of the above is no issue, my sharing photos of my child waives her own right, when she’s old enough for opinions, for my network to un-see those baby photos.

I respect her much too much to put her on Facebook.


This isn’t to say I don’t trust my friends – I do. But even the people we trust can let us down. If you take anything from this, I want it to be that. Even the people we trust can let us down. And there are even more people I have not met. I cannot be with her all of the time.

Opportunities and ill will exists even when we cannot see it. I was assaulted by a man when I was 12 years old. My daughter can admin her own social media profiles when she’s mature enough, after she’s taken jiu jitsu classes and has had all of the education from me and the best information I find in the world. Until then, her privacy will be honored by her parents.

As small as she is, my whispers to her have included the promise “I will protect you” and I will.



Photo – Dan Warner

Yesterday, at 10:58 AM:

I got a promotion! I was promoted – officially – to Mother. Though I’ve been responsible for my baby since December, yesterday my baby breathed her first air and it’s official.

Now, it is 4:15 AM on Friday. I am eating applesauce in our kitchen at home, on about three hours of sleep… which feels amazing. It’s not that I’m lacking a full overnight sleep; it’s like an afternoon nap. And I’m home.

I have not felt inclined to write much during my pregnancy. It was a good experience. She and I were healthy throughout, and there just wasn’t much to say about it except that I was immensely grateful.

But my birth story is the richest experience of my life to date.

I began my medical leave on Friday afternoon, August 12th. My due date was estimated to be the following Thursday, August 18th. I would have a baby Leo during the Olympics. How special. But an overwhelming amount of first-time mothers go past their due dates. I would be one of them. The fourth time that my doctors swept my membranes was the charm.

On Tuesday, instead of the usual various activities I did to try to induce labor at home, I was set on labor to begin like the near future appointment we had set. I ran a couple of errands. I ended the day with a pedicure, and indulged in the massage chair as I always do. But as the chair was pounding on my upper back and shoulders, I had a pretty decent contraction. I remembered pressure points toward my shoulders and quickly powered off the machine. It was the first time in a month that I really didn’t want to go into labor spontaneously. I was easily 40 minutes from the hospital and didn’t yet have the paint on my nails (color: “bubble bath”). I didn’t go into labor at 3 PM.

It happened about three hours later, though.

At my last pre-natal appointment, Dr. Abbey swept my membranes. 28 hours before my scheduled Wednesday 8 PM induction. Ken and I had dinner. And then they started, four minutes apart, fairly strong, definitely regular. We reported the news to my doctor, who said to keep monitoring, and we checked in again an hour later. Contractions were still regular, and we agreed that I was going into labor. She asked if I was ready to go to the hospital. Yes!!!! My bag had been packed for a month; the nursery had been ready for four ; I was off of work and wanted to meet that baby. I ate a pb&j sandwich and took a quick shower, and then Ken and I were off to triage.

We were held in triage for the next six hours. At least three of the four rooms were occupied by women like me, all in early labor, waiting to be told whether we could stay (if progressing) or be sent home (if not progressing.)

Here’s what is key for this part of the story. I had told my doctor on the phone that I wanted to go to the hospital, but did not want to go if I would possibly be sent home. It was just too much travel given the pain I was in, and I didn’t want my water to break on the way back home… and get more difficult and rushed. She said: “Honey – I’m the boss.” The resident doctor would defer to her judgment… It was assuring.

So, two hours after my exam, my contractions were still as regular but I was not more than 4cm dilated; 90% effaced; and baby somewhat of still a little far position. But I wanted those contractions to be productive. I was breathing through some, fighting tense through others, listening to a hypnobirth on my headphones, and focusing on a photo on the wall of a baby skin-to-skin with a mother who looked radiantly beautiful. (I had seen that photo throughout my doctor visits and wondered if it was set up, because her hair looked salon professional in a natural, beach wavy kind of way.)

The resident checked me again in two hours at my doctor’s request. Still nothing – nothing, how was it possible? He was fixing to send me home. My doctor kept me there. The nurse was upgraded me to a more comfortable triage room when it became available… brought me ice water… inserted an IV needle  in my hand just in case I’d be admitted… and then offered me the jacuzzi. She said – it’s just you. So she opened the room, and I took a wonderful relaxing heated dip. My muscles relaxed more, I still felt the contractions, but I put my hands and feet up to the jets to activate my pressure points, and did my best to be comfortable.

I was sufficiently warmed, and about to face judgment a third time. My contractions were now more painful and an unbearable 1 minute apart per the monitor. I was losing my humility, sighing through the pain, then crying… I was tired, and panicky – but only crying because of the pain, feeling helpless, without an invitation to be admitted so that I could access the full resources of the hospital. Yup – at that point, my fluid birth plan was going in a new direction. I would not continue with it naturally – I wanted the pain to go away.

Ken left the room to advocate for me. The resident returned pretty soon after, and asked after my position. I said my 6 had become an 8 on the pain indicator scale of 1-10. He again called my doctor. He returned and said “[She] asks if you’d like an epidural? (Ooh!)

“And you’d be admitted,” he explained…


I was wheeled up to the labor unit and it was 4 AM or so and the anesthesiologist was available for me. I was concerned I was one of the very few women who wouldn’t be able to remain still for the five-minute process, but it wasn’t an issue with the support of the nurse and Ken to encourage me. I was in a semi-fetal position, crouched over my contracting midsection, about to feel a wave of numbness.

Once the epidural took effect, my cervix dilated to a full 10cm by 7 AM. Incredible! My doctor appeared in a beautiful black and white dress, smiling, and manually broke my water. Ken had grabbed a quick breakfast and the tiniest of naps, and when he awoke he was surprised that it was go time. I was so surprised. (So was the resident who had wanted to send me home!)

I pushed for over two hours. I quickly understood this part of the movies. Pushing is sweaty. It’s tiring. It’s good to make some noise. And as the baby descended to a point of visibility, we saw the most amazing dark full head of hair. It was a total surprise to see the fullness of the hair on her head. I touched it, and couldn’t believe I was touching something not mine.

I was exhausted. The pushing takes a LOT of energy. The attending nurse described it as rocking her forward – it was also described as two steps forward, one back. I was ready to give up and asked about my options. I asked my doctor how she could help me get the baby out. The options were too risky, I realized. I reserved to keep going. My final pushes were simply because I tired of pushing. I had to finish it. I screamed. She was there – a head of pressure, then shoulders and a long body worth of pressure. My doctor said, “look at those feet – she’s going to be TALL!” Stella emerged. The placenta followed quickly. I saw it and understood why my doctor called it the tree of life. The richness, and the quality of the vessels – incredible.

There’s a photo of me in the bed holding Stella. We were about to lay skin-to-skin. In it, I look awake, energized, warm, happy, and I have good wavy hair. It isn’t really that different from the seemingly staged poster I had admired at so many doctor visits and in triage.

My baby is my teacher. She has taught me how to break down walls. I can endure more pain than I knew. I am stronger than I knew. I am more patient than I knew.

And much more.

National Parks

This year, 2016, marks 100 years of American National Parks. In 1916, a group of visionaries fought for much of their lives to protect beautiful lands and their ecosystems. The parks are among our greatest heritage. There have been many specials this year to honor the centenary.

I saw a great Ken-Burns produced series on PBS, The National Parks: America’s Best Idea.

Here is an outside perspective courtesy of BBC – The US National Parks Turn 100

And some materialism… The Pendleton National Parks products are on my wish list. The US wool mill has been producing quality products since 1909.

We spent some time in Yosemite and Sequoia Parks a few years ago and it was breathtaking. We wandered along a sunny stream. We saw a coyote at close proximity at high elevation, a brown bear tramping through the sequioas, a mule deer in a sunny clearing among pines. We stood in the shade of the highest elevation we’ve ever experienced and gazed at Half-Dome.

It’s a fantasy of mine to someday travel West in an Airstream and spend time parked at all of the National Parks.



As I am enjoying waiting of my baby’s arrival, I have interviewed and selected a pediatrician, and have been indulging in period dramas. Set in the late 1700s, Outlander and Deadwood show the most menial details of day to day living for the period.

Deadwood. I have exhausted the lifetime of the whole 36-episode series in a matter of days. My favorite characters are the moral compass of the show – the justice-minded Sheriff Bullock, and the humanist Doc Cochrane. Doc Cochrane treats the entire camp, performing check ups on the working girls, helping to pass Swearingen’s kidney stones, and setting up a tent for the outbreak of smallpox. The colorful Calamity Jane serves with him in the tent, as she has displayed a resistance to contracting the deadly disease. Thanks to the availability of medical tonics in nearby towns (vaccines, likely), the camp is able to fold up the tent after the last patients have vacated their cots.

Doc Cochrane is personally displaying symptoms of tuberculosis in the final episodes, and reluctant to expose others to this affliction which he believes to be airborne. I’ve been consumed reading about these real life historical figures. Though Cochrane was based on a combination of real Deadwood physicians, the period’s real-life Doc Holliday, a dentist in the company of Wyatt Earp, did die of TB when he was only 36. (Separately, Holliday’s mother died of the same infectious disease when he was 15 years old.)

I’m grateful for vaccines.

If society had not yet developed vaccines for these deadly diseases, there was real risk of exposure to just live closely among others in a community. The horror of an epidemic such as the Black Plague in the dark ages, or smallpox in the 1700s, or other diseases, which claimed as much of 1/3 of populations, is far removed from our lives today.


Photo credit –

In fact, smallpox was completely eradicated from the world thanks to vaccines.

We are so removed from the horrors of outbreaks, the reality of what people have endured, the history, is accessible… yet some choose not to inoculate. Which is why I am so baffled as to the reasoning of parents who believe vaccines to be more dangerous to their children than the very rare risk of exposure of same diseases.

It’s this simple –

A couple of hundred years ago, our ancestors did not have vaccines. They also didn’t have paved roads, electricity, or indoor plumbing.

We should not be so choosy about which advancements we fold into our modern lives.


My grandmother had the book Roots in hardcover in her collection and I picked it up and read it sometime during college or after. I’ve been watching Roots this week and think it is exceptionally well done. The casting is great, with magnetic newcomer actors playing Kunta Kinte and Chicken George. I guess the main sponsor’s messages had an effect on me because today I signed up for DNA tests and created my family tree.

In a day, I got 6 generations deep and found 3 ships that our nearest ancestors traveled on. My great grandparents came from Poland, and my greater grandparents came from Scotland and Ireland. I am looking forward to getting the results of my test, and expect it will explain a lot about my makeup.

My little pineapple is resting right now and I am washing her clothes. Sweet little ruffled denim rompers and shorts. Right around the time she arrives, I’ll know her heritage with near certainty.


My right-hand man during my pregnancy days has been this incredible app called Ovia. Lucky for me and our dog and our baby Stella, I have an incredibly supportive partner who has also downloaded the app to follow the journey I am on. It tells us of symptoms to expect, how to alleviate them, and best of all – shows average weights, sizes, and developments per the week of pregnancy I am in.

One of the things it’s called me to is to expect vivid dreams. I have had them! Enter my complex brain…

A couple of nights ago, I had these pictures in my brain that have no seeming connection to my waking life, movies I’ve seen, or anything in my awareness. So this dream (which was INCREDIBLY real) showed a brunette girl in her mid 20’s and a long dress and scarf who seemed to be running from a troubling situation. As if she had committed a crime or escaped prison or escaped a kidnapper – nothing in the dream context told me anything. She went down a grassy hill after getting past a chain-link fence. She stood on the edge of something. I couldn’t see it immediately or connect her to the next image in my dream.

The next image was an aerial view of a series of farms, just open plains in perfect squares of varying colors, like a patchwork quilt of Earth tones. As far as elevation, it was just about as high as I’d ever been in my waking life – far above Yosemite, or far above the magma fields of Hawaii. High enough for someone without a fear of heights to look down and feel incredibly small, scared, and sweaty.

I never saw her jump, but I woke up feeling like that girl had jumped from some un-Earthly height and done so with incredible finesse. I woke up at 4:10 AM in early morning darkness, in the comfort and safety of our bed, and felt like I had just witnessed a stranger’s suicide.

I shuffled into the bathroom like I have been doing at that time of day. Then I fell back into bed, shaken, and sort of reviewed the dream and then properly filed it away… until I looked up the meaning of suicide in a dream. My search tells me that these people dream of suicide – those who are suicidal – addicts who are recovering – and those entering a new phase of life (me.)

I visited the dentist today. I had probably about the best time I’ve ever had at the dentist. (Not because they diagnosed a small cavity and my surging hormones caused my gums to bleed during the cleaning.) I had a lovely conversation with the hygienist who congratulated me when I shared I was pregnant during the standard health changes questioning. We had a very even exchange of conversation and she shared that her son Luke enjoys swimming and playing old-school Arcade games, at which he is a bit of a prodigy. She shared even more personal details and I was just so grateful for someone opening up to me and feeling like family. And in talking openly to her, I recalled another dream I had – this one more straightforward.

I had dreamt that I was at the dentist having x-rays done (which weirds me out a little during regular non-pregnant days for radiation) and I was expecting. In the dream, they didn’t offer any of the leaded bibs and I said something to the effect of “what about the baby?!” She laughed and said no worries – they customarily hold x-rays and cavity filling until long after postpartum.

The other really cool thing I want to share is the steady omen I have been privileged to since December when I found out I was pregnant. In December I was still at my former job as a property manager. It was located in Warren County, NJ, and this part of the country is subject to extra nice sunsets, scenery, and wildlife. I always kept my eyes peeled for those free little treats one would see when in a rich scenic area. In the early evenings as I left, especially one rainy night – I would look to the bare trees and see them lined, dotted, and full of black crows. One night I pulled over into a parking space to observe them.


Suddenly they all lifted in flight together from the trees and took to the sky. So amazing, so rhythmic. I felt like I was witnessing a special event.

Then when I took the new job in Bethlehem, it was actually reported to be a crow roosting phenomenon. Hundreds of crows came to roost this winter in historic Bethlehem. They flew right past me as I was in my truck preparing to leave the work showroom. Luckily I had my eyes up on the sky and saw them appear and pass by (see here in my edited-time video of actual event). Chilllllls.

Of course when I looked up the meaning of crow sightings, I saw the sightings could have significance for “life changes.” My intuitive guide Jessica also shared my goosebumps when I shared that revelation with her. Of course… I’m expecting… my body is going through this incredible transformation.

Love the crows. Love the dreams. It’s all a part of this amusement ride I am on.

Hiatus Explanation

I’ve been largely silent. I have written, but I haven’t published anything in months.

I feel like it’s time to stop.

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Took this at a stop light.

I am sipping a chai that I’ve learned to make last an hour… $5 can be drunk, may as well make it last.

So I discovered Hank Williams today… and then I wanted to see what Shooter Jennings was up to. He released a disco crossover album this year. Oh, is it good. He covers The Never-ending Story theme song. I can’t stop listening.


Ken and I are watching 10 episodes of Season 5 Game of Thrones before April 24th when Season 6 premieres. I am telling you: Jon Snow is dead, but he will be reincarnated. And I want to see Zombie Catelyn roaming Westeros avenging everyone who wronged her family. It happens in the books! And I’m rooting for Arya, Tyrion, Brienne, and the new reincarnated Jon Stark. Isn’t that what someone of power named him when his Snow name was taken away?

I watched the new House of Cards season in a weekend. ’twas good.

My new job is crazy. It makes time go faster. I swear it makes the planet spin faster. I go to work at 8, I have time to look at the clock twice a day and then it’s 5PM. The last three months have just flown by. I drive less than 10 miles to work and hit 12 stop lights. I pass a farm there and back. I gaze at the cows, their calves. I see meal time, laying in the afternoon sun time, and my favorite… the calves jumping and riding each other.

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My bovine buddies.

I still make time to work out. I go to 1-2 yoga classes a week, walk outside average 10 miles a week, and go to the gym too. Summer will come fast, and I want muscles to go along with my black tie gown in May.

Discovered Sly & the Family Stone. Amazing.

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Scenery from my favorite walking site.

Oh, and I just felt someone kick me.

I’m halfway through my first pregnancy and it’s AWESOME!