Thursday, June 26, 2008

The way things happen

When life is stressful and decision are looming, you often hear, "things happen for a reason." Its such a cliche, of course things happen for a reason. It's called cause and effect. Its seems simple. As I contemplate another major move in my life... I have to wonder, does the cosmos really shift the gravity of causes in order to effect the decision?

In January 2006, I was disgruntled with my job. Erik & I loved our little house on the lake in Canterbury New Hampshire. I mean, could you really have a cuter address than 59 Canterbury Shore Dr., Canterbury NH?! Life was picturesque, idyllic, and beyond stressful. My job was very intense. My commute was long, and money was tight. Having fulfilled my two year contract (due to relocation), I was free to start looking. I spent my evenings dreaming of greener career-pastures on the likes of Monster and Careebuilder. I started putting my resume out there.

Problem was - we would almost definately have to move. There were very few jobs in central NH that were a good fit for me. I landed an interview in Cincinnati and flew out for an interview. When I returned, I got a call from my former boss in California. The conversation went something like this:
"How'd the interview go?"
"I think it went well. I suspect I will get an offer."
"Do you really want to move to Cincinnati?"
"Well, no.. but it is an option."
"I want you to work for me. From home. Live anywhere you want."
"Yes. Think about it, call me back in an hour."

And so it went. I called her back and accepted the position. Cool. Now, we could stay in our house.

Wrong. Turns out, when you work from home, you need to have high speed internet. We lived SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO out there that we didn't even have cable yet! I looked into satelite and other options, but nothing would work. Here I had given notice at my old job, and accepted a job that I couldn't do! Erik & I immediately went into survival mode. Where could I go that I could work?

Around the same time, my brother, living in Minneapolis, was offered a 2 year stint at his company manufacturing facility in Singapore. Talking on the phone, I told him my predicament. "Why don't you come out to Minneapolis? You can live in our place until when we leave Singapore and you sell your NH place." Perfect.

I left for a week long training trip to CA. When I left, we placed the house on the market. We were hopeful, but the market where we lived wasn't like Boston. It was a slow market and houses tended to languish for months without interest. Erik & I started to realize that he would have to stay in NH until the house was sold, and I would be half a country away in MN living with my brother.

In Chicago O'Hare during a layover, Erik got me on my mobile.
"We showed the house today."
"Wow - really?! Its only been on the market a day!"
"We got an offer AND they are interested in buying all our furniture too!"

I got home to NH and thats exactly what happened. They bought our whole lifestyle, house, furniture and all. And they wanted to close in 30 days. The day after we had a contract, our realtor called us.
"You have cable right? The buyer is a day trader and needs high speed internet."
Erik... "Ummm.. can you hold on a second, there is someone in the driveway."
The man at the door: "Looks like you are moving, so you probably don't care, but I am from Comcast cable, and wanted to let you know that we are wiring this neighborhood."
Erik to realtor: "Comcast guy is here, says cable will be in soon."

I spent the weekend packing up my VW Beetle and on Monday morning, I pulled out of the driveway heading on the 24 hour drive to Savage MN. Moving here, sight unseen. I returned 30 days later to help Erik with the rest of our belongings sans major furniture items. We packed up the UHaul and after the closing I remember sitting in the truck and reliving the story...... "its like we HAD to leave NH."

Things happen for a reason.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

So proud of my grads!

Just a quick post to share how proud I am of Erik at finishing up at Dunwoody and wishing him LOTS of luck at super cool job possibility interview on Monday! Fingers crossed....

Monday, June 16, 2008

Do your boobs hang low?

Do they wooble too and fro? Can you tie them in a knot? Can you tie them in a bow?.... you know the jingle. I contemplated naming this post, "weighty issues", but that sounds soooooo, well, heavy.

Have you ever just been awesomely impressed with your body? Maybe thats an easy feeling for some people, it isn't for me. I have had body issues for most of my adult life and despite what appears to be an outward self confidence about all (or most) things, I hate my weight. Or rather, my abundance of it. I am not a freak about it. I don't dwell on it. I try to lose it, ocassionally. For the most part, I just live with it and don't give my body much credit for anything. Its my personality, my face, my eyes, my laughter that matters.... right?

Then WOW. I got pregnant. It wasn't easy. It took us two years of trying. Erik likes to contest this point, that we weren't REALLY trying. But for me it was two long years wondering whether my weight was the reason why it wasn't happening. I read research, posts, and online articles, even picked up a book, 'Carrying a little bit extra"... all about the plus size pregnancy. Extra fat cells release a substance that is like synthetic estrogen that can really screw with your reproductive system. And thats just the beginning.... there are a whole host of "syndomes" that I became familiar with... Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, and others, that are all reasons why overweight women take longer to conceive.

So, when Erik and I went off to the fertility doctor, I was sure it was my body that was failing us. So, despite all good things including tests results showing no problems, I still believed it was my imperfect body that was the problem. Every test, every doctor, every thing was saying my body was normal. I didn't believe it.

My whole pregnancy I was in denial. I never looked classically pregnant. In fact, until I was about 7 months, it wasn't even obvious I was pregnant at all. No one asked me in public, "when are you due?" I was one of those pregnant girls that most people looked at and wondered, "Is she pregnant or just fat?" Some women embrace their baby bump. For me, it was my same old bump but with the ability to kick back.

I got into the habit of being vocal about my pregnancy. Adding pregnancy comments to conversations so that the question was subtly answered. Each doctor visit I went in thinking that this was the visit that I would be diagnosed with gestational diabetes or the baby would be big because I was big, or ______________ (fill in the blank).

But it never happened. Ultimately the diagnosis wasn't at all related to my weight. Preeclampsia is just a condition some girls get. They don't know why. Xanthe was a small to average baby. My body tried its darndest to deliver my little girl, but when it couldn't, and I was getting sick, we did deliver by C-section. I have to add, when you are my size, your chances for a c-section increase. I knew that too.

Part of me didn't think my body would be able to do it. And somewhat normally too. In the recovery room, they brought Xanthe to me. I told them I wanted to try to breastfeed as soon as possible. They laid Xanthe on my chest. I had wires everywhere and she had IVs too. Erik helped move the wires out of the way, and lo and behold, Xanthe latched on to my nipple and began to suckle. It was the first moment of my body really impressing me. Our nursing relationship is exclusive and lasting to this day. So exclusive in fact, that Xanthe cries at the sight of a bottle. She likes my body THAT much.

Its eye opening to me that Erik & I have created this little person, and that this body, imperfect and large, continues to sustain her life. It makes me realize that I should be taking better care of it, and appreciating it more, despite its imperfections.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

So you know you can't dance.

I admit it. Last summer, I went to the So You Think You Can Dance tour. Even worse, I went with my husband, age 35, and my parents, ages 65 and 66. We had GREAT seats, on the floor, what a view! And I distinctly remember thinking we were the only one there who didn't bring one token child to make it acceptable. We weren't acceptable, but man, what a guilty pleasure.

So, I am super excited to see a new season of my favorite reality show. I think I love it because it is so out of my element. It is graceful and coordinated and purposeful and technical. I am pretty much a bull in a china shop. I doesn't take much to get me hooked though..... I have seen my share of Real World marathons, Survivor, Temptation Island, Paradise Hotel, Jon & Kate plus 8, and my other favorite, Deadliest Catch (I am a Sig girl). Erik says I like shows where people can die.. but thats another blog. I have even learned from Mythbusters that bulls in a china shop aren't as destructive as you would think. But I still know I can't dance.

There is something bittersweet about the new Dancing season... this little screen-in-screen in my head has me realizing that my evening of adult-themed television is dying, and very soon, our little kung pao shrimp will rule every aspect of the Lewis household.

If our lives were a reality show, this month would have been something. Bottle refusals, trips to the Arboretum having forgotten the stroller, screaming fits, laughter, coo-ing, and poo-ing. Tired nights of Erik and I stumbling down the hall to replace the pacifier or night feeds. Mara dragging herself into her office, trying to sound knowledgeable on conference calls that have no real effect on the world, but are all important to my continued employment. Erik would be doing homework, preparing for graduation and stressing about not having his dream job lined up. You would see two companions working hard to maintain the love in a relationship stressed with little sleep and changing demands. You would see frustration, joy, love and fear. That is our dance.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Kung Pao Shrimp

I should preface this post by saying that we haven't seen Kung Fu Panda.... but we've been inspired.

Erik has taken to calling Xanthe the Kung Pao Shrimp. She loves to kick and punch, and she can be really strong! She is a little thing, weighing in at 4 months at only 13 lbs, 1 oz, and usually dressed in pink! So, she definitely is shrimp-like. Today, she had her first swim in the pool.. and like both of her parents, she loved it. She was kicking and floating. I see lots of laps of freestyle in her future. She is a feisty, pink, pinchy baby with a congested and crustacean nose.. a definite kung pao shrimp.

1 lb. shelled and deveined fresh medium or small shrimp
2 cloves fresh garlic, pressed or minced
5 tablespoons lite soy sauce
2 teaspoons dark Oriental sesame oil*
1/2 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes or Chinese chili sauce*
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/3 cup sake* or dry sherry
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon chicken base or bouillon
1 tablespoon cornstarch
2 green onions thinly sliced on the diagonal
1 1/2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger
2 3 thin strips lemon zest
1/2 medium red pepper thinly sliced and cut in half
1 can baby corn, 3 oz. to 4 oz. dry weight
2 medium carrots thinly sliced
4 oz. sugar peas
1 3.5 oz. package fresh enoki mushrooms or 1 cup dried and reconstituted shitaki mushrooms
1/2 ounce salted peanuts
cooking spray

1. Shrimp Marinade: Combine 1 clove crushed or pressed garlic in a bowl with 1 tablespoon lite soy sauce, 1 teaspoon sesame oil, chili sauce or flakes and shrimp; Let marinate 15 to 30 minutes.
2. For Sauce: Mix remaining 3 tablespoons soy sauce, teaspoon sesame oil, lemon juice, sake or sherry, sugar, bouillon and cornstarch in small bowl and set aside.

3. Lightly spray a non stick or stick-resistant wok or large skillet with cooking spray and preheat on medium-high. Crush remaining clove of garlic and add to wok or skillet with scallions, zest, and ginger. Stir fry until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Remove garlic and set aside in large serving dish or platter.

4. Par cook carrots in microwave for 60 to 90 seconds, carrots should remain slightly crunchy. If microwave is not available, lightly coat wok or skillet with cooking spray and stir fry carrots until barely tender, about 5 minutes. If wok or skillet begins to dry out, add a few tablespoon of water and continue to cook. Transfer carrots to the dish holding garlic, ginger and onion mixture.

5. Lightly re-spray wok or skillet with cooking spray and add snow peas and pepper; stir fry until barely tender, about 2 minutes. Transfer vegetables to serving dish.

6. Lightly re-spray wok or skillet with cooking spray and add shrimp with marinade; stir fry until shrimp begin to turn pink, approximately 30 seconds. Add sauce and cook, stirring constantly, about 30 seconds or until sauce thickens. Reduce heat to low and transfer vegetables to skillet; add mushrooms, corn, peanuts and noodles to wok or skillet and gently toss all ingredients together. Remove from heat; transfer to dish and serve immediately.

Yield: 6 servings at 162 calories; 5.8 grams total fat; 0.7 gram saturated fat; 87 milligrams cholesterol; 13 grams carbohydrate; 1.3 grams dietary fiber; 15 grams protein; 618 milligrams sodium.

*These items can be found at your local Oriental market and are available in the specialty food sections of most larger supermarkets.

Sesame Noodles

1 recipe Sesame Noodles
6 oz. Oriental noodles, capellini, vermicelli, etc., broken in half
1 teaspoon chicken base or bouillon
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup hot water
2 teaspoons dark Oriental sesame oil*

1. Mix chicken base or bouillon with water, add sesame oil and set aside.

2. Cook noodles according to package directions, rinse and drain well. While noodles are draining, lightly spray a non-stick or stick-resistant pan with cooking spray and preheat on medium for 2 minutes. Add noodles to pan with chicken broth mixture. Stir-fry until heated through, 2 to 3 minutes. Serve hot.

Yield: 6 2/3 cup servings at approximately 140 calories each; 1.5 gram total fat; 0 saturated fat; 0 cholesterol; 28 grams carbohydrate; 2 grams dietary fiber; 4 grams protein; 57 milligrams sodium.

Recipes: from the cookbook, Lighten Up -- The Art of Low Fat Gourmet Cooking, by Mary E. Ross

A digital government conversion

Have you seen the February 2009 digital TV conversion advertisements? They seem to be on multiple times during the prime time lineup. If you fail to have a TV manufactured in the last 30 years, or don't have cable... if you have RABBIT ears... you might loose your TV signal. Heck, if you have rabbit ears, you should be happy you have any signal at all, and running water for that matter.... but I digress...

Our government is spending how much money, hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of dollars, running advertisements during prime time about a TV conversion that is going to happen NEXT year. The change may have a "detrimental" effect on a subset of Americans that still live with rabbit ears. I am not a raging liberal... I am not a liberal at all but really - Are there not more pressing problems for the American congress than the 2009 digital TV conversion?

Its just highlights the ridiculousness of the politics that take place in Washington. But then, the cynical part of me thinks - isn't TV one of our nations priorities? For many, I am sure it is. That cynicism makes me want to do is chuck my 42' plasma out my two story condo window. But then, my daughter would miss Playhouse Disney, and we can't have that.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

If blogs be the diaries of the future, write on..........

I used to keep diaries. Sweet little patterned books that held the stories of my teenage world. Self absorbed diatribes of who I like, what was said, explorations, rejections and inspections. Into college, I let my diary become my place for examination... did this happen really as I remember it? Lets check the entry.. oh, right... thats how it happened. Why did it matter?

It matters because, I am now 31.. I still feel like a teenager. I will completely forget how old I am, and when walking through the mall.. look at 18, 20, 22 year olds.... well, I guess that's how old they are, and think that I still look like them. Just a split second. Then I will realize, they look at me, and what they must think.. that sad lady. Even though I still wear basically what I wore in college, and my hair is basically the same as it always was... I look, well... worn. The same way that the pages of my diaries are. Worn with review and reliving... worn with wonder at missed opportunities, fears and loves....

Several months ago, I happened upon those diaries. And my favorite diary covered in horses with unlined blank pages the 1998-99 diary from my year abroad at the University of Durham. That year, I spent many cold winter weeks angsting in Berlin over the Christmas break. An orange pen fit my mood those days. Many many pages of my diary had been penned in orange. Memories of cafes, trains, and kebobs. But time had stolen the ink away... I opened my diary, anxious for a look, a sweet memory of my youth.

The pages were blank. I felt like I was suffering from emotional Alzheimer's. Those days were gone, someone else lived them, someone else wrote them down to make them realer... and now, someone else was remembering them. Blank pages.

But blank pages linger in my future too. And like the past, those will be worth writing down as well.