Sunday, December 28, 2014

19 Week Ultrasound

I am now about halfway through week 21, over the halfway-to-actual-baby hump, and about the middle of the second trimester. Things are getting a little more real all the time, and also getting a little more scary. A good scary.

A day before officially hitting 19 weeks, hubby and I went in for the fetal assessment ultrasound. This is the one where they do all the measuring and check the baby from all angles to make sure everything is moving along as it should. This is also where most people find out the gender, which we already knew from the Panorama test. Still, it was nice to have visual confirmation. Our little Cinnabon was quite cooperative.

The technician was very friendly and chatty, telling us everything she was measuring, and marking some of the pictures with funny phrases, like "Flexin'" when it looked like Cinnabon was flexing a bicep for the camera. We got lots of pictures, both in regular and 3D formats (which was a surprise).

I posted the ones that (I thought) did not have obvious clues to the baby's gender, as I was planning on a gender reveal at the baby shower. One of my friends is going to make a special cake for it. But apparently one or two people were able to tell from the photos, and posted their congratulations as such, so I ended up taking the whole thing down so as not to ruin the surprise.

This still doesn't stop people from making guesses when they see the picture of my 20-week baby bump. Alas, social media is not something to keep secrets on. This prompted me to switch gears and plan a small gender announcement photo shoot with a smaller cake, which will be happening next weekend, rather than the reveal at the baby shower. What with the constant requests for gender prior to purchasing or making gifts, and the fact that most of my family and friends in the lower 48 do not get to witness the glory that is my growing belly, I figured it was best that I succumb to the inevitable and get the gender announcement done soon.

However, there are two much more important things than the gender reveal issues: the baby is healthy and still measuring a day ahead of schedule, as was shown in the 10-week ultrasound, and I am extremely grateful for all the interest, well wishes, and desires to shower my baby with attention and gifts. I am a deeply thankful mom-to-be.

In other news, I utterly failed Nanowrimo again, but this was not a surprise in the least. I simply no longer want to write in the word-dumping fashion required to get a certain amount done in a certain amount of time. I end up hating it all and chucking the whole thing, regardless of whether it was a good idea or not. I am one of those people that needs the whole story planned out ahead of time (leaving it open to surprises along the way), and needs to be able to go back and fix the things that are not working before I get so deep in the hole I dug, I can't see to get out. Doing short stories has changed the way I do things so much, Nanowrimo is no longer conducive to getting things done for me.

I do it every year because I love the camaraderie, I love the memories of snow falling outside the windows as my fellow writers and I tap madly on our keyboards with cups of hot chocolate by our computers, I love trying out fresh, new ideas (if I have them in time for November). But I no longer worry about whether I make 50k by the end.

Most years seem to have things that get in the way of crossing that Nano finish line as well. This year it was my participation in VPA's "The Story of the Velveteen Rabbit." The show opened the week of Thanksgiving and closed the weekend before Christmas. Even though I had a small part, it still sucked up a lot of my time and a good portion of the energy leftover from growing a baby. I had a lot of fun and frustration mixed up with this one. Granted, I normally wouldn't have agreed to this show, as it was a small part in a musical I wasn't familiar with, and half the cast was comprised of kids. Also, I don't like performing during the holidays, even though we don't have family here to celebrate with.

But with the discovery of my pregnancy, I realized it was very likely this would be my last show in many years. If I waited for "South Pacific," I would find myself eight months pregnant, close to nine months, by the time the show opened. Not exactly a safe proposition. And I knew I'd be even more exhausted than I was for this show.

I got to meet several newcomers to the theatre scene and help get them started on the path to local entertainment (with the warning that once the theatre has you, it doesn't let go easily, especially for guys!) I got sing to my baby every night, which I will continue to do each day. I got to see the evidence of my growing belly as my first act costume got tighter and tighter, and the waistline of the skirt rose toward my bust. (This in particular was a source of amusement for all us adults.)

Perhaps it wasn't the farewell performance I'd dreamed of. But maybe the child will catch the theatre bug someday and we'll make a debut together.

And now the year is drawing to a close. I'm rapidly filling up a baby registry, which is taking up most of my time right now. I have to do a lot of research on things because there hasn't been a baby in the family since I was fourteen or fifteen years old, and I have never taken care of babies. I can count on one hand how many times I've even held a baby. So I read as much as I can (reading "You: Having a Baby" right now), exercise, eat right (always a struggle during the holidays), and ask a lot of opinions on Facebook.

Around week 17, I started feeling the first popcorn pokes of my baby with the certainty that it wasn't just gas. I feel movement every single day now, getting stronger and stronger. The little Cinnabon is wiggling as I type this, for movement is most noticeable when I'm sitting still. I admit, as much as it delights me, it creeps me out a little too. It's just so strange and different!

After the gender reveal photos are posted, I will post my registry as well and actively start planning for the baby shower that two of my theatre friends have generously offered to throw.

Thinking of all the theatre people that will be invited, I think this may go down as an epic shindig. ;)

Monday, November 3, 2014

The Great, Fantabulous, Marvelicious Pregnancy Pet Peeve Rant!

I was having a good laugh a little bit ago reading about the different pregnancy pet peeves that women develop during their nine-month "miracle time." A lot about criticizing name choices, breastfeeding opinions (opinions and advice about anything, really), comments on belly sizes, even choosing birthdays. ("Oh, you should have the baby on my birthday! Even though your due date is three weeks ahead of that!")

I've had a serious rant cooking in my brain for several weeks. Actually, ever since I announced that I am pregnant with my first child.

So let me begin this epic RANT with the following caveats:

I am not a doctor or medical professional. Before you do anything, always check with your doc. I do, however, have a Bachelors in Kinesiology and a Masters in Sport Performance, a third degree black belt in karate, and multiple certifications in Group Fitness Instruction. I do not believe one study is the end-all-be-all answer to any health question, especially since money can make research tell you whatever it pays for these days. I try to do as much research as I can manage on a topic before spouting my opinion in such a public way, but admittedly, my research is largely limited to the internet, which is not always reliable. I do glean a lot, though, from my background in schooling, as well as my certification publications, such as ACE's magazine.

Some of my closest and dearest friends have been known to commit the "atrocities" I am about to annihilate. I in no way want to make them feel bad for the things they have said to me, but I do want to explain in detail why this gets me so hot under the collar. I am a first time mom-to-be, and I do not have loads of experience with children, most seriously lacking in time spent with infants. I want opinions, I want advice, and I want people to understand when I decide not to take their advice. I also want people to know why I might get snappy about this subject, when I generally try to be an un-snappy person. Please remember as you read on that everyone has opinions and these are merely mine. I'm fine if you disagree, I'm just begging you not to make it personal, or make a mountain out of a molehill.

So if I'm so worried about other people disagreeing with me, why am I bothering with this rant?

Because this is an issue that I think is extremely important. Because this issue reaches deep into every human being, male or female, and many struggle with it day in and day out, pregnant or not.

So here, my friends, begins my biggest pregnancy pet peeve rant. Prepare yourself, for it's going to be a long read.

If I hear one more person say, "If you're craving something, you should just go ahead and eat it because your baby needs it," I'm going to -- 

(Okay, I still haven't figured out what I'm going to do. I don't want to be violent, and there's many arguments that I'm already crazy, so ... )

A while ago, I posted on Facebook that I was seriously craving McDonald's Chicken McNuggets, and it was too bad I am aware of how horrible they are for the body. This was a random lament, not one I expected to spark such a huge reaction in me.

Every single person who commented on that post said the same thing: "Eat the nuggets."

There were variations on that, of course, but the message was the same.

(Again, if you are one of my beloved friends who made one of those comments, please understand that I'm not angry or trying to hurt you. I just want everyone to see where this rant is coming from, and why it's so important to me.)

I get it. Fast food and junk food is a big part of society's vast array of edible choices. It's not harmful if it's eaten every once in a while, not as a main staple.

The problem is, most of us have our heads in the sand when it comes to the reality check of "How much are you really eating?"

Sugar is everywhere. It's being put in everything, in various forms. And it is highly addicting. I myself am a serious junk food addict. And that's where the problem lies.

People say they can control how much junk they eat, but are they really?

I don't want to get in the great diet debate. I mean, like Paleo vs Vegetarian vs Vegan vs Wheat vs Dairy, etc. That's a debate that will never die and will always have hard core backers that swear this diet or that diet works for them.

But I think we can all agree that there is too much sugar in most of our store-bought items, too many chemical ingredients in prepackaged food. I think we can also agree that fast food restaurants are not in business for our health. They are in business to make money. Their food is addicting to keep us coming back for more, even knowing how unhealthy most of it is. The only reason any fast food joints are offering "healthier" options is because of public backlash and people suing for making them fat.

Okay, got that out there. So what does this have to do with pregnancy cravings?

I have seen many forms of this opinion floating around: If you are craving something, that means your baby needs it.

Now, I don't think I've hit that point yet where the crazy pregnant lady cravings are supposed to happen. I'm not quite fourteen weeks along at this point. As mentioned in my last post, I have had the aversions, the nausea, and the superpower sense of smell. Most of those have now gone by the wayside. (I'm still waiting for the trips to the bathroom to lessen, but I think I should give up on that ship.)

I've had cravings most of my life, stemming from my teenage years when I ate bags of candy in one sitting and had fast food every week. Since my mid-twenties, though, I decided I didn't like the aftereffects of such binges. I decided it wasn't worth the crashes after the sugar high, the racing heart, the jittery shakes, the queasy tummy. I stopped buying candy, doughnuts, and Mickey D's. I asked my mother to stop sending me bags of candy on holidays. Husband and I wanted to try going Paleo, and took a year to eat up all the pasta, cereals, and other grains we'd stored. We still have brown rice and dairy, so we're not exclusively Paleo, but we're eating a lot more fruits, nuts, and veggies than we did before. Our eating habits have significantly improved, and so has our general health and well being.

When I had my first trimester nausea and food aversions, I became so desperate to find something that sounded good, something that my queasy tummy would accept. I turned to cereals and pastas during that time. But at least everything I chose I kept as organic and all natural and healthy as I possibly could.

Those Chicken McNuggets I was craving? Hubby went to Fred Meyer and got me a box of high quality, minimal ingredient, organic chicken nuggets that actually tasted much better than the fast food version. (Though admittedly, they were expensive as hell. I've only had that one box since then.)

Now, I realize I'm starting to sound preachy, maybe even holier-than-thou. That's not my intent. My intent is to lead by example, to walk the walk as well as talk the talk. My career has been all about helping people get on track to a healthier lifestyle, and sometimes that requires being the mean one, the raging bitch about important issues.

I know a lot of moms out there will be yelling about how there's no such thing as a bad craving, how if you're craving a certain food, it is because your baby needs something in it.

And those are the key words: something in it.

Most of us will be craving garbage all the time, because most of us have eaten garbage for so long and we like it. I know fast food is horrible, but if my husband, or mother or whoever, brought me a McDonald's double cheeseburger, twenty-piece nuggets, and large fries with a Sprite, I'd probably eat it because it smells so damn good. I am not perfect. (Did I mention I'm not perfect?)

But this statement infuriates me so much because so many women use it as a banner to cave in to whatever junk they want to eat, because "the baby needs it."

So if a mom-to-be told you she was craving dirt, laundry detergent, sand, or rocks, what would you say? "Go ahead and eat it because your baby needs it!"

Good lord, I pray not.

Most likely you would tell her that she is deficient in something and to seek medical assistance. According to this article (see link), it may be an iron deficiency, as many women get anemic while pregnant. But it may be the body is missing other vitamins and minerals too.

There are other sites that mention possible reasons behind other, more regular cravings and possible solutions to them (such as having sorbet or yogurt instead of ice cream).

So why is it okay to tell a woman that if she is craving junk food to go ahead and eat it? Wouldn't healthier substitutes be a better suggestion?

For example, when I have a major chocolate craving, my response is to make a Paleo chocolate mug cake. It is composed of organic cocoa powder, coconut flour, almond flour, an egg, coconut milk, real maple syrup, a little organic vanilla extract, and honey. I mix it up in a coffee mug and bake it. I believe this to be a much better option than most of the chocolate bar and candy options out there.

Or perhaps I'll buy a small container of organic chocolate ice cream with the fewest ingredients I can find and share it with my husband. Or maybe a bar of organic dark chocolate of at least 78% dark.

So many women struggle with diet, health, and body image in their regular lives, with so much tempting food out there that is bad for us. But I would hope and pray that during this time of all times, when a woman is growing a precious new life within her, that she would realize that this is the time to take charge. It's no longer just about her. It's about the little one inside her that has no control over the decisions mommy makes about her body.

One of my fears is that my child will be born with those cravings already in place. It has been documented that babies can taste what the mother eats during pregnancy through the amniotic fluid, and during breastfeeding through the milk. They develop likes and dislikes during that time. Babies can be born addicted to the drugs or the cigarettes the mother was smoking, and then they have to go through withdrawal after birth. I do not want my child to have the same health issues that some I love dearly have been dealing with their whole lives.

If we know these things about our babies, how can we just wave away the importance of what we eat while the child is developing?

It's hard, though. I know how incredibly hard it is, especially this time of year, with Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas all one right after the other. But we can make better choices, at least during this one time when our unborn children are residing within us. For example, when my child is born, I want to start a new Halloween function. Sort of a Trunk or Treat thing, where the treats are toys, books, or useful goodies instead of candy. Or if this is not possible, perhaps trading the candy for a larger toy the child has been wanting, and then disposing of that candy in some other fashion. (I heard there's a dentist in Anchorage who buys back children's Halloween candy after the holiday because he cares about kids' teeth. I want to meet this guy.)

For those who moan about junk food being okay in moderation, all I ask is that you take a real hard, definitive look at your diet and see if it really matches with your belief. Check the ingredients of packaged food that you buy at the store. My midwifery has their clients fill out a food diary for three days. I decided to do it for longer than that, and keep track of my diet as well as exercise. (Since I am no longer teaching at this time, I need the record so I know for sure I'm exercising as regularly as I think I am.) Sure enough, I was skipping more days of exercise than I was willing to admit to myself, even after my fatigue and nausea issues had vanished. Now I can fix that.

My biggest hope for this public post is that it will help other pregnant women make better choices for themselves and for their children. There is so much information out there about what pregnant women should and should not do, and much of it is conflicting. But I believe that healthy eating is one thing that a woman should not stint on or dither about. In improving her own life and health, she can also help those closest to her improve, such as spouses, family members, and friends.

You know, that whole "Physician, health thyself" thing.

Whew. That was quite a load off my chest (which has been getting heavier by the moment without such subjects weighing on it). Wink, wink, nudge, nudge. ;)

While I'm here, I will further demonstrate how I am not perfect: Every Saturday, I have a small Sierra Mist soda with my garden salad lunch and Sun Chips. On Halloween, I had my organic dark chocolate, but I did have a single York Peppermint Patty at a restaurant after my shrimp salad. At a Nanowrimo meeting last Saturday, I had a sugar cookie with icing and some Cranberry Sprite (after informing everyone to keep me away from the rest of the cookies, else they disappear.)

Also, if it is a choice between a less healthy food option and not eating at all because of nausea and vomiting, I understand how difficult it can be to make yourself eat when you're not hungry. So if it would otherwise mean starving yourself, then go ahead and eat something. But try your best to make it organic or all natural or some equivalent. The fewer ingredients on the list, the better.

At this point, all I can say is: Blessed be, lots of luck to you other mothers-to-be, and


Friday, October 17, 2014

Shall We Try This Again?

So it's been a little while since my last blog post because on September 1st, I received my first, what the baby forums call, BFP (Big Fat Positive) pregnancy test. I did another one about a week later just because I was rather bored that day and wanted to see if it looked any different. It was such a strong positive, the pregnancy line pulled color from the negative line.

I already knew I was pregnant long before I took the first test. I felt a shift which must have been conception day and I felt different thereafter. This pregnancy is so much stronger than the last one. I was extremely bloated during weeks four and five, I already couldn't fit my jeans. And my trips to the bathroom, previously frequent from my water intake as a fitness instructor, doubled.

And then week six hit. Extreme nausea, crazy food aversions, intense sense of smell, disappearing appetite, and insane amounts of fatigue.

While I was not doing the traditional praying to the porcelain gods, I was shocked with how different and how bad I felt. It was like having a horrible flu that wouldn't go away. I was used to being sick for only a few days and being able to sleep most of it off.

This didn't go away for two weeks.

I had to step off our rather rigid Paleo diet (no cereal, pasta, or bread in the house at all) just to find something that sounded edible. I got organic cereals, organic granola bars, canned ravioli and boxed mac and cheese, seed and nut bread. I ate organic sorbets and ice cream, and drank real ginger ale and sparkling fruit juices. The gas was tremendous, but the bubbles helped my irritable tummy. My midwife mentioned that carbs are easier to digest, and someone like me probably needed more carbs anyway. Carrots were the one veggie I was able to nibble on regularly.

I was amazed at how dramatically my digestion slowed. That is typical, but I had only just quit my teaching job in July (before learning I was pregnant), so I was still used to being hungry all the time. I have to nibble now, eat smaller meals or I get all blocked up.

By the eighth week, the nausea diminished and some of my energy started to creep back in. I still have to sit down during a round of dish washing, but I'm exercising more often once again.

And then I realized just how tired I got. My concentration had completely deserted me. I always thought I'd deal with the first trimester by writing and reading a lot during that time.

It didn't happen.

I'd sit down to write and end up just staring at the computer doing nothing. Not even surfing the net. I'd try to read a book and just end up reading the same paragraph over and over without understanding a single word. And even with all this, naps rarely happened. I started watching TV and DVDs with alarming frequency. My Facebook visits began to increase in short-attention-span-theatre style. I started referring to my baby as the Parasite because it felt like I was being drained from within.

I am so happy to report that I'm feeling almost "normal," my appetite is returning, and I have more energy to take the dogs for walks and do a few yoga routines at home. We had our first ultrasound at ten weeks (more on that later), and I am now heading towards the end of the first trimester at eleven weeks. I am now calling my baby our little Cinnabon in the oven. Gradually working back toward a Paleo-based diet, with a few cheats here and there. (Hello, flour tortillas.) I'm even in the Christmas show at the theatre this year, and I did a song for the annual fundraiser (gods, the cheesecake was heavenly.)

There is so much to write about, but I think I'll finish this entry with this: the end of my first trimester, and the associated nausea and fatigue, is perfectly timed for Nanowrimo next month. I can use it to get back on the writing track. I want to get back to Write 1 Sub 1 as well. I count my blessings that I am not one of those who will be sick through the whole nine months. I am grateful for my appetite and for my ability to exercise again.

Now I can only hope that my Nanowrimo idea is a good one. :)

Friday, September 5, 2014

A Week of No Facebook

Well, it's been about two weeks since I started that "No Facebook" experiment. I actually ended it the evening before the week was up because of a karaoke contest I was in at the Alaska State Fair. I wanted to post a video of my performance for my family and friends who wouldn't be able to see it otherwise. (Before you ask, no, I didn't even place. I don't really want to talk about it.)

I've been visiting Facebook the last week, even going so far as to load the apps on my phone and iPad again. Here was what I noticed:

I'm spending far less time on Facebook than I was before. And in some ways, I kind of feel bad about that. I'm getting on to post things about my own life, but not really spending much time seeing what's going on in others' lives like I want to. It's just too much. There are so many people I love and want to see on Facebook that it has become a giant time-suck I just don't have the energy to keep up with. So there are a few feelings of guilt tied in with it.

I got so much more productive when I got off Facebook. Getting things done around the house, cooking some new recipes, writing more, and so on. Yesterday I noticed that I was returning to my habit of checking Facebook on my iPad multiple times during the day (though not spending as much time on it as before). That was preventing me from doing things that needed to be get done, like dishes. (I hate, hate, hate doing dishes. Have I mentioned that before? So I always go for the distractions to get away from that sink.)

So I have once again deleted the apps from my phone and iPad.

I've been sending more text messages to the people I miss the most (the ones who have text messaging, that is. Yes, there are still people out there who don't have it and don't want it.)

So I still haven't deleted my account. And I'm not sure why I haven't. If I don't want to spend time on it, why bother keeping it? I guess it's to leave that one window open to those who use Facebook for communication and nothing else. Like those people who don't have text messaging in their phone plans. (Ahem, Mom?) ;)

And I imagine I'll probably want to use it for information mining as well, asking people about their experiences and reviews on places or products. I've found that to be very helpful this week in particular.

More on that later.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

The First Day of No Facebook

So, yeah, it's only the end of the first day and I'm already blogging again.

Facebook withdrawal?

Maaaaaaaaybeeeeee ...

I noticed something interesting today. While I was actually out and about for a big chunk of the day, I had several hours at home in the afternoon and evening. I started out doing some writing. After a bit, I noticed my brain shifting away, wanting to play an app game like Candy Crush, or hop on Facebook.

So I started learning a new song. I want to keep my soprano range in shape, so I chose "Glitter and Be Gay" from Candide. I remember seeing it years ago performed by a beautiful woman with a the richest soprano voice and the strongest jawline I'd ever seen on a female. Then I saw Kristin Chenoweth do it with even more humor looking like a little Dolly Parton in a big blonde wig, cute pink dress, and high heels that laced like ballet slippers.

This song is going to take some time. Talk about your vocal gymnastics. Whew!

When my mind started wandering toward app games and Facebook again, I started making a mini teddy bear. I designed a new pattern (I've made dozens and I'm still not satisfied with the results. I'll get there someday.) If I like the way this one turns out, I'll crochet a scarf and hat from the green qiviut yarn I got a while ago. I haven't used it because it is around $95 for a small skein of about 175 yards. Precious stuff.

Anyway, every time my mind would wander to Facebook and games, I'd direct it to some other project. For example, this blog post is happening because hubby is busy and I'm avoiding Facebook.

So here's my revelation:

I hadn't realized just how often I get on Facebook or play Facebook-related games on the iPad, or those time management games like Diner Dash on my laptop. It was my version of spacing out in front of the TV. I wasn't engaged, I wasn't thinking, I wasn't producing anything. I was just zoning.

And I was doing it a lot!

Even when I stopped teaching at the club, I felt like I didn't have that much time to do stuff. The time I spent trying to read everyone's posts and see everyone's pictures, as well as making and sharing posts and pics of my own, was astronomical. The time spent playing games that I didn't really have to pay much attention to was almost as big. Even when I was "cutting back."

The desire to tune out is addicting. My drug was Facebook and app games instead of the television.

The television is actually more of a tool for me than Facebook. I use it to help me get motivated to do certain chores, like washing dishes. Yes, I really did say I use the TV for washing dishes. This seems like it would be a hinderance, but I usually put on musicals and sing along with the show tunes while soaping and rinsing. Otherwise, doing dishes is a hideously boring chore that has to be done, much to my dismay, every single day.

And no, I do not have an automatic dishwasher.

Only one day without Facebook, and I'm already so much more productive and feel better about things in general.

Don't get me wrong. I miss seeing my friends on there, chatting with people, seeing baby pictures and Throwback Thursday photos, sharing the posts of kitties needing adoption or fostering (Alaska has some uncommonly pretty cats!) While I knew some people were annoyed with my sharing of adoptable cats and kittens, the two times that friends of mine adopted one made it worth it. So worth it.

Nonetheless, I have the feeling I'm done with my personal Facebook account. I'm thinking of going back to Twitter for a bit, since I never spent very much time with it. Perhaps eventually I will start a professional author Facebook page.

Then again ... ;)

Friday, August 22, 2014

The Break From Facebook

I remember when I first started using Facebook. After the blingy-ness and teenager-ish feeling of MySpace, it seemed very plain and almost boring. It wasn't long before I was on Facebook exclusively.

I started playing games like Yoville and Family Feud. I collected more and more friends from theatre, from home, from high school.

And then I hit a turning point. I'm not sure why. I guess I just started noticing how much time I spent on Facebook and not doing all the things I love doing: reading, writing, singing, playing guitar, keeping my house clean. (Okay, I don't really love doing that last one, but I do love the results.)

As time has rolled by, I've limited my visits. The more news reports on how Facebook invades our privacy in the name of advertising and making money, the more I cut back on my Facebook time. I stopped keeping up with my newsfeed, even knowing there were things I wanted to see and wasn't. I stopped "liking" everything, especially when I learned that's how they gear their advertising to you specifically, and even control what you see.

I recently quit my job. Oh, did I forget to mention that? Yeah, I quit my job as a fitness instructor. Lots of reasons, a whole other post on its own. Let's just say we did it to cut back on expenses related to it, and to increase the amount of time I can spend with my family.

So you would think that with all this extra time on my hands, that I wouldn't worry about time spent on Facebook.

In reality, I find I have even less desire to be on Facebook than before I quit.

So I'm conducting an experiment. If you've ever tried to reduce the clutter in your house, you are probably familiar with the adage, "If you haven't used it for a year, get rid of it." Or to test this, you put the things in a box with the date on it. If you haven't opened that box within a year, donate it to a thrift store without even looking inside.

I'm giving up Facebook and all related apps for a week (stuff like Candy Crush, etc.) I'm encouraging friends to send me their email and home addresses because I want to start writing the old fashioned way. I really loved that old book series "Pen Pals" and want to bring that art back. I dusted off my address book that usually only makes appearances at Christmas. I plan on using Skype whenever possible as well.

I'm starting with a week, just to test the waters. If I don't miss it, I'll keep going. At some point, I'll probably decide to delete my account entirely.

My only stumbling block is that I love being able to see all that's going on in my friends' lives. I live thousands of miles away from many of them and Facebook has been the only reason I'm still in contact with some of them. Some have new babies, and I love watching their videos and seeing their pictures. Some do theatre, some go on thrilling adventures, some share my interests like writing. These are the reasons I was on Facebook to begin with and why I've stayed with it for so long. It's very convenient for this purpose.

So I'm not sure what to do about photos. I do love posting photos so my loved ones can see what we're up to. But I'm not at all familiar with websites that are photo-centered. Are there any out there that aren't just as bad as Facebook at violating our rights for the sake of selling us stuff?

On the upside, this may mean that I make more blog entries. :)

Sunday, July 27, 2014

The Alcan Adventure!

About a year ago, Logan and I decided we wanted to get a truck and camper. Having two dogs that always go with us when we go out, it was a little difficult to find sitters for just the cats. That meant we usually didn't go out for longer than a day. There are several trips we've been wanting to make, like Valdez and Homer and Chena Hot Springs near Fairbanks. We did go to Chena Hot Springs last November for one night, since a friend of mine was willing to watch the cats, but Dexter wasn't too keen on that (he spent most of the time in hiding.) But that was a lot of driving in two days and not a lot of time relaxing or enjoying all the fun stuff there.

I remembered my aunt and uncle used to come visiting from their home in Washington to my family's home in California with a camper, their cats riding along inside it. So I asked my dad if he would be willing to sell his old camper to us, as he and Mum weren't going to be using it so much anymore. He was willing.

A crazy plan formed: I would drive down to Idaho and trade in my car for a truck at a huge dealership that has special deals for Alaskans and other out-of-state patrons. Then I would drive to Mum and Dad's house in California to pick up the camper, and drive it back through Canada to Alaska. I asked a few friends to see who would like to share the adventure with me.

See, I didn't think Dad would want to sell his truck. That was his baby and he'd had it for about fourteen years. But Dad surprised me one day by offering it to us with the camper for about 10k. This meant I wouldn't have to drive down, I only had to fly and drive back up.

We jumped on the offer and started saving up, planning on doing the drive and the deal this summer.

Over the course of the year, the plan evolved. Logan decided he needed a vacation, so he invited himself along. My friend Tiffany agreed to come along the drive back. Then my cousin Alex threw her hat into the ring, making us a party of four plus a small service dog, Chloe.

Then Logan's work interrupted, so he had to fly down about four days after me. He only got a couple of days with his family before we started the drive back. We were on a time crunch because the house sitter had her own vacation planned as soon as we got back, so we couldn't extend ours at all.

I spent a week in California with my family. Then, at about 3 in the morning on Sunday, June 15 (yes, it was Father's Day), we started the long trek back home.

We spent our first night at my aunt and uncle's house in Northern Washington. It was very rainy there, of course. I got to see my cousins, we toured their homes and properties, met their animals. I almost had a heart attack when Aunt Christy brought out one of their less friendly cats.

He was a dead ringer for Dusty. So alike, it was scary. My heart ached.

We left after the tour, around 11 in the morning. We rode the ferry (a major trip for equilibrium, to be sure) and crossed the Canadian border that day. We stopped at a nice RV park in Cache Creek, next to a stream. Tiffy and I shared the bed, Alex got the table that turned into a bed with the seats, and Logan sacked out in the truck.

Many areas along the trip were very nice with lots to look at and take pictures of. But some areas, like a long stretch after Dawson Creek, were very boring.

We got lots of pictures of bears and other wildlife. It go so that we'd say, "Oh, it's another bear. Keep going." We even got some video of a bison mock fight. They weren't really fighting all that hard, mostly stamping and lowering heads with an occasional bump of their noggins together. But pretty neat to see.

It was interesting to note that in all the larger cities, A&W was the one restaurant you could be guaranteed to find. There were so many of them! We finally tried a Tim Horton's in Whitehorse, since we passed a bunch of those too. Fast food that is a lot fancier and better tasting than fast food. Almost like a cafe at high speed. Would definitely recommend to anyone who hasn't tried one.

This was not an easy trip. Because we were under the gun to get back by the 20th, we didn't do much other than drive. We spent one night at Liard Hot Springs, which was great except for no showers or laundry. There were several construction areas. We only got stopped at one for about twenty minutes. The others were no problem because we were out past the work crew times.

Getting through the border was interesting. When we crossed to Canada, the lady asked for our passports, asked how we were all related, where we were going, if we had firewood and some other things, and then let us go. Very polite and rather cold.

The guard at the border crossing into Alaska was very friendly and chatty, gave us our passports back and needled three of us for not having signed them, then he and Logan started talking about knives before we went on through. It was such a relief to be back in the States, but I have to admit that I get a real kick out of Canadian money. So colorful and shiny, and who could not love a coin called a "looney?"

We stayed a night in Tok after some debate about whether we should push through for home or not. I wanted a shower and some clean laundry, and we had plans to stop at the glacier on the way home, so we found an RV park to stop. I will never wash laundry at an RV park ever again. Waaaaaaaay too freaking expensive and not worth it. There are even places that have coin-op showers, for crying out loud. If I'd known, I would have changed my vote.

We did hit up the glacier and the restaurant next to it. We had a couple of days before Alex had to fly home, so we went souvenir shopping, stopped at the Alaska Zoo, and even visited Whittier.

My friend Tiffy stayed with us for a week. I learned a very uncomfortable truth about our society while she stayed with us: there are people who don't understand service dogs. A Walmart employee in Canada yelled at us, "No dogs!" We said, "She's a service dog!" and continued on our way. Minutes later, a manager tracked us down to check her tags. At least she was polite and nice about it.

But when we tried to go indoor mini golfing at a place called Putters Wild in Anchorage, the lady behind the counter discouraged us from entering, saying the dog would likely soil the premises. She didn't actually say "no," probably because that would be illegal. You know that boss in "Office Space," the one with the coffee mug saying "Yeeeeeaaaah, if you could come in tomorrow, that would be greeeeeaaaat"? That kind of voice.

Neither of us are confrontational people. Looking back, we both wished we'd challenged her, asking if she was refusing entry. But in my mind, why would we want to spend money in a place that doesn't accept disabled veterans and their service dogs? So I said, "Let's go." And that's what we did.

I was surprised and dismayed that there are people like this. She probably assumed that it wasn't really a service dog, just someone trying to get away with taking her dog wherever she wanted. She didn't ask to see tags or documentation or anything. Just made us feel horrible for even setting foot in there with a dog.

So please, if you ever find yourself in Anchorage, please do not go to Putters Wild. They clearly don't support disabled veterans or service animals.

But other than those couple of down moments, the trip was amazing. I look forward to trying different legs of it each year when we go down to visit family.

My next post will be about the dip netting trip we just took a few days ago, and the cats first adventure away from home that didn't include a vet visit. ;)

Sunday, July 13, 2014

The Big Exciting (and Disappointing) News

So, once again it has been more than a month since my last post. But the month of June was quite jam packed. Before I get to that adventure, I promised I'd tell about something else that happened during the run of the Marvelous Wonderettes.

On March 17 I did a pregnancy test and it came out positive!

I knew I was really pregnant because my period is as regular as a stopped clock. I was two days late and feeling very strange down there. Went to my doctor for confirmation, bringing my husband and my calendar with my menstruation tracking on it. We both had lots of questions, as you could imagine. Our biggest worry is that the baby be healthy despite our "advanced" ages.

Anyway, she told me I was about five weeks and we set an appointment for some blood tests, which came back pretty normal for pregnancy.

My parents had no idea that we were even thinking about having a kid. And technically, we don't call it "trying." We call it "no longer preventing." If we have a kid, great. If not, we like our lives the way they are, too. I have no intention of doing fertility drugs, ovulation tests, timing sex, or any of that stuff a lot of people do when trying to conceive. It'll happen the natural old fashioned way or not.

So I decided to mail the positive pregnancy test to my parents as a "late" birthday present for my mum. (See what I did there? Hee hee hee.)

I got to see her reaction through Skype. Well, half her reaction. I could see one eye because she was too close to the camera. But that eye got huge all of a sudden.

The package arrived and surprised my parents on March 31. I guess I was around seven or maybe eight weeks by then. Since my parents got their gift, I decided to start telling people that I was expecting.

By the way, I did tell my fellow Marvelous Wonderettes before that day. I spilled the news during our limo ride in costume on the way to our opening night performance. My friend Sarah already knew, having deduced from something I said during one of the appearances we made prior, but I wanted all of them to know in case I started behaving weird, like not eating all the junk I'm known to love.

Anyway, the day after my parents found out was April Fools. I went to teach my Group Power class that morning. One of the participants said something to the effect of, "If I hear one more person say they're pregnant or engaged, I'm going to punch them!"

I laughed and said, "Yeah, I was going to announce that I'm pregnant, but I realized that if I told everyone today, no one would believe me."

The room went quiet as this sunk in. Alicia, one of my fellow instructors, said, "Hold it. Are you pregnant? For real? Are you just playing with us?"

I smiled and said, "Yes, I'm pregnant for real. No joke. I really am."

General pandemonium as people squealed and congratulated.

And then Mother Nature played her April Fool joke on me: that night I started miscarrying.

It was like a bloody floodgate opened. My doc scheduled another blood test and sure enough, my progesterone count had dropped. The lady who took my blood seemed sadder about it than I was. In fact, she was so sorrowful I almost started crying. But I realized that it wasn't my emotion making me that way, it was hers. So even though she said, "It's okay to cry," I did not.

It seemed crazy to me that, as people found out that I'd miscarried, their reactions were far more emotional and sad than my own. We live in an area that has many deeply religious folks, and I imagine that might have something to do with it. They considered it a life lost, as if I'd already had the baby.

I guess it didn't really bother me that much because I knew it was a distinct possibility. I'm thirty-eight years old, spent decades on the pill, and have never been pregnant before. If I didn't have a miscarriage first time out, I would have been shocked.

Also, seven weeks was hardly long enough to process the information. I hadn't been thinking of baby names or college funds, clothes or food, or anything. I hadn't really even considered whether it would be a boy or a girl. As soon as I knew for sure I was pregnant, suddenly I wasn't.

I trust my body. It has worked so well for me over the years I have no reason not to. And I trust whoever or whatever is in charge of running the Universe. If this is on my life's agenda, it will happen.

But it sure was strange, feeling like I needed to comfort other people when I was the one who had the miscarriage.

My doc prescribed me a medication, the name of which slips my mind now. A common one that goes inside the vagina and "finishes off" the miscarriage. I think mine was pretty close to done at that point because I didn't have all the horrors that other women have described using that stuff. If I hadn't known better, I would have thought it was just a really late, really heavy and clotted period that lasted more than a week.

And so now things are back to normal for my body. And life goes on as it always had.

There are a few changes on the near horizon, though. These changes would be beneficial if I got pregnant again. I'll be talking about those in a future post.

Next up: The Great Alcan Highway Adventure!

Monday, May 12, 2014

Finally Stepping Off the Crazy Train: The Marvelous Wonderettes

It has been about four and a half months since my last blog post. This is my first blog post of 2014, apparently. I didn't realize it until just a day ago when an old friend found me through this blog and I thought, "I wrote in January at least, right?"

Uh, no. And now it's the middle of May. Yikes.

So I think I will be writing down the events in a few blog posts so they don't come off as one long winded, crazy-quilt, splatter mess of words. Which they might anyway, so who cares, right?

This blog post features the main car of the crazy train, the one I spent most of my time traveling in: The Marvelous Wonderettes.

I've been doing theatre since I was about seventeen years old. I remember making my high school choir teacher mad because I had to miss the Christmas concert due to being in "Jeanette Isabella," Theatre El Dorado's Christmas show that year. I'm surprised she didn't flunk me.

I was doing back-to-back shows during those younger years. Sometimes performing, then doing backstage stuff when I was too young for parts in other shows. I was a stage mangler, excuse me, manager, props mistress, stage hand, yadda yadda. I did everything. "Godspell" was probably the toughest show because we were on stage most of the time, but it was a cast of about nine or ten individuals. Sometimes you sang lead, sometimes you sang backup, sometimes you didn't sing at all. Sometimes you got to sit down and rest, there weren't any costume changes or scene changes (well, except for the odd costume pieces we put on while onstage). Not a lot of strange hair or makeup needed doing.

The Marvelous Wonderettes was so much more exhausting!

I hadn't done a show since March of last year, when I was asked to take a few vacated roles in "The Sting." I didn't have much hope in getting into the Wonderettes because there were only four parts, and the first act was the senior prom, which meant the four girls were around eighteen years old.

Everyone else was apparently sure I'd get in. I guess maybe I pass for younger than what I see in the mirror every day. I definitely know I have the energy of a teenager. And I still have the teenage skin problems as well. (Which they said would go away in my twenties. They LIED!)

I was shocked when I got the part of Missy. But it also made sense. She would be the one that seems a little older because she's the "director." She tells everyone what to do, where to go, what song is next, chastises the other girls for not doing things right, and so on.

The rehearsals started in mid-January. And it was like rolling a snowball down a hill: it got bigger and bigger and faster and faster.

I soon realized a few freaky facts.

One, there were only four of us carrying the entire show.

Two, there were no costume changes or scene changes of any kind, except during intermission. So no moments to go backstage and check in with the script or refresh lines. Or get a drink. (Except a quick swig of water from the tiny punch glasses on the prom refreshment table.) Or go to the restroom. (The stage "restrooms" weren't real.) In fact, my character never left the stage once she was on it.

Three, with the exception of one song (which was a solo of mine), all four of us performed in every single number of the show.

Four, it soon dawned on me that in the first act, my bossy character's lines usually led into each part of the scene.

This is the freaky fact that scared me the most. I realized that if I swapped my lines or skipped any of them, we could end up jumping ten pages of script or missing several songs.

Bring on the performance nightmares!

I don't think I got much sleep the month of March. Every time I called for a line during rehearsal was a tiny moment of terror.

And four part harmony is not easy when there is no one else sharing your part. You're trying to listen to each other and remember your own stuff as well. The "Mr. Sandman" we did in Treble Choir in high school was a cakewalk compared to the Wonderettes' "Mr. Sandman."

So all in all, this was a huge amount of work for four girls to take on. We also did a slew of appearances at different rotary club meetings, chambers of commerce, and what have you. Some in costume and some not.

We really didn't get any down time before the show or during intermission either. I personally had two hair pieces, a curly one for the first act (1958) and a big bump for the second act (1968). I had hairpieces because my fine hair would not have handled the teasing needed for the second act in particular. One girl had to have a tattoo drawn on her arm between acts, another had to get into a pregnant belly before changing costumes, we all had to change our makeup to match the time period. When we got to the theatre, it was go-go-go until the show was over.

And even with all that exhaustion, it was still fabulous amounts of fun.

People loved the show. They sang along, swayed back and forth, couples smiled at each other when they heard songs they recognized. We even had a few people come up and tell us they were Class of '58 for real!

Every night we would pick someone out in the audience to refer to as "Ms. McPherson." The audience got to vote for their prom queen every night. The real winner was fixed, but it was fun to see who won the audience over each night. I actually won once, which I never thought would happen because I was the one bossing the audience around and telling them to turn off their phones. Betty Jean got a lot of sympathy votes and won most nights.

We also would pull a man up on stage to be "Mr. Lee." My character had a crush on this teacher in the first act, and then "marries" him on stage during the second act. Luckily all our Mr. Lees were good sports and got a kick out of it. They were usually someone related to or known well by some member of our cast, crew, or band. And our own director was Mr. Lee for the final show and didn't even see it coming. Heeheehee.

One night a lady that we picked to be Ms. McPherson just didn't cooperate at all. I don't know if it was because she didn't want to stand out, didn't really understand what was going on, or maybe she was frozen in fear. I was worried we had ruined the show for her, but she said afterward that she enjoyed it. I hope that was true.

The show ran for four weekends. Several sicknesses made the rounds through all four of us, I had allergies on video night (and I cringe every time I hear my voice crack on that video), and we were all tired to the point of dragging. But the four of us went out karaoke-ing one night and pretended to get in a lot of trouble, taking pictures of us in handcuffs and what not.

We got lots of memorabilia from our director, like mugs and a picture book. Lots of M&Ms, veggies, and fruits were consumed during rehearsals. I made bears with matching lollipops for each of the girls in their individual colors, and gave chocolate moose pops to everyone else in the crew and band. We made a shadow box of memories for the director and made him cry (again.) The four of us got to ride in style to opening night in a limousine in costume, which was definitely a bonding moment when I spilled my big news (more on that in another post.)

It was a big, huge, amazing, marvelous experience that I am so proud to have been a part of. I made some new friends, got closer to those I was already friends with, and got to play a character almost twenty years my junior. I'm quite positive that's the last time I'll be a teenager on stage.

Now if only my teenage skin problems would go away ...