The Real World


Hey everyone,

Look at me two posts in a week! I’ve been looking online at different jobs. I’m hoping to get into something flexible/part-time so that I don’t have to put Sophia into daycare. I love our days together, I’m already sad thinking about her going to school.

I find job hunting really scary. Reading requirements for jobs and thinking about starting at a new job is overwhelming. Even though I spent two years writing for a magazine and doing advertisements it still seems like a lifetime ago. The past year and a half with Sophia has been amazing, but it is so different from working at a nine to five job. It’s challenging and frustrating and wonderful all at the same time. I’m just not sure how to put myself back into “the real world.” I’m guessing I’ll need to start out slowly.

I’m also currently in the middle of my memoir. I love writing about our life and journey to Japan. I can’t wait to have a finished draft. It’s a life long dream of mine to write a full length book.  That’s also my goal for 2015 is to finish the first draft.

I promised that I would share part of my book so I am including the opening chapter here. If you would like to share this chapter or any chapters please ask permission first.

©.2011-2015. Embracing Life. lifepassionlove.wordpress.com. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. All work on this blog is original writing by me and not to be reproduced, copied or distributed.

Who Says You Can’t Go Home?

           “Get in the water. Get IN. Come on.”

“I don’t know. Maybe I’ll just watch. Hmm, I’m not sure.”

“Just get in here. It’s easy. Everyone else has tried it.”

I laughed at the exchange between my brother, Michael’s girlfriend, Renee and my great-aunt, Angie. Renee stood in the waist deep water holding the 10 foot paddle board while she cajoled and pleaded with my aunt to get in and try the board. After three years of living overseas in Okinawa, Japan it was refreshing and comforting to be back with the comforts of my childhood; the creek, The Shore House, my family. Everything felt so perfect, it made me wonder why I had never appreciated it before. I had been so eager to grow up and leave my home town behind that I never realized how blessed I really was. I knew everyone or so it seemed. I guess that’s what happens when you live on a peninsula. One road in or out. Unless you went by boat you had to meet up with the same people; the same gas station attendants, the same grocery clerks, the same preachers.  The town I grew up in, Pasadena, (Maryland not California) had a population of about 25,000. It may seem like a large number of people to be acquainted with, but I really felt like knew everyone in town. There were only two high schools in town and plenty of people to be friends with. Even though I attended a private high school in another town I still knew so many people from my neighborhood and through other friends. I had my immediate and extended family all around me and we never wanted for company because we always had each other.

“Why don’t you let Aly try? She’s never been on there.”

“I’m getting in the kayak now. Go on in,” I said.

“Mmm, I don’t know,” she hemmed and hawed at the idea, “I don’t think I could stay on there.”

I slowly paddled the kayak up the creek and against the current putting the house behind me. The sun beat down on me and reflected off the water making the day seem that much hotter. It wasn’t unlike the humid temperatures we had grown used to in Okinawa. The scenery was quite different though. Living on a subtropical island just wasn’t the same as growing up on the Bay. From the time I was born, I had been fortunate enough to be able to experience summers on the water. My great-great grandparents bought a summer house in 1908 on the Bodkin just off the Chesapeake Bay in Pasadena, Maryland. They spent their winters in a house up the beltway on the northern outskirts of Baltimore City, but every weekend in the summer they were at The Shore house. The property is now co-owned by my great grandmother and her remaining living brothers. The house sits on a corner lot that in today’s market would cost several million dollars to purchase. If we had the money, my grandparents would buy out everyone else’s share. Just so we could keep the house in our family and never have to worry about someone wanting to sell it. It has charm and it is definitely old, but I loved going there when I was a child. It never occurred to me that other people didn’t have the luxury of a waterfront view and a readymade vacation home. We spent our days riding jet skis into the mouth of the Bodkin and taking boat rides out on the Bay.

When my grandfather would drive the boat, he would give us a history lesson; pointing out all of the landmarks and historical points on the water.

“There’s Bethlehem,” he would say waving his hand in the direction of the smoke stacks. It used to be so much busier and more alive. Bethlehem Sparrows Point Shipyard was known to local residents as Bethlehem Steel for the steel plant that you could see the smoke stacks from the Bay. I always thought it looked intimidating and never wanted to go near there. These days the steel plant sits empty and cold because it couldn’t survive the tough economic times. I hear they are demolishing the place piece by piece. Just past that you can see the Key Bridge named after Francis Scott Key, the man who penned the Star Spangled Banner. The raising of the American flag at Fort McHenry in Baltimore was said to have inspired the beloved anthem. That little piece of trivia is one that Marylanders are proud of.

As I grew older and became busier I spent less time at the Shore and on the water even though it was only a few miles from my mother’s house. When I left for Okinawa I never thought about how much I would miss this place and the people that came along with it. I figured a subtropical island country would satisfy my need to be on the water and my desire to see something besides my town. It wasn’t the same. The sounds and smells were different. Instead of flowing creeks, chirping crickets, and muggy summer nights you had crashing waves and overly salty air. It was pretty, but it was never home. There were so many days and nights that I fought homesickness and the urge to just jump on a plane and go back. Back to my family, back to my hometown. Even in my darkest days of anxiety when I thought I would lose my mind, I stayed in Japan to be close to my husband because I knew that I would miss him just as much if I left. But still always there was a part of me that longed to be where I grew up.

“Ang, just get on the board. I’ll hold it up here and Michael can hold the other end,” Renee told her, “Pull up onto the board on your belly. Then, get up on your knees.”

“I’m tryin’, I’m trying. Ahgh.”

Splash.

The sound of laughter echoed across the creek as Angie tumbled into the water. I craned my neck to see her, but the kayak had floated down the creek and I had lost sight of the house. As I paddled farther ahead, I looked into the tree line where the trail leading to Downs Park. The park is located on the Chesapeake Bay in Anne Arundel County. It is situated at the end of a peninsula just before a gated community called Gibson Island. The park is named for former County Councilman, John (Jack) H. Downs. The park was named in his honor for his years of service in Anne Arundel County. We never cared about the park’s name or history. It was just a fun place to hang out when we were kids. To run and scream and chase one another throughout the trails and picnic spots.

The park has so many winding trails throughout the woods and along the water line. It’s great for riding bikes or running through the woods. There are children’s playgrounds and an outdoor performance theater where Sunday concerts are held during the summer months. Local residents and tourists can learn more about the indigenous wildlife by visiting the information center located at the park. When my cousins and I were kids we sat through two Saturdays of classes to receive our personal boating license right at the park. These days children can attend summer camps and families can picnic and cook out at one of the many pavilions with charcoal grills. It is the perfect place for families to go and it was the perfect place to be a kid. I had craved this familiarity when I was gone. Even though I didn’t know I would miss it at all.

“There ya go, there ya go. Just stand up from your knees,” Michael’s voice echoed down the creek.

“I don’t have my balance. I think I’m going to fall,” Angie replied.

Splash.

The town where I grew up and the areas surrounding it are rich with history and culture. It wasn’t just a place for me to learn about it. It was the place where I grew up. It was the town I learned to be an adult in. I learned so much about myself and I grew into a woman. I was so eager to get out that I never stopped to think about all that I was leaving behind. I can hear my brother pulling the paddleboard out of the water. My aunt must have given up for the day. Maybe she’ll try again tomorrow. I reflect once more on how glad I am to finally be back where I belong.

Three years had passed in the blink of an eye. There were amazing memories, there were okay times, and there were some downright frightening moments that were all behind me now. Being back here made Japan feel like nothing, but a distant memory or a dream, even. I turn the kayak around and let the current take me home.

xo Aly

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The End of An Era


Last week brought about the end of an era! After three years and three months I have finally completed my graduate program. I will be receiving my Master of Arts degree in English and Creative Writing with a Nonfiction concentration. It feels unreal to me because I have been working on this degree for so long. Through a full-time job, pregnancy, anxiety attacks, birth, a new baby who grew into a wild toddler and now I am actually finished! It feels amazing and sad all at the same time. This was such a long time goal of mine that I feel sort of stumped now that it is over.

For my final project I turned in 84 pages of my memoir. It’s only about a third of the way finished, but it is a really great start. My goal for 2015 is to finish the first draft of my book. I’m not sure when it will get published, but I know one day that it will. My dream has always been to inspire others with my writing and if I can just encourage one person with my story than I will have done something great. My professor gave me some really nice feedback and encouraged me to keep at it. He said I had a really great voice that resonates with people. I’ll take it! Now if only I can hold on to my motivation to keep going.

Things are always busy these days at our house. Sophia bug is 16 months old! I know it feels like yesterday I was writing about her birth. She is a busy, active, smart, independent little girl. She is definitely not a baby anymore. She loves to run around, hug, kiss, and chatter up a storm. She also uses sign language quite often. My favorite sign is for “milk”. When she wants to breastfeed she signs “milk” and climbs up into my lap. She also says “meh-meh” if I’m not paying attention. It’s adorable and so smart. She is also a lover of music and dance. She will sing along with Alvin and the Chipmunks and dance to any music that she hears. She will even shake her little butt to the music.

I love being able to stay at home with her, sometimes it is a challenge because having a toddler is like living with a tornado, but I am truly grateful. Richie works full-time for a local company doing IT work. Then as soon as his work day is over he heads to school for night classes! I could not be more proud of my husband. Working full-time and pursuing a college degree. It is hard and exhausting. So a major shout out to my love, you are amazing! He works hard every day to take care of me and Sophia and gives me the ability to stay home with her every day. Even though I am a writer, I don’t have the words to tell him how much he means to me and how much his support is appreciated. I’ll just keep it simple, I love you, Richie. You truly are the best.

Life in America has been good, Okinawa creeps up in my thoughts often. I never thought I would miss it there, but I do. Great friends, food, culture. Almost seems like a dream most days. Although I am happy to be back with family and friends here. Okinawa changed my life and brought about the most amazing things including my marriage and family. In just 10 days it will have been one year since we left Okinawa. It’s definitely been an interesting start back in America and I am ready to see where the next year takes us.

If you are still out there reading, thanks for sticking around! I’ll update again soon. Maybe share some of my writing with everyone.

<3.

Welcome to the World, Baby Bug!


On December 12, (my due date) I woke up with a small trickle of water coming down my leg. I thought my water may have broken, but there were no contractions. A few hours later, Richie and I went to my doctor’s appointment and as we were waiting for the doctor I realized my water was definitely leaking. She told us to head over to labor and delivery. We went home to discuss our next options. Basically, when your water breaks the hospital has to admit you. Even if you have no contractions and are not dilated at all. This makes it difficult to have a natural labor and delivery because after about 12 hours the hospital will induce you with Pitocin (artificial oxytocin) because of “risk of infection”. Now, from what I learned, the risk of infection is small, but its still a possibility. So Richie and I waited a few hours, filled ourselves up with a big breakfast to get energy for labor and then headed to the hospital. At that point I was feeling antsy and just couldn’t wait. Unfortunately for me, when we got to the hospital I was barely one centimeter dilated, no contractions, no labor yet my water was broken. The hospital admitted us at 2 p.m. on December 12. They let me “labor” on my own for 9 more hours. Around 11 p.m. there was no progress in dilation or contractions so they said they would have to induce me with self-monitored Pitocin. I was disappointed, I had planned to have as natural, unmedicated birth as I could, but since we had chosen to check in to the hospital there wasn’t really anything I could do at that point. Would my body have gone into labor on my own within the next day or two? Most likely. Was there a possibility of infection if I didn’t start laboring? Yes, there was that risk. We decided to go with the hospital’s plan and induce because I didn’t want to risk that infection. The Pitocin hit me like the worst pain ever….I had to be attached to fetal monitors, blood pressure, IV….the works. Still, I wanted to try without medication. I think that lasted an hour or so.

First, I asked for an IV narcotic which was pain medicine that helped me rest from the contractions, after a few  hours, I was in severe pain (Pitocin is like super labor because it forces your body to contract). I decided that I needed the epidural. It was a hard choice for me, but I knew I couldn’t tolerate the pain that was shooting through my body. I had truly wanted to have an unmedicted birth and didn’t like the idea of an epidural that would basically numb half my body. It had a lot to do with my anxieties and my fear of putting additional medications into my body.

In the end, I decided though for myself that I wanted the epidural. It did take off the edge of the pain a little bit. I didn’t experience that numbing sensation at all though. I could still feel my legs and my hips. Sometime during the birthing process, Sophia cocked her head to the side in a position called Asynclitism. It happens and it doesn’t cause problems, but for me it was extremely painful. The epidural didn’t help with that part of the pain, so my amazing husband spent hours pushing on my hips to help me get through the pain.

After having been checked into the hospital for about 24 hours, I was only dilated 9.5 cm with an anterior cervical lip.I pushed for several hours and Sophia’s head finally turned. The anesthesiologist came back in and put more medication into the epidural. This time it took some of the pain away in order for me to sleep for one hour. I woke up from my nap ready to push and having strong  urges. I was determined to give birth to Sophia without any more interventions and I could feel the atmosphere in the hospital room was shifting and the docs were considering vacuums and possibly a C-section. Before my nap, I won’t lie, I was considering telling them to do anything to get her out. Once I had a little rest I had a renewed sense of purpose, I wanted to give birth to her vaginally and as naturally as I could at this point (after the Pitocin and epidural that is). With some helpful encouragement from my doula, my wonderful husband and awesome nurse, I was able to deliver her after another hour and a half of pushing. A last minute decision to bring out the mirror gave me energy to keep pushing at the end, when we could finally see her hair (a full head of dark hair) I knew that I could do it. It only took a few pushes after that to get her all the way out and Richie and I experienced a moment of pure elation. We both cried our eyes out when we finally got to meet our daughter, Sophia Elyse. I’m not exactly sure all the details, but this is how I remember my labor. It was a very long, long process and there were several times that I felt I was about to give up.

I have to give a special thanks to my husband who never left my side. He rubbed my back, pushed my hips when they hurt, held my hand, kept me drinking water and coached me through my pushing. I could never have done it without him. Thank you for giving me my beautiful girl and helping her arrive into the world. I love you, Richie.

Stay tuned and I’ll write more about our first few days in the hospital.

 

 

Living and Learning


As promised, I said I would try to write blogs more often…every day if I can manage it or at least every week. Today was an interesting day at work, lots of learning going on. First, I had a long discussion with the graphic artist/designer who will be designing the layout for my next and possibly last feature article before the baby comes. It is a cooking feature and I am thankful that I have had some wonderful help on this. Two people from our office helped with all the preparation and cooking (they are Okinawan so it was a great help to have someone who actually knew and practiced cooking Okinawan dishes) and our artist who did a lot of the food styling and laying out for the photo shoot and of course our photographer! I would have been so lost had I not had such wonderful help. Anyway, we were discussing my article and I realized I learn so much when working with a team. Each person has something great to contribute and teaches me in so many ways. I think this article will be awesome.

Later, in the afternoon we had a training session in photography and learned about how to use our camera with manual settings and what many of those settings mean. It was very interesting because I can’t say I have ever shot on manual settings except in college for journalism and I wasn’t very good at it. I learned a lot and I feel like I’d be more confident taking pictures and trying new things to get a decent picture rather than sticking with auto mode all the time.

Lastly, I have learned so many baby things in the past few weeks. It’s a challenge to decide what we will need in the first six months because we will be PCS ing back to the States and don’t need everything here that early. All of the big furniture, cribs, dressers, high chairs will all go to Mom’s or wait to be bought until we get home. The necessities like the stroller, car seat, pack and play and bassinet with all come to our house here…I mean the bug has to sleep somewhere ;-). Of course, any clothes, bottles, blankets and all will come here so she will be pampered and comfortable. I’m excited and happy that we are able to pamper our little one and spend time with her without me having to go into work every day at least while she is in the first few months of her life.

I’m glad that I’m alive and learning new things each day….pregnancy has been a challenge for me because I haven’t felt great, but I’m excited know our daughter (EEEE!!) will be here in less than 5 months!