Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Pregnant or Not, I Don't Regret My Behavior In This "Hairy" Situation

Many a consolation is made for the uber pregnant woman, and I understand why.  Her feet are swollen, her back hurts and she won’t get a good night’s sleep for another 30 years.  But as a result, the woman in her first trimester is really getting the shaft when it comes to sympathy.  She too is tired, nauseous and scared to death… and almost no one knows or knows why.

I was barely into my first trimester when I boarded a plane at JFK bound for LAX, a route I’ve flown more times than American Airlines has delayed it.  I took my window seat in a row built for two, nervously awaiting the arrival of a neighbor I hoped had properly bathed within the last several hours.

I was pleasantly surprised as she took her seat.  She was mid-twenties, in a cute outfit, sans bag of pungent food and very unlikely to need extra waist space.  Granted we were still on the tarmac, but we were off to a good start.

Had it not been for the unrecognizable bump in my belly I’d have partaken in my travel ritual of a glass of wine (or sleep aid) and 3 pages of a good book before conking out, but with the gift of life comes the death of certain liberties.  Instead, I'd lay awake for the next 6 hours listening to her make the most vile sound I’ve ever heard.  No, she wasn’t burping, farting, snoring or even chewing loudly.  She was plucking split ends of hair.

Now, before you get all judge-y with me, let me explain the process.  She would twist her long hair around her fingertip, looking for a split end.  Upon finding one, she would put the single damaged hair into her mouth and bite off the tip.  Then using her thumb and pointer finger she would remove the fragment from her tongue and spit it (yes, spit it) onto the floor.  Had she done this once, twice, even ten times I could have handled it.  Make no mistake.  She did it for 6 hours straight.

I was already nauseous, but this put me over the edge.  I put on headphones to tune her out but because she was in my eyeline, it was as though I could hear the “pop” of the hair right through the music.  So I did what any secretly pregnant and puke-tastic woman would do.  (Pop, pop, pop.)  I wrote her a note.

I am not typically a passive aggressive person, but this instance was anything but typical.  I didn’t want a confrontation, nor did I want to embarrass her in front of the co-workers she was clearly traveling with.  At the same time, I thought she needed to know how inappropriate her behavior was, if only to protect the passengers on her return flight.

On the back of my boarding pass I wrote “next time, keep your bathroom habits to the bathroom”, folded it up like an elementary school love note, and dropped it into her purse while she was distracted (of course, by her hair).  Remorse kicked in only when the note hit an obstacle before falling too deeply into the bag, where it remained until the infamous ding that means you can grab your cell phone. 

“That’s from me”, I mumbled as she reached into her bag and came up with the note in hand.  I followed up with an incredibly lame excuse as to how I was newly pregnant, sick, hormonal and attempting to avoid confrontation for the very first time in my life.  She apologized, suggesting that I should have just asked her to stop.  And she was right.

I have told this story for years, always with a disclaimer that my pregnancy was an excuse for my poor judgement.  But was it?  

There are many reasons why some women hide the early stages of their pregnancies… fear of miscarriage, fear of changes in employment, just flat out fear.  Privacy is an interesting thing.  Sometimes we want it, and sometimes we don’t.  Sometimes it can be a relief to have our challenges or weaknesses exposed, and other times we will do anything to keep them close to the hearth.  I am unsure of which I prefer.

That said if I do decide to have another child, my first trimester would likely come complete with a totally different sign of early pregnancy.  (It'll look like this...)

(Photo Credit: Julie Hays Designs, Instagram: JHaysG)

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Why Anna Kendrick Is My Hero (And Should Be Yours Too)

I take inspiration from so many women.  Maya Angelou and Sofia Coppola to Christiane Amanpour and Beyonce.  Predictable?  Maybe.  Until you add Anna Kendrick to the list.

The first time I remember seeing her was in Up in the Air in 2009.  (Sorry, I don’t do Twilight.)  She was awkwardly average and painful to watch, in the best way possible.  She was Courtney Stodden in Ann Taylor because I loved to hate her and wondered how the hell she landed the gig.  Still, she was perfect for the role, which scored her an Oscar nomination for supporting George Clooney.  Scha-wing.

Next time we caught up was in What to Expect When You’re Expecting (on On Demand, of course, because that’s what you expect AFTER you’ve expected).  She played Rosie, a less-than-normal teenage girl who never quite got over Marco after he stood her up for the prom blah, blah, blah…  Whatever.  She had movie-sex with Chace Crawford.  Schaaa-wing.

Fast forward to another blockbuster, my bio pic.  This scene stars a 3 year old screaming bloody murder from her car seat because a 5 year old ate the last Cheeto.  Thankfully, having cranky toddlers in the car is a great excuse for boogying down in the driver’s seat, which I do on the reg.  And if there’s one thing I can count on in that scenario other than a headache, it's that any Sirius XM pop station will have one of the same seven songs in rotation.  “Cups” it is, and my prayers are answered.  Then I see the artist's name scroll.  (It was Anna Kendrick.  Keep up, people.)

While safely at a stoplight, to Google I go.  Could this really be the same girl?  Let me save you the search… It’s her.  The one in End of Watch.  The one in 50/50.  And the one who earned the sacred title of 2nd youngest Tony nominee ever.

I’m clearly not a movie buff, nor a Broadway aficionado.  But I do consider myself to be somewhat of an authority on things that inspire women- and she fits the bill ridiculously well.

Anna Kendrick doesn’t share Kate Beckinsale’s looks, Heidi Klum’s legs, Kate Upton’s body, or Kim Kardashian’s je ne sais pas. (Although, strangely, she does share the initial K.)  What Anna Kendrick has is much, much more…  And frankly, the fact that she is getting big props for it gives me hope that every once in a while, life can be fair in the most beautiful way.

Good luck on Pitch Perfect 2, Anna.  I’ll be watching.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

I Was Offered A Black Market Baby (And I'm Thankful For It)

I hate to admit that I knew almost nothing about El Salvador during the first two decades of my life.  I knew nothing of the civil war that ravaged the country for most of my youth, or the gangs that have terrorized it since.  I had never seen a restaurant called a pupuseria and likely would have poked fun at the name if I had.  That is, until I met my husband, and became enamored by that element of his heritage.

Shortly after we started dating, he took a family vacation to El Salvador, his mother’s homeland.  I remember my future father-in-law, an Italian immigrant, joking that he would never take me along.  With a look as American as they come, locals would view me as prey.  Ironically, that challenge made me want to visit the country only more- just without my engagement ring.

Then a year after we were married, my husband went on a life-changing journey as a volunteer in an orphanage there.  Upon his return, I could see his frustration over my inability to fully grasp the power, beauty and sadness of his experiences.  Months later, he returned to the orphanage, with me by his side.

My heart was open but vulnerable was we entered the property.  I knew immediately that he was right.  I could never have imagined the conditions or energy of the facility without having been there myself.  Still, what caught me most by surprise was that the first (of many) tears I cried were not of distress, but joy.

Walking the long concrete corridor to the sun-baked blacktop playground, my husband must have appeared nothing but a well-over 6 foot tall shadow.  A toddler armed with no family or education but the vision of a hawk noticed him immediately and ran into his arms, like a wife being reunited with her husband after a long tour of duty.

In that moment, and several more in the days that followed, I saw first hand how those that live in the most underserved circumstance can sometimes have the greatest abundance of love and life to give.

After leaving the orphanage, we spent several days exploring other parts of the country.  During one excursion our host guided us to a beautiful coastal inlet, driving right up to the sea despite an approaching rainstorm.  As I sat soaked but completely content in the back of a pick-up truck, I couldn’t help being distracted by the roar of a crying infant in a car parked nearby.  The windows were closed tightly and fogged, but the door was unlocked.

Call what happened next what you will… I believe it was not ignorance but maternal instinct that led me to open the door and lift the baby, now hysterical, from her seat beside her frightened toddler sister.  No more than 6 months old, she was hot to the touch, soaked with perspiration.  With my hand on her back, I could feel congestion in her lungs.  She was clearly ill and alone in a car, left to be monitored by her big sister, who was still in diapers.

A few minutes later, their parents returned from a small paddleboat on the water, joyful, bottle of alcohol in-hand.  They were far from disgruntled that I had opened the car and removed their kids.  They were, however, shocked by how noticeably disturbed I was by the situation.

Trying to make light, purely for our benefit, our guide joked with my husband that I looked good with the baby.  He then took it one step further, offering to “get” me the baby, if I wanted it.

Since my youth I have wanted to consider adoption.  Having had an experience like this only makes me think about it more.  As the mother of two young girls, it is my dream (and responsibility) to provide all that I can for them.  Who knows if our future will allow for our family to grow once (or twice) more...  In the meantime, I’m determined to remember and spread the word of the intangible gifts I received from the children I encountered on that trip.  Sometimes those with the least to offer have the most to give.  In return, all you have to do is pay it forward.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Pardon Me, Do You Have Any Grey Poupon (Or A Way To Save My Kid From Behaving Like Reese Witherspoon)?

Obviously I made prank calls as a tween.  My diverse repertoire ranged from the gold standard “is your refrigerator running?” to the slightly more racy call to a bowling center about 10-pound balls.  Overall they were really very innocent, barely entertaining and undeniably forgettable, except for one.

I have never forgotten the first time my junior high BFF and I dialed and random number and heard the disappointing click of an answering machine on the other end.  Normally, we would have hung up, and targeted any other number without the famous 555 prefix then reserved for the silver screen.  But as I went to disconnect and heard the recorded “I am not in my car right now”, my jaw dropped.

When I envisioned this dude rolling with a pre-voicemail, tape-loaded answering machine in his car, it seemed so excessive… so deserving of a prank… or just a nasty message from bored and obnoxious teenagers.  So we began to rant about all the starving children in Africa, and likely ended with “Pardon me, would you have any Grey Poupon?”

Now, I was a very fortunate child growing up.  My father drove a beautiful car at the time, equipped with a mobile phone the size of Kobe Bryant’s kicks.  It was built into the center console, had a thick cord, and made my dad super-cool.  Like this.

Hold up.  I do have a point here other than that I was not born to be the next Weird Al Yankovic.

I used to think that the newest technologies were only for the rich, but that isn’t always the case anymore.  Gone are the days when I frown upon a parent giving their young child a cell phone, or a car that they couldn't afford with babysitting money.  Sure, some lines in there are fuzzier than a television with bunny ears, but the picture is still clear.  I want to arm my children with every chance they have to stay safe in this incredibly dangerous world.

I’ve already shared how the film Spring Breakers turned me into an insomniac.  Next up was Disconnect which despite being an impeccable film rid me of any doubt that parenting is more f’ing terrifying than ever.

Anyone can be one Facebook post away from feeling suicidal…  One dangerous date away from the unimaginable…  One trip to the mall away from ending up on a milk carton…  One Reese Witherspoon buzz away from an airbag…  Or one 911 call away from the last digits they’ll ever dial.

For now, I'm just trying to get my 5 year old to memorize my number.